From this month, schools across New Zealand are set to begin benefitting from improved and more robust internet services thanks to an upgrade of the student-focused Managed Network operated by Network for Learning (N4L).
In the first major refresh of its Managed Network since schools began connecting at the end of 2013, N4L is rolling out an upgrade designed to meet their changing needs around internet capacity and security.
Beginning in August, schools will start to benefit from more robust protection against online threats, such as phishing and ransomware, an easier way to get more bandwidth, and improved internet filtering tools that can be modified to accommodate the needs of individual classes and students. Further, the upgrade will better equip schools to manage attempts to bypass their internet filtering with VPNs (Virtual Private Networks), as well as provide smart reporting tools to better understand and manage student internet use.
Pilot proves a ‘game changer’
Mt Albert Grammar School in Auckland was among the first to transition to the upgraded Managed Network as part of a pilot run earlier this year.
“The upgraded Managed Network has been a game changer for us,” said Director of E-Learning Elise Goddard. “We’ve noted a substantial improvement in our internet performance and the ability to intercept unwanted internet traffic. It is also providing us with effective tools for dealing with VPNs. Students using VPNs to circumvent internet filtering represents a growing area of concern – not only do they consume much of our school’s bandwidth but also they impact student welfare.”
Tauhoa School, situated along Northland’s Kaipara Coast Highway, was also part of the early Managed Network upgrade programme:
“As a small rural school, we don’t have the resources to keep up with the latest filtering and safety technologies,” said Principal Vivienne Goldsmith. “So, it’s great to know that N4L takes care of this for us, upgrading schools when needed, so we can focus on educating our kids in a safe online environment.”
What does the upgrade involve?
N4L is a Crown company and the Government-funded Managed Network provides internet services for more than 800,000 students and teachers across the country. The upgrade is a key part of a new, four-year company strategy (bit.ly/N4L4year) and is expected to be complete by October 2019.
The upgrade is transitioning every participating school to a combined firewall and internet filtering solution provided by cybersecurity company Fortinet. The enterprise-grade solution, which is currently used by other schools, governments, and businesses worldwide, will be centrally managed by N4L and part of the wider Managed Network services offering.
CEO Larrie Moore says it’s essential that the Managed Network continues to evolve to meet the needs of today’s learners now and in future:
“Our role is to provide schools a smart and safe way of accessing the internet students need for learning. Internet safety is paramount. We need to ensure our technology remains both built to a high standard and fully supported to meet the unique needs of schools.
“This means providing technology for schools that ‘just works’, so they can get on with great learning in a safe environment.”
In August, N4L will appoint an initial panel of IT support companies to help ensure the rollout is delivered in a timely, seamless and supportive manner. A schedule will be developed from September and will be shared with schools in advance.
For more information about your school’s upgrade call N4L’s helpdesk on 0800 LEARNING (Monday to Friday, 8am to 5pm) or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Schools consuming more and more data
Schools consumed more than 12 petabytes through N4L’s internet filtering tools during the first two school terms of 2018 (Jan 29 to July 6), almost double the same time last year. More than 374 million websites, and 118,000 viruses and malware threats were blocked across the Managed Network during the same timeframe.
(If you were wondering, 1 petabyte is equal to 1 million gigabytes!)