Xitenys upgrades Palo Alto Next Generation Firewall at Wellington College to better protect students and staff from internet threats
Academia has benefited greatly from access to the internet along with innovative collaboration technologies. However, the advantages offered by learning resources from the web must be tempered by a duty of care to ensure that students, and staff, are not accessing content that is inappropriate or, worse still, exposing the campus to dangerous IT security risks.
Access to the internet is a critical requirement for Wellington College, one of the great British public schools and today, an independent co-educational boarding and day school for over 1000 pupils between 13 to 18 years old. Although boasting a heritage that spans over 180 years, the school has mixed tradition with modernity and in 2015, Wellington College was made a Microsoft Showcase School – the first independent senior school in the UK to receive this accolade – in recognition of its innovative and forward-thinking use of IT in the classroom.
To power its innovative classroom approach, distance learning and administrative functions; Wellington has invested heavily in information technology. The IT department supports over 6000 devices that range from core network switches, WiFi access points and thousands of end user devices including laptops, desktop and tablets used by pupils and staff.
With the use of technology greatly expanded over the last few years, Wellington has instigated an ongoing programme to protect its infrastructure from cyber-attacks and ensure that its systems are operating with the highest levels of performance and reliability.
As Tony Whelton, Director of IT development and services for Wellington College explains, “Internet access is vital for both the classroom and for our boarders and the rapid pace of change in terms of new opportunities and potential threats means we must always be vigilant as to what’s happening across our campus.”
The College runs two internal data centres that are setup in active-active configurations as well as additional off-site cloud-based applications to supplement capacity and provide additional resiliency against any outages. One of the constant issues that the College and other educational establishments must face is the threat of cyber-attacks and also a critical duty of care to ensure internet access is filtered from inappropriate content.
“We have used the Palo Alto Networks NG firewall for a number of years but the sheer volume of traffic that each device is now consuming was starting to stretch the capacity of our deployed appliances,” explains Whelton, “We have had a very successful relationship with the senior team at Xitenys for a number of years and when we decided that we need to upgrade the PAN kit, they were our first port of call to support the project.”
Working closely with Xitenys, the College went through several demonstrations with possible replacement solutions, “Although we looked at other vendors, in our test, we found that the best option was to upgrade our existing PAN solution to a new hardware platform which gave us all of the granular filtering we needed with more headroom to grow.”
Palo Alto Networks® next-generation firewalls detect known and potentially unknown threats, including in encrypted traffic, using intelligence generated across many thousands of customer deployments. The upgraded implementation allows Whelton and his IT team to quickly create security rules that mirror the colleges internet access policy that are easy to adapt as the dynamic environment changes.
“The implementation project which took place during term time went incredibly well,” says Whelton, “In fact, no users even noticed which is always a good sign and the pricing and support we got from Xitenys was excellent,” he adds.
The deployment allows the college to restrict access to sites based on granular rules that are enforced automatically with real-time alerting and regular reporting to help ensure that all students and staff are not trying to circumvent any of the controls it as in place.
As Whelton explains, “Xitenys brought the solution to our attention and were with us during the implementation and the result is a platform that meets our enlarged user community, with a lower management overhead and at a price that we feel was extremely good value. “
Whelton has also been pleased with the support offered by the College’s trusted IT advisor. “This is a business relationship that has spanned nearly a decade and the team at Xitenys have always been there to help us get the best value and the outcome we expected while working with a range of suppliers. We value Xitenys and we look forward to continuing our relationship for the foreseeable future,” Whelton concludes.