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Case Study

Securing a more agile and accessible IT environment for UCLan

38,000 students and staff globally

£200 million planned investment over 10 years

Long-term modern security approach

 About UCLan

  • One of the UK's largest universities, based in Preston, Lancashire and with additional campuses in West Cumbria, Pennine Lancashire and Cyprus
  • 38,000 students and staff, with academic partners across the globe
  • First modern UK university to appear in the QS World University rankings
  • In the top 3.7 percent of all universities as rated by the Centre for World University Rankings
  • 16 subject areas judged to deliver 'world-leading or internationally excellent quality' in the most recent Research Excellence Framework
  • Investing over £200 million during the next 10 years to create a unified, sustainable and welcoming campus in Preston benefiting current and future generations of students, staff, visitors and the wider community

The Challenge

Open access to information lies at the heart of a university education, yet in a time of ever-increasing cyber risk, ensuring that academic freedom doesn't compromise security is becoming increasingly challenging. For the University of Central Lancashire (UCLan), enabling secure access to information has to be balanced with a robust risk management strategy.

UCLan's existing technology was nearing the end of its effective lifecycle and a new direction was required, in order to guarantee both the performance and security levels required to deliver the service demanded by today's academic environment. Softcat was approached to help transform an IT platform and service focused on configuration, optimisation and equipment deployment to one capable of delivering business outcomes securely and more efficiently.

The Solution

As with every engagement, Softcat's first priority was to fully grasp UCLan's requirements. Of course, replacing the existing end-of-life technologies was the major priority, but the Softcat team was just as keen to understand the university's approach to security in the future. A full analysis of the current environment and its effectiveness in repelling modern security attacks was the obvious starting point.

Having completed a robust security review and hosted a series of workshops, Softcat proposed 6 potential technologies capable of delivering the required performance. The Softcat technical team and the UCLan IT teams worked closely together throughout the entire project, forming a technical partnership which allowed both parties to rigorously assess the proposed vendor offerings, in order to identify the most suitable joint solution. The overriding goal was to ensure the proposed solution could provide the required levels of security without compromising the ability to deploy services more rapidly and improve IT service delivery. Throughout the project, Softcat remained totally vendor agnostic, which was extremely important to UCLan as they required an unbiased solution to be achieved.

At all times during the process Softcat never lost sight of the fact that its solution needed to follow the principal of 'Zero Trust', a concept that removes the assumption that clients and networks are safe clients and that a security breach could emerge from any access point within or outside of the University.

Given the complexity of the task, the recommendation was a resilient interim solution that would significantly improve overall security, yet enable the UCLan IT Team to fully implement a permanent solution further down the line.

The solution included:

  • Check Point Firewall for traffic inspection between client, server and wide area networks
  • Citrix NetScalers for improved application presentation and security capabilities
  • VWware NSX delivering micro-segmentation within the virtual environment
  • Extensive, ongoing consultation and engagement, vendor-agnostic advice and dedicated workshops to accurately define client requirements.

Solution highlights:

  • Modern security architecture incorporating automation and orchestration
  • Defence in depth – 'Zero Trust' approach
  • Long-term security strategy advice

The Benefits

UCLan now has a significantly more secure IT environment delivering high-quality performance. With a clearer overall view of security provision it can move forward, secure in the knowledge that improvements in accessibility and platform agility have been achieved without compromising security.

Why Softcat?

Hailing the success of the project, Frank Wadmore, UCLAn IT Networks and Security Manager, said, "With any major project it's vitally important that any external parties integrate well with the existing team and be fully trusted and respected. This project spanned across two teams and comments from both teams have always been very positive regarding Softcat's engagement. In all my time working in the IT industry, the professionalism, customer focus and customer care provided has been second to none."