Crown company Network for Learning (N4L) is upgrading its student-focused managed network in the first major refresh since it began connecting schools at the end of 2013.
The upgrade is designed to meet the schools’ changing needs around internet capacity and security, delivering more robust protection against online threats such as phishing and ransomware, an easier way to get more bandwidth, and improved internet filtering tools, N4L says.
Schools will also be able to better manage attempts to bypass their internet filtering with virtual private networks and have access to new reporting tools to better understand and manage student internet use.
In August, N4L will appoint an initial panel of IT support companies 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 protected by a combined firewall and internet filtering solution provided by cybersecurity company Fortinet. The system will be managed by N4L as part of its wider managed network services offering.
The rollout schedule will be developed soon after the panel appointment and shared with schools.
“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," CEO Larrie Moore says.
The government-funded managed network provides internet services for more than 800,000 students and teachers across 2400 New Zealand schools.
Mt Albert Grammar School (MAGS) in Auckland was among the first to transition to the upgraded network as part of a pilot run earlier this year.
"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," director of e-learning Elise Goddard says.
"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."
Tauhoa School, on the Kaipara Coast Highway, was also part of the early upgrade programme
"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," principal Vivienne Goldsmith says.