University of Brighton’s Senior Network Officer, Stephen Elliott, tells us how the institution has been able to rollout more complicated applications and patch key vulnerabilities since working with F5 and how BlueFort helps the university to deliver the right expertise as and when needed.
University of Brighton Information Services has a small team focused predominantly on networking. It’s responsible for servicing and maintaining network infrastructure used by more than 19,000 students and 2,600 staff based across six campuses in Brighton and Eastbourne. The infrastructure under the team’s management is broad and is an essential component in enabling the university to deliver the very best digital learning experiences for students.
Initially, University of Brighton’s IT team used F5 for some its more straightforward load balancing capabilities. At the start of the Coronavirus pandemic, the team migrated the University’s VPN service onto F5, which soon became a critical service. However, when it moved on to access policy management features to create authentication and web frontends for some of the university’s more advanced applications, the team ran into some complications. What’s more, the team then struggled to get the specialist support it needed from its existing partners to get the live services up and running.
The IT department approached potential suppliers as well as drawing on industry contacts, and selected a leading UK enterprise IT cybersecurity specialist, BlueFort Security, who stood out by offering assistance with our immediate issue.
BlueFort Security’s professional services team spent the next few days working through the issue with University of Brighton’s Senior Network Officer, Stephen Elliott.
“Our current suppliers at the time were completely stuck on what to do and we’d reached the stage where we had no other option than to ask F5 for assistance,” said Elliott. “Once F5 had recommended BlueFort, we spent a fair bit of time talking to its consultants and got things working within a few days. BlueFort’s consultants were keen to show us that they were capable of doing far more than what we initially needed and we quickly progressed to working on some of the more specialist capabilities that F5 offers.”
Since then, University of Brighton has been able to rollout more complicated applications and patch key vulnerabilities in the F5 platform, with BlueFort’s consultants on hand for support, troubleshooting and professional services.
“When we migrated the university’s Exchange application onto F5 we ran into some issues – in fact, it was quite a painful process,” continued Elliott. “However, that process was made far easier by speaking to BlueFort. The support desk is great. We advised BlueFort on the severity of the issue and it promptly raised a ticket and within an hour had started work on it.”
BlueFort Security is focused on a select group of vendors and technologies, so it can provide the support and expertise many in-house IT teams need when rolling out specialist products. Elliott explains this in the context of the support BlueFort provides University of Brighton with: “BlueFort knows where we are. It’s not that we have no knowledge about F5, but that we have a far more generalist role to play to manage the university’s network. BlueFort helps us bridge that gap and deliver the right expertise as and when we need it.”
BlueFort delivers this support through Evolve, its Cyber Services package which includes unlimited access to its technical and professional services teams. Evolve gives BlueFort clients unlimited, on-demand access to BlueFort’s award-winning cybersecurity consultants while also providing deep industry expertise to ensure security tools are operating and performing at their maximum potential. Evolve comprises a range of entitlements such as annual system reviews, upgrade notifications, software version assurance plus inclusive credits that can be used as and when customers require them.
Many of University of Brighton’s critical applications are now going through F5, from authentication through to mail and student information, so it’s critical for the university’s IT team that they can draw on BlueFort’s support whenever they need it.
David Rickard, Network Manager at University of Brighton, describes the challenge further. “We are technical experts, but we have a range of things we have to look after. From general campus IT facilities to wireless and firewalls, our job is to provide a level of expertise in a far broader set of areas, so we simply can’t specialise as much.
“BlueFort’s consultants are clearly experts in their field, which is why they can help us. It’s helpful that when we talk to BlueFort we get somebody with this level of expertise who knows the detail. Where our knowledge runs out, BlueFort steps in to fill the gap and this means we’re far more confident in taking on more advanced capabilities.”
With Evolve, University of Brighton’s IT team has access to BlueFort’s technical team to assist with the tasks such as rollouts, installations and upgrades, as well as its professional services team for more complex projects including security assessments, consultation and design and installation.
“With other partners we’ve used in the past, there’s more of an overlap between what we know and what the supplier knows – sometimes we have a greater level of expertise than the supplier supporting us,” said Rickard. “With BlueFort, we’ve found a partner that can provide a good level of additional support and, in my experience, that’s fairly unusual.”Click below to share this article