When Auckland’s Selwyn College made the move to BYOD, its existing security measures weren’t up to the challenge. So, it turned to a single solution from WatchGuard and hasn’t looked back.
Six years ago, Selwyn College’s academic results were poor, with less than half of students passing NCEA Levels 1, 2 or 3. By 2013, however, following a renewed focus on academic performance, new leadership and a significant commitment to change among teaching staff, it has achieved an extraordinary turnaround, with now more than nine in 10 students passing each of the three assessment levels.
A key part of this success has been the introduction of ICT – both as a subject and as a tool for learning – with the College actively encouraging a school-wide BYOD policy. All Selwyn students have a Google Apps account with 25GB of cloud-based storage to access word processing, presentations, spreadsheets, email, and basic image manipulation through a browser. To access the apps, students can bring in whatever device they wish to use.
“A lot can’t necessarily afford iPads and we didn’t want to prescribe any particular kind of device, so we made the decision to go with an open BYOD programme,” explained Atholl Wilkinson, Selwyn’s Network Administrator/Manager. “This allows families to choose what’s best for them, be it a smartphone, an Android tablet, a Windows laptop, or any other kind of device.”
Catering for a crowd
When the BYOD policy was first introduced, many of Selwyn’s then 750 students took up the opportunity. However, it didn’t take long before the rise in users on the school network highlighted a major performance problem. The existing security solution comprised three devices, each from a different manufacturer: Web Marshall content filtering; a SonicWALL firewall; and an additional router. This arrangement was unable to manage the demands of so many new devices.
“The set up was throttling back our throughput speed. We have a 50Mbps internet connection but our security controls only allowed us to use 10Mbps. We needed a system that would let us not only protect our students but also still take advantage of our full connection speed.”
To solve the issue Wilkinson sought the advice of long-term ICT partner, Telco Technology Services (TTS).
“Our relationship with TTS began around 2008. They are very experienced in the education field and had the expertise to advise us on the best software to achieve the educational outcomes we were seeking.”
From three solutions to one
TTS recommended installing a single, high-performance WatchGuard XTM 850 next-generation firewall, equipped with full intrusion prevention, antivirus and web filtering capabilities. The Board approved deployment in early 2013.
“The WatchGuard appliance offered a much more sensible network architecture, so we didn’t have to make any compromises in order for every student to go online, which really opened up BYOD for us.
“The ability to go from three solutions to one has reduced complexity and saved us a lot of money on unnecessary annual licensing and maintenance costs. In fact, we estimate our overall savings at more than 40 per cent. Prior to deploying WatchGuard, our licence costs were based on the number of connected devices. As more students bring their own devices, we could see costs getting out of hand. WatchGuard solved this problem completely.”
Since first introducing the programme, the number of students has grown by almost 200 and the number of BYOD devices on the network has increased to more than 300, with upwards of 600 devices in total. Data usage has risen from 300GB to “a couple of terabytes”. Despite the growth, the new system is proving up to the challenge.
“WatchGuard is handling the throughput,” added Wilkinson. “No one comes to us saying it’s slow!”
Selwyn College is a state secondary school located in the Auckland suburb of Kohimarama. It has an enrolment of close to 1,000 students, including a strong multicultural population.
WatchGuard XTM 850
Part of the XTM 800 Series, the 850 provides firewall and VPN throughput at 8Gbps. It can integrate functions that previously required separate stand-alone appliances, blocking spyware, DoS attacks, fragmented packets, malformed packets, blended threats, and more, as well as offering real-time monitoring.