Wyong Christian Community School:Firewall Upgrade

Wyong Christian Community School
Lance Gierhart, Director of Innovative Technologies
Firewall Upgrade (FortiGate NGFW)
2 months
About the school

Serving 750 students from K-12 and up to 100 staff, Wyong Christian Community School is located in Wyong in the central coast of NSW. The school prides itself on its pastoral care program and being a leading academic school for the region, while maintaining an accessible cost for families.

Recovering from a lethal cyberattack

In the face of the ever-increasing risk of cybersecurity breaches and system failures, the IT team at Wyong Christian Community School knew they needed to upgrade their firewall to protect their staff, students, and school reputation.

“In a school environment, the firewall not only protects us from hackers and external people, it also provides filtering to protect the students as well, so they’re not going to inappropriate websites,” says Mr Lance Gierhart, the school’s Director of Innovative Technologies. “Our school actually has had a ransomware attack – and it was a lethal incident with massive impacts on the school.”

Having started his new position on the day of the ransomware attack, Mr Gierhart and his team were hyper-aware of the true impacts of cyberattacks and were determined to protect the school for the future.

With the warranty and support of their existing firewall system, Palo Alto, running out, Mr Gierhart wanted to implement a much more robust solution before the lapse in support hit.

“The goal was to have two firewalls working concurrently. So, if one fails, the other takes over,” Mr Gierhart says. “We could easily have gone, ‘Look, let’s just stick the easy route and just put in a new Palo Alto.’ Because we know it and we’re more familiar with it and so that might have been potentially more achievable. But then it limits us from using other technologies out there that might be better.”

Protecting the learning environment

The team at Wyong Christian Community School needed to ensure the changeover to the new firewall system was managed with the utmost care.

“In the worst-case scenario, if you’ve deployed the firewall without the correct filtering, students could access inappropriate sites either intentionally or accidentally. Then next thing you know, there’s this massive uproar of parents going, ‘What is the school doing? My kids aren’t being protected’,” Mr Gierhart says. “The reputation of the school can go down very quickly in those kinds of scenarios and experiences. You’ll start seeing parents pulling their students out of the school.”

With the stakes so high, Mr Gierhart knew they needed to find an IT partner that could quickly deliver the firewall solution he had in mind and protect the school’s reputation by managing risks and preventing problems before they occurred.

They needed NetStrategy.

Protected and future-proofed

After sending out a RFP to several potential partners, NetStrategy emerged as the clear leader.

“We are always very conscious of cost, but it’s also not always about the cheapest solution but the most reliable solution, more robust solution,” Mr Gierhart says. “They were able to get the firewalls in within a few weeks, which was very impressive. Other partners, when I was looking at these solutions were saying, ‘Look, we won’t be able to get to stuff until another three or four months’.”

NetStrategy’s clear and consistent communication created an atmosphere of calm control – with Mr Gierhart and his team being kept informed at every step of the process.

“I think the delivery was really good, and the deployment of it was really good. There was communication and constant checking in from the project manager,” Mr Gierhart says. “Even James Peterson (NetStrategy’s Solutions Architect) was still constantly checking to make sure we were satisfied with how it was going, even though he could have just handed it off to the project manager.”

Not only was the project delivered on time – it was delivered with no interruptions to the learning environment.

“People don’t even realise that we’ve had something going on in the background. The students are learning in the classroom, they’re still using the internet, and they don’t even realise anything’s happened,” Mr Gierhart says, “Now, I don’t have that lingering feeling in the back of my mind, ‘If a firewall dies, the internet will go’. I feel very confident that if one of the firewalls should fail – because you never know with technology – the other one will take over, the internet will still be going.”

With the dual firewall solution successfully implemented, the school and its community can feel safe, knowing that should they be threatened by cyberattacks again, they’re protected by a reliable system and the support of NetStrategy’s dedicated team.

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