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Rockhampton Grammar School
28 April, 2021

Leading Australian regional school boosts network capacity and cyber security protection

Resilient, scalable and secure solutions delivered by AARNet infrastructure and Cyber Security for Schools services support excellence in teaching and learning for The Rockhampton Grammar School.

The Rockhampton Grammar School is an independent day and boarding school located in the Central Queensland city of Rockhampton. The School caters to over 1,400 students ranging from Prep to year 12 as well as running an early learning centre. As one of the largest co-educational boarding schools in the country, The Rockhampton Grammar School takes a forward-thinking approach to technology implementation and understands the risks involved in today’s fast-moving digital society.

Improving the internet experience

Early in 2020, when the School was seeking to improve the quality and reliability of the internet experience for staff and students, and ensure high availability of business-critical services hosted in the Microsoft Azure cloud, they turned to AARNet for a solution. AARNet had recently built fibre through the region, which meant that schools located there now had the opportunity to overcome the ‘tyranny of distance’ and connect to the nation’s reliable high-speed dedicated network for research and education.

At the same time, with cyber threats rapidly increasing in the education sector, The Rockhampton Grammar School was looking to uplift network security to better protect the School’s information and keep students safe online. Connecting to AARNet meant that the School could take advantage of the integrated set of network and cyber security services co-developed by AARNet and CyberHound for AARNet Direct Connect schools.

High capacity network with diversity

The Rockhampton Grammar School IT Manager, Neil Nankivell says that the main issues with the existing connectivity services were capacity and redundancy.

“At the beginning of the year, we started moving data and services to the Azure cloud so connectivity became a massive business continuity issue. Fortunately, the new AARNet pipe through the region provided us with options that weren’t previously available to us,” he said.

AARNet worked closely with Nankivell and the IT team to understand the School’s current and future needs and design a cost-effective solution.

To boost capacity and mitigate the risk of potential network outages, AARNet built a 10 gigabit per second primary link and 1 gigabit per second backup link into different locations on campus. This diversity in the network design means that if there is an outage on the primary link network traffic can be diverted to the backup link, minimising any impact on the availability of web services.

A secure direct private connection over the AARNet network to the Microsoft Azure data centre location optimises the performance of the growing number of services the school is planning to migrate to the cloud.

With 24/7 access to AARNet Operations Centre monitoring and reporting, incidents affecting network performance can be promptly identified and resolved.

Next-generation firewall and advanced web security

Improving network security was also a key priority for The Rockhampton Grammar School. Leveraging AARNet’s partnership with CyberHound, a high availability pair of next-generation firewalls were installed as part of the solution.

To support the reliable functioning of the high availability architecture, AARNet provides an integrated managed router service to ensure network and security functions are optimally aligned.

The CyberHound firewall provides the School with an application control engine that allows them to seamlessly identify and manage over 1,600 applications. This capability provides the IT team with extensive network visibility and enables them to block unauthorised applications and tools from accessing the network, including virtual private networks that students try to deploy.

Advanced web filtering and security allows the School to provide appropriate access to content and delivers comprehensive protection against web-based threats. School networks, especially those with a boarding population, require a more detailed approach to web filtering and security. With this in mind, CyberHound’s granular web filtering capability allows the School to provide appropriate levels of access to content depending on the students’ year level, and can restrict use during the day or night, which is especially important for their boarding students.

“Our School’s online approach and policies aim to achieve a realistic balance of providing safe internet access to our students while giving them the tools to make good choices and take personal responsibility for their access decisions,” said Nankivell.

As an AARNet Cyber Security for Schools customer, the School also benefits from the AARNet Early Warning System, which monitors the availability of nominated online resources, such as websites and learning management systems, and the AARNet Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Detection System. These systems work together and enable the AARNet Operations team to quickly notify the School in the event of a DDoS attack as well as filter out unwanted traffic to minimise the impact on the AARNet network and the School.

Supporting student well being

As a boarding school, The Rockhampton Grammar School has a 24/7 duty of care to its students. As well as looking after the students’ physical wellbeing, the School’s responsibilities encompass student pastoral care and online safety.

To assist with this the School is utilising CyberHound’s behavioural analytics platform ClearView, which is offered through the AARNet’s Cyber Security for Schools service in partnership with CyberHound. ClearView identifies at-risk online behaviour and provides the School’s leaders with actionable intelligence that enables timely support to individuals who need it.

Benefits of the AARNet and CyberHound solutions

With critical underlying network and security infrastructure in place, the IT team was able to fast track moving more workloads and services to the Microsoft Azure cloud, confident that the experience for staff and students would be high quality, safe and consistent.

The Rockhampton Grammar School recently became the first school in Queensland to obtain Safeguarding Children accreditation. The implementation of CyberHound’s Clearview behavioural analytics platform was an important component of achieving this accreditation. CyberHound’s easy-to-use solution means that the school’s IT team is able to quickly configure new policies and execute any policy changes.

Another benefit that Rockhampton Grammar School found in working with AARNet and CyberHound was when the COVID-19 pandemic hit Australia.

Thanks to AARNet’s reliable connectivity and CyberHound’s security controls, the School was able to seamlessly and securely transition to remote working and learning under unpredictable circumstances. This has given the School the confidence that they can handle any unforeseen issues that may arise in the future.

“Network diversity and security along with high capacity connectivity has enabled us to embrace cloud services and the efficiencies that come with them. We’ve been able to achieve a huge uplift in our capabilities for a regional school,” said Nankivell.

Network diversity and security along with high capacity connectivity has enabled us to embrace cloud services and the efficiencies that come with them. We’ve been able to achieve a huge uplift in our capabilities for a regional school.”

Rockhampton Grammar School
Neil Nankivell

The Rockhampton Grammar School IT Manager