Virtual Worlds, Real Risks

Online communities and collaborative workspaces create operational and security vulnerabilities – but also opportunities to deploy enterprise-grade, risk-based solutions.

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Carroll University’s library commons was a victim of its own success. The commons — which takes up an entire floor of the library building — is a place where students gather and collaborate, get supplemental instruction and access library resources.

Last year the Waukesha, Wisconsin school decided to expand the commons — not in physical space, but virtually. In an online world, the university could add collaborative workspaces, small and large meeting rooms, even an auditorium, at very low cost.

The best known virtual environment, which is used by many educational institutions, is Second Life. But Second Life wasn’t a good fit for Carroll.

“Second Life was very crude, and there was no control,” said John Arechavala, the university’s director of ITS Infrastructure Services. “It was an open world. I’m
not saying that openness is bad, but in a business environment you don’t want someone walking by in a string bikini or 16th-century armor.”
Another drawback, said Arechavala, was that Second Life and its San Francisco parent company, Linden Lab, had also backed away from the
educational segment over the past couple of years, eliminating discounts and effectively doubling costs for educators.

Instead, Carroll University opted for a virtual environment platform more attuned to enterprise security requirements, AvayaLive Engage from Basking Ridge,
New Jersey-based collaboration software company Avaya. In contrast to Second Life, where all users share one big virtual-world platform, AvayaLive
Engage creates a separate, self-contained world for each client. Enterprise-focused virtual environment vendors also offer secure access controls, user provisioning, and auditability. Some also are securely installed behind firewalls.

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