AARNet and Fortinet move Melbourne’s De La Salle College into the fast (and secure) lane
Melbourne’s De La Salle College has fully embraced the digital world and is reaping the benefits of eLearning. With access to AARNet’s gigabit network and infrastructure secured by Fortinet, De La Salle’s students and teachers now have reliable, high-speed access to an increasingly sophisticated suite of teaching tools to support and enhance the classroom experience.
Until last year, De La Salle College was making due with a shared 20MB link that had reliability issues and slowed to a crawl during peak traffic hours. There was no system in place to monitor individual users and security was managed off-site. What had been a workable solution was nearing the end of it’s ‘use by’ date. De La Salle’s administration knew they had to make a change.
“When I came on board in July 2015,” says Luke Georgiou, Digital Learning Services Manager at De La Salle College, “I had my work cut out for me. The infrastructure was getting old and the demands on the system were swamping capacity. But I had the support from management to put us back on track and move us into the digital fast lane.”
Twin requirements: capacity and security
Georgiou is an experienced IT administrator and quickly sized up the situation. “We had two major challenges,” explains Georgiou, “First was to upgrade our internet access. With more than 1150 Year 4-12 students we needed a high-bandwidth pipe to support classroom and non-classroom on-line activities. Second was to centralise our control over that access. We wanted to secure our network against outside threats such as malware, viruses and malicious activity whilst ensuring that we could provide a safe and reliable online experience for students, teachers and staff.”
The internet access component was solved with AARNet (Australia’s Academic and Research Network). This high-speed fibre-optic network provides unique information communications technology capabilities to enable Australian education and research institutions to collaborate with each other and their international peer communities.
Faster access requires industrial-strength security
“We found that we could tap into AARNet relatively easily and at a cost we could afford,” says Georgiou, “so that issue was taken care of. But this fast access and virtually unlimited bandwidth meant that we needed industrial-strength protection and the ability to manage users at the granular level.”
Again, Georgiou’s experience paid off. “I had used Fortinet infrastructure at my pervious role at another school,” he says, “and was well-acquainted with Fortinet’s combination of fast throughput, high security and centralised management. That gave us a starting point. But we wanted to see if there were any better solutions on the market that could give us the same capabilities at a more affordable price point.”
“We knew that we would be in a competitive situation when we first engaged with De La Salle College,” says Ebony Williams, Regional Account Manager at Fortinet. “Working with a local Fortinet Partner, we conducted a thorough audit of their then-current infrastructure and anticipated configurations and traffic volumes. Luke had developed a detailed functional requirements analysis that outlined exactly what he wanted and the timeframes that they desired. We responded with a specification for a powerful mid-range FortiGate 1500D Next Generation Firewall, a virtualised version of FortiAnalyzer and real time advanced protection from the FortiGuard Lab’s Security Subscription Service.”
“We received a number of responses to our request for expressions of interest,” continues Georgiou. “Most were not what we wanted but two in particular, Fortinet and a competitor, stood out as clear favourites. So we opted for a benchmark / proof of concept that would give us the metrics we would need to make the best decision.”
“We look forward to live performances,” says Williams. “We installed combination physical/virtual demo units at De La Salle and managed them, both on-site and remotely, for a couple of weeks. We worked closely with Luke to show him how to get the most out of the FortiOS secure operating system, set up rules and enforce policies.”
“At the conclusion of the benchmark testing,” says Georgiou, “Fortinet performed better in almost every category. Fortinet’s integrated security features meant that we could manage the system without too much difficulty. And the local team from Fortinet was extremely pro-active and made it clear that we would receive top-notch support in the future.”
Cost/performance was another key consideration. “The competitor was aggressive in their pricing,” notes Georgiou, “But in spite of this, Fortinet’s offer still gave us the lowest total cost of ownership. And when combined with their comprehensive approach to security, leading technology and local support, the decision to implement Fortinet’s Next Generation Firewall framework was easy.” Installation took place over summer school holidays for minimal disruption.
The experience has been a positive one. “Everything is going according to plan,” says Georgiou. “We now have a fast, robust link to the world via AARNet and a secure multi-functional gateway that gives us complete visibility across the network and at devices and users to the granular level. Plus the Fortinet support team has been helpful as we learned the system. They work hard to resolve our calls and escalate if the issue is more complex.”
“Now that we have the basics under control we can move forward,” concludes Georgiou. “We have plans to offer more digital services to students, staff and guests so that they can tap into more on-line resources. Fortinet’s scalability and additional capabilities mean that we can not only meet today’s requirements but support future initiatives as well.”
“Fortinet’s integrated security features meant that we could manage the system without too much difficulty. And the local team from Fortinet was extremely pro-active and made it clear that we would receive top-notch support in the future.” - Luke Georgiou, Digital Learning Services, Manager at De La Salle College
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