NorthTec - A more nimble and agile approach to connectivity

10 July 2019
NorthTec Girl image

About NorthTec

NorthTec is the only Northland-based Tertiary Education Institute that provides programmes ranging from foundation and certificate, to diploma and degree levels. With campuses and learning centres in Whangarei, Kaikohe and Kaitaia.  NorthTec also has over 60 community-based delivery points from Coatesville in Rodney to Ngataki in the Far North.

As of 2018, NorthTec had more than 7000 enrolled students, the majority of which study through a blended model of on-campus teaching and online learning. Students were connecting to NorthTec’s learning management systems (LMS) via onsite computers and were also connecting 2-3 additional devices each to the network Wi-Fi. On top of this, students were beginning to engage with far higher bandwidth intensive content such as video streaming and audio.

With the NZ Government rolling out its Ultra-Fast Broadband Initiative, NorthTec recognised it was the ideal time to explore a new network solution. They were also receiving complaints from users regarding slow connections during peak usage periods, which needed to be addressed in order to provide a seamless learning experience.

The Challenge
Shifting to the cloud

NorthTec recently shifted numerous technology functions across HR, finance, and operations to Softsource vBridge’s cloud hosted Infrastructure-as-a-Service (IaaS) model.
For these functions to perform optimally it was imperative that their network could support the service delivery of each function.

Increased mobility

Like many education providers, NorthTec was finding their staff and students needed more responsive mobile teaching and learning experiences. Regardless of which remote campus or location a student was studying at, it was essential that every user had the same level of access and bandwidth to support their learning objectives.

Improved connectivity

Today’s students expect seamless connectivity in their study experiences, regardless of the time of day, or the device they are using to access the LMS. NorthTec needed the capability to provide improved connectivity from a range of mobile devices back to their centralised learning and teaching platform, and this connectivity needed to be guaranteed for peak usage periods.

Greater bandwidth

With students accessing a range of dynamic content, including video and audio, the network needed to support this drastic change in demand. Students and staff also required adequate bandwidth for running applications such as Google Suite and Office 365, while accessing a range of on-premise and cloud storage systems

Reliability and security

The education sector is highly regulated, with providers expected to maintain the best possible security of students’ sensitive data. Above all, NorthTec needed to guarantee both reliability and security while transferring information into their central data sources, in order to adequately maintain their learning environment.

The Solution

NorthTec put out a public tender for a new Wide Area Network (WAN) to which Softsource vBridge (formerly Softsource) offered Aruba’s industry leading Software Defined WAN (SD-WAN). By explaining that this offering would provide the necessary level of security required for NorthTec’s network, along with improved performance at a third of the price of their competitive offerings, Softsource vBridge was successful in securing the contract to deliver the SD-WAN solution.

“Overall, we were finding that the network capacity we had wasn’t adequate for delivering the experiences and services our students and staff expect. When people are experiencing slow and unreliable network speeds, they simply can’t be productive.”
Sue Milner, NorthTec ICT Manager


The Results

Offering Aruba’s SD-WAN through Softsource vBridge’s industryl eading solution has enabled NorthTec to deliver network services alongside substantial cost benefits. As opposed to a traditional WAN deployment, Softsource vBridge was able to deploy Aruba’s SD-WAN in conjunction with NorthTec’s existing network infrastructure. This meant there was no disruption during the implementation and deployment period.

Within two to three weeks of testing, NorthTec’s SD-WAN was up and running, creating a customised solution that enabled the use of old equipment while meeting the requirements for modern productivity levels.

Across the entire solution, NorthTec now has improved connectivity, smarter overall management, and a more nimble and agile approach to providing users with network access. With vastly improved connectivity in multiple locations, the team at NorthTec is enjoying all the benefits of SvB’s solution. The key to being able to deliver the solution is the combination of Softsource vBridge’s implementation expertise along with the full stack of services that Aruba SD-WAN offers, from the controller to the user.

Aruba SD-WAN empowers NorthTec’s IT team to focus on the innovative initiatives that will drive better strategic organisational outcomes. Rather than wasting staffing resources on simply “keeping the lights on” within their network, they can focus on improving learning experiences and teaching outcomes.

Softsource vBridge's SD-WAN is secured by Aruba ClearPass, which delivers the device identity, policy control, workflow automation and automated threat protection from a single cohesive solution. By capturing and correlating real-time contextual data, Aruba ClearPass enables NorthTec and SvB to create security policies that best protect students and teachers’ sensitive data.

NorthTec logo

“The entire project came in within budget and on-time, and there was a thorough process for testing and troubleshooting throughout the entire implementation. The feedback from users, particularly in some of our more remote campuses, is that they’re noticing a marked improvement in connectivity and speed.

“Overall, Softsource vBridge has been a great culture fit as our network partner. They have a no surprises approach, as everything is well communicated ahead of time. It’s also unique to see that everyone in their business, from senior leaders to technicians, are all invested and interested in our success. The level of communication and responsiveness we get from them now is still great.”

Sue Milner, NorthTec ICT Manager.

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