If you know anything about N4L and the work we do, you’ll probably know that we’re all about providing equitable access to a fully funded, fast, reliable and safe internet for New Zealand schools. Actually, we’re not just all about it; it’s central to our mission. And we began delivering on it in 2013 when we rolled out the Managed Network.
We’ve now connected 98% of state/state-integrated schools to our network. That’s 2400+ schools, in excess of 810,000 learners using our network for teaching and learning. We see this growth reflected in the numbers; year on year more data traverses the network. In the year to date we’ve seen 11.7 petabytes of data consumed by schools – that’s roughly 61 billion website hits. That’s a lot of data!
We don’t just deliver fast, uncontested data. We want to make sure that the data schools are accessing is safe. In that same time period it was necessary for us to block 339.5 million websites, and prevent 103,000 viruses – that’s a whole lot of malicious activity blocked before it impacts learning at your school.
Stopping malware and viruses are the things we do ‘behind the scenes’ that you don’t see or think about. But it’s also important for us to understand the frontline and what concerns schools. That’s why we get out to schools and amongst the sector to hear what concerns you have about your community’s online activity.
We’ve heard you, we’ve heard your concerns: those three little letters…VPNs.
‘100% safe’ (in any place) is an elusive dream that no technical solution can ever deliver but this doesn’t restrict our ambition. We can always be smarter. We can always be safer. Which is why we’re kicking off the most significant upgrade to the Managed Network since its inception.
And we’re pretty excited about it. You should be too, here’s why…
Over the next 18 months we’ll be rolling out a raft of changes that not only ensure that network capacity is optimised to meet future learning needs, but also that it’s unrivalled for learner safety.
But what does that actually mean? As with all technical solutions, it’s complicated. And layered. But here’s a taster of things to come…
We’ve just completed phase one, rolling out our dedicated Threat Protection service. For the technically minded, this is a dedicated DNS filtering solution specifically targeting malware, phishing scams, command and control attacks, and anonymizers (otherwise known as VPNs).
This service also enables us to enforce SafeSearch for schools. This enhances learner safety by supporting the filtering of search terms used in Google and Bing.
Security and Reporting
During Term 3 this year, we’ll begin rolling out a NEW industry leading firewall and filtering solution – FortiGate. This means all schools will receive a new N4L security service that delivers:
- Advanced security services (including enhanced VPN filtering)
- Individualised filtering – that supports granular filtering (i.e. by students and staff)
- Smart and simple reporting
During this phase of the upgrade we’ll need to come to your school to replace the Cisco router in your server cabinet. You’ll be getting a smaller, quieter device, that’s smarter and safer than ever before.
Don’t panic, we’ll manage the whole process to ensure a seamless transition and continuity of service; what works now, will still work as expected (it’s just better).
Online learning has been embraced in New Zealand schools. We’re really proud of how we support teaching and learning and we don’t want your enthusiasm to be inhibited by access to more bandwidth. We’ve just come back from Interface Xpo, where we saw the resources you want to throw at the network; the VR headsets, augmented reality, the growth in multimedia learning platforms. They all can put pressure on network speed – but let’s be clear, we’re not about to get in the way of future focussed pedagogy. That’s why all schools on the Managed Network will also receive boosted capacity – because bandwidth shouldn’t ever be a barrier to learning.
What it means for schools
Increased safety, greater control and functionality, more data – and zero cost.
We’ll be updating you throughout the upgrade process and will begin scheduling installations shortly.
The Managed Network Upgrade begins now.
It’s. Just. Time.