Outwood Grange trusts in WatchGuard

Yorkshire-based Outwood Grange Academies Trust (OGAT) is an outstanding education success story, backed by outstanding WatchGuard security technology supplied by Sec-1.

Since 2005, the Trust has grown to 18 secondary and primary schools, all following the same ‘Transformation Model’ of educational improvement pioneered by OGAT head Sir Michael Wilkins – who took the Trust’s first academy, Outwood Grange in Wakefield, from the bottom 10% of schools in the country to the top 10% in just two years.

Recognising his winning formula, the Department of Education has moved more and more under-performing schools under the Trust’s umbrella, and in 2014 Sir Michael Wilkins received his knighthood for outstanding service to education.

With academies now stretching from the Middlesbrough area down through Ripon, Wakefield, Barnsley, Scunthorpe, Doncaster, Sheffield, Worksop and Chesterfield, OGAT is the highest performing family of schools in the North of England.

And behind this educational achievement, the Trust takes a hard-nosed business approach to IT, knowing that in times of tight budgets, the more efficient and effective its technology is, the more money it can devote to front-line teaching.

Reflecting this, OGAT decided in December 2013 to switch to WatchGuard firewalls to perform the crucial role of safeguarding its students and staff online.

OGAT has so far installed one WatchGuard XTM850 and five XTM545 firewalls in six schools, and is currently installing two WatchGuard M500 systems in its data centre to provide RDS and email services. The Trust is committed to installing WatchGuard in all 18 of its academies as their IT contracts come up for renewal.

At that point, the firewalls will be safeguarding about 16,000 students and staff, replacing a mix of separate firewalls, security appliances and web filtering systems from different suppliers and providing what OGAT Assistant ICT Director Mathew Lister calls an ‘all-encompassing solution’.

In a single appliance, WatchGuard offers features including Gateway AntiVirus, Application Control which checks for unwanted and dangerous apps, WatchGuard Dimension and WebBlocker which monitor users online and shut out objectionable websites, IPS/IDS to detect and prevent malware, and RED (Reputation Enabled Defence) to check for known and safe websites.

Mathew explained:

WatchGuard has everything in one product, which from my past experience is quite rare in something that’s so user-friendly. The main benefit is it’s a ‘single pane of glass’ – everything is managed essentially through one system manager console. The ability of that is fantastic. Very simple, easy to use and easy to navigate. Great technology, great functionality. WatchGuard are also very competitive on price compared to the other units out there.”

The WatchGuards are supplied by Sec-1 and backed by an array of Sec-1 support services. All OGAT’s IT staff and network managers receive Sec-1 training on the devices – Mathew said, “so they can benefit from the features, know what the features do” – and ongoing back-up from the supplier.

The level of support we’ve received from Sec-1 when needed has been excellent. They’re always there, always available. We don’t use their support very much at all, we just don’t require it, but whenever we have they’ve been back to us within minutes.”

In technology terms, OGAT’s 16 schools operate separately, each with its own IT staff, domain and network, accessed via a 50-200 megabit broadband line, depending on the size of the school.

The academies share a Virtual Private Network which provides free VoIP school-to-school phone calls, while individual network managers cover two or three sites, again depending on school size.

The WatchGuard implementation has been “seamless”, Mathew said, and “will save a massive amount of money” which will ultimately benefit the Trust’s educational aims.

He explained:

Funding is getting less and less in the educational sector so wherever we can save a little bit on the IT here and there and give the benefit to other academies it’s a win: win all-round.

If we compare WatchGuard to appliances that will do similar, you’re looking at a cost saving of at least 40%. In reality the WatchGuards just aren’t expensive, especially with all the features that you get for that cost and licence.

But it’s not always the bottom-line price that’s important to us, it’s that wraparound service we get with Sec-1 – getting the appliances to us quickly, offering the quick support through to WatchGuard if we need to escalate anything, and additional training at reduced costs.”

* For more information on Outwood Grange Academies Trust, visit www.Outwood.com.

About Sec-1

Sec-1 provides professional-standard information security solutions to a vast range of clients throughout the public and private sectors. Established in 2001, Sec-1 has continually built on all network security knowledge, ensuring it is always able to help with any current issues.

This has enabled Sec-1 to create a number of tailored services, including the specialist IT Health Check for public sector organisations designed to support Public Sector Network (PSN) Code of Connection compliance. Sec-1 Ltd works within the following three core areas: security testing, products & services, and training.

“Best-of-breed equipment is important to us and WatchGuard is rated as one of the best appliances out there as far as the security and functionality go. I would definitely use WatchGuard going forward. They have satisfied our requirements through and through.”

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