Royal Agricultural College Improves Network Security and IT Management

Saturday 1st October, 2011

Networking and security integrator Khipu Networks today announced that it has helped the Royal Agricultural College to better protect its network against student misuse and unauthorised guest access, which has in turn increased productivity rates in the IT department. Khipu has deployed Bradford Networks’ Campus Manager (BCM) at the Royal Agricultural College’s site in Gloucester, enabling IT personnel to control user access to the college’s wireless network.

With over 1,000 students and 200 staff, a solution was needed to effectively monitor and control all access points on campus – including student accommodation – ensuring that only authorised machines with up-to-date anti-virus protection could access the network. Students had previously been known to unplug resident college PCs in lecture rooms or communal study areas in favour of using their own laptops. Such activity posed a great risk to the college’s network and its subsequent users, as these devices were unlikely to have been properly vetted in-line with the Royal Agricultural College’s IT policy. Furthermore, by disconnecting college PCs, students could potentially gain access to parts of the network that they shouldn’t have, such as staff depositories. Students also had a tendency to leave access points unplugged once they had finished on the network, causing further disruption to the next user or forcing a member of the IT team to reconfigure the workstation.

With BCM, the Royal Agricultural College can set different levels of access depending on staff/student needs – for example, ‘studying’, ‘staff’ or ‘guest’ profiles – providing access to only the specific tools, applications or services required, in order to better protect the overall network and sensitive data stored on it. Such control means that if a student tries to plug their laptop into a college port, BCM can immediately identify the device as a ‘student’ device and from there, grant appropriate access based on their profile and network privileges. BCM also performs monthly network-wide ‘health checks’ to ensure that all devices remain fully compliant with the college’s security policy.

“Ultimately, we needed a solution that could help us to better manage and control our wireless infrastructure – network security, easy device registration and the ability to control guest access were deal breakers for us,”

Richard Blunden, IT manager at the Royal Agricultural College.

“Thanks to Khipu, we’ve achieved that goal and now have a more reliable, flexible and secure network – from both a student and IT perspective – to show for it. What’s more, the speed and efficiency of our new and improved network means that the IT team has more time to focus on other tasks which would have previously taken a back seat.” Handling large volumes of student network registrations at the start of each academic term also proved challenging for the college. With over 1,000 students to deal with, previously relying on a resource-intensive and time consuming manual process meant that students and their devices could be waiting several days to be connected.

BCM now enables the IT team to conduct automatic device scans on newly registered devices, identifying if anti-virus protection is present – or even out-of-date – as well as searching for adware and prohibited applications, before sanctioning network access. “As an educational institution it is imperative that we have high level security standards in place to ensure that our students, staff, guests and data are sufficiently protected – policies that must also be manageable for our IT staff,” continued Blunden. “We’ve been particularly impressed with the ease and sophistication of the BCM solution – Khipu’s ability to meet our requirements with such a scalable, self-sufficient infrastructure has greatly streamlined our day-to-day business processes. In addition to the demos, webinars and comprehensive training provided ahead of the implementation, we couldn’t have asked for better support.” With everyday network use, BCM only grants authorisation based on whether or not each device complies with the college’s IT security policy – should a device fail, BCM will detail why and provide links to the required software or system patches.

Overall, the solution provides the IT team with greater insight, detailing who is using the network at any given time and highlighting any misuse of facilities so that users engaging in inappropriate online behaviour can be blocked immediately. “Wireless connectivity is a must-have for the education sector, but it brings with it all manner of security nightmares for IT teams – safeguarding the network and the data stored on it has to be the top priority,” said Matt Ashman, commercial consultant at Khipu. “Network access control is undoubtedly the most effective means of ensuring that only authorised users have access to certain areas of the network. Its automatic nature cuts time and increases productivity – particularly where device registration is concerned – while also providing an accessible management platform capable of ensuring that safe computing policies are upheld from day one.”