Until the deployment of an endpoint and network protection appliance from Sophos
Ltd., IT personnel at Bodwell High School in North Vancouver were having a challenging time meeting the high bandwidth and security demands of the school's staff and student population.
The two-acre waterfront campus overlooking Vancouver Harbour always strived to provide its students with the latest in technology to assist their learning, according Steve O’Neil, the school's systems administrator. For instance, apart from a spacious and well-equipped multi-purpose gym and a presentation theatre, Bodwell also has computer rooms and provides wireless Internet access throughout the campus to support the a bring your own device program.
However, with no less than 500 boarding students using an average of three mobile devices each (an MP3 player with Wi-Fi, laptop and mobile phone), the load on Bodwell’s aging network infrastructure was causing network slowdowns and security concerns, said O’Neil.
Unbalanced distribution of traffic was a also frequent problem with the network’s antiquated antennas. For example, one antenna could have 50 students using it while another would only have 10 users.
“Our 36 unmanaged Cisco wireless access points often locked up,” he said. “If even one student downloaded high bandwidth videos, performance could become unacceptable for others nearby.”
The lack of a remote management tool also meant that IT personnel’s time was taken up by manually resetting access points that locked up at least once to three times a day.
Exercising control over applications such as Skype which were being run by students was also proving to be tough as was the ability to secure the wide range of devices used in campus.
“We not only have BYOD, we have BYOD from around the world,” O’Neil said. “We encounter the Russian version of Facebook, Chinese QQ (IM/chat), multiple languages and content that’s legal outside North America but not here.”
Bodwell itself was suffering from the effects of multiple non-integrated systems from different vendors.
O’Neil said Bodwell looked at several unified device management tool manufacturers but found most of them costly. After testing various products, O’Neil said, they decided to purchase Sophos’ UTM (unified threat management) 625 high availability mode appliance with the company’s V9.0 software for integrated gateway and endpoint security.
Since 2004, UTM tools have been widely used as a primary gateway defence for many large and medium sized organizations. UTMs are typically all-in-one security products perform network firewalling, network intrusion prevention and gateway antivirus, anti-spam, load balancing, appliance reporting and load balancing.