Parade College is a dual campus Catholic boys school which since 1871 has sought innovative, creative and effective ways of achieving best practice teaching and learning. Protecting a network that is used by close to 2000 students and teachers is not a job for the faint-hearted. Parade College has a network with over 720 personal computers for the use of students, 270 personal computers for teachers and a suite of ‘e-rooms’ or shared spaces containing computers within a cluster of classrooms. Underpinning the IT strategy is a program to continuously evaluate and deploy new technologies to strengthen the security of its network.
The task of achieving the school’s technical aims while at the same time preserving open lines of communication falls to Daniel Caporetto, IT Manager, Parade College.
“Parade College requires high availability and reliable performance while providing sufficient bandwidth for teachers and students to access web-based resources safely and securely,” says Caporetto.
Up until 2009, the college had been using a Blue Reef Sonar Internet Management Platform for network security but this had suffered reliability issues in terms of load balancing and high availability.
“The result was that our teachers were increasingly unable to access and instruct course material through the internet during lesson time and the IT team were constantly calling Blue Reef support for basic tasks,” explains Caporetto.
“We needed a solution to balance compliance and protection of college resources while allowing the freedom an academic environment demands to access the internet on an as-needs basis for instructional learning. At the same time, we needed to ensure that network intrusions were detected and responded to in a timely manner so that teacher access to the internet would be uninterrupted.”
Parade College engaged in an extensive evaluation of the current solutions on the market that were the most viable over the long term. In so doing, it sought to upgrade its network to a high-availability, purpose-built hardware appliance platform.
“We needed a hardware solution that could mitigate any future attacks and enable single sign-on for both students and teachers. Only WatchGuard’s unified threat management (UTM) appliances proved to us that their technology could do this and do it very well,” says Caporetto.
“WatchGuard was exceptionally responsive. In our initial contact we deployed a UTM which we rapidly configured during the school holidays and scheduled an outage to see if it all worked well. At the time, WatchGuard sent us a brand new UTM appliance and we could immediately see that it performed head and shoulders above the previous solution,” says Caporetto.
Armed with this reassurance, the college deployed a WatchGuard Firebox 5500e UTM appliance at its primary Bundoora campus. This provides comprehensive protection against spam, malware, viruses, worms, trojans, spyware and blended threats. In addition, WatchGuard’s advanced operating system includes active/active high availability with load balancing, dynamic routing, VLAN support and multiWAN failover to ensure reliability.
Parade College has also deployed a Firebox Core 1250e UTM at its Preston campus which has been optimised for throughput performance at nearly 1500 Mbps.
In selecting WatchGuard, Parade College worked closely with MYCOM, a WatchGuard partner headquartered in Melbourne.
“Deployment was straightforward following the initial school holiday trial. We simply copied the configuration from the test unit to the Firebox 5500e appliance and were up and running immediately,” says Caporetto.
WatchGuard’s online reporting capabilities also make it easy to view real-time security status reports.
“We have never seen a performance hit once putting WatchGuard inline, proving to us that its architecture and protection mechanisms were truly built for high-performance networks, and not just marketed that way. We don’t have downtime anymore.
“WatchGuard is pretty much at a set-and-forget stage now, which is good for us,” says Caporetto.
This was first published in August 2010