The Managed Network will have its first major upgrade since Network for Learning (N4L) began connecting schools to the network at the end of 2013.
The Government-funded Managed Network provides internet services for more than 800,000 students and teachers across New Zealand. N4L builds and manages these services, reducing IT complexity for schools, freeing up resources for teaching and learning.

Beginning in August, the upgrade is designed to meet the schools’ changing needs around internet capacity and security.

Schools will 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 which 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); and provide smart reporting tools to better understand and manage student internet use.

Mt Albert Grammar School (MAGS) in Auckland was among the first to transition to the upgraded Managed Network as part of a pilot run earlier this year.

Director of E-Learning Elise Goddard says, “The upgraded Managed Network has been a game-changer for us – 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 they also impact student welfare.”

Rural Tauhoa School, situated along the Kaipara Coast Highway, was also part of the early Managed Network upgrade programme.

Principal Vivienne Goldsmith says, “As a small rural school, we don’t have the resources to keep up with the latest filtering and safety technologies 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?

In August, N4L will appoint an initial panel of IT support companies with extensive experience supporting schools to help ensure the rollout is delivered in a timely and seamless manner with the right levels of support provided along the way.

Schools will be transitioned 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.

The rollout schedule will be developed soon after, and shared with schools well in advance.

N4L chief executive 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 and we need to ensure our technology remains built to a high standard, and is also 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.”

The Managed Network upgrade is signalled as a key part of N4L’s new four-year company strategy and is expected to be complete by October 2019.

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