Thanks to its consistent and committed actions in the interests of customers as a challenger brand in the telecommunications space,
2degrees has played a central role in driving down costs and improving service availability for all New Zealanders.
And as 2degrees turns its attention to the small to medium business market, it is applying the same focus on providing quality solutions at affordable prices with the aim of protecting businesses from cyber-threats.
That’s according to Steve Lloyd, Head of Products and Solutions Strategy 2degrees Business Divison. “We’ve established our name and reputation in consumer telecoms and how we’re addressing the small to medium business market. And for these customers, the requirement is pretty simple: highly secure and highly reliable services, at an affordable price point.”
Information security is a challenge for many of New Zealand’s organisations today, but no market segment feels that pressure more than small to medium enterprises. They are often too small to warrant an internal security team and yet they are subject to the exact same threats as much larger organisations.
The shortage of skills in the market means that even if funding were made available to SME businesses for a security team, hiring an appropriate resource may be impossible. Instead, many Kiwi businesses choose to leverage the skills and the scale of partners such as 2degrees which can build a capability once and then deploy it as a service to many customers.
2degrees has historically provided Kiwi businesses with protection in the form of hosted managed security solutions, now the focus is on extending that existing protection out to the Wide Area Network [WAN] space.
“What our business customers are demanding is secure mobile and broadband connectivity to enable them to trade with certainty. They also want definable application control at a branch level in the Wide Area Network [WAN] space, and most importantly, they want that connectivity to be as secure as possible,” says Lloyd.
WAN connectivity allows branch offices to access business resources as if they are in the same room, and while this is great for simplifying operations, it does come hand in hand with new security challenges, especially for small to medium enterprises. Lloyd says 2degrees is introducing an SDWAN offering on the back of a partnership with Fortinet which is providing the technology for a ‘software defined’ WAN. “What this means is a more flexible, affordable and highly manageable WAN solution, and one which has 2degrees’ security experience integrated from top to bottom.”
It’s thanks to working with partners like Fortinet, Lloyd adds, that 2degrees is in a position to deliver enterprise-grade solutions to SMEs without the enterprise-grade costs. “We rely on great technology and Fortinet delivers it in spades. It’s SD-WAN solution is secure, easy to use and high on features. And it allows us to address the mass market very effectively.”
Scott Cowen - Fortinet General Manager A/NZ Distribution says the company values working with a challenger. “2degrees has done a great job of breaking the traditional mould by being at the forefront of introducing technology which makes the adoption of information security much easier for end users. That aligns with Fortinet thinking, culture and ethos; when talking with mutual customers, they see us working side by side delivering what they require.”
The sheer scale of the Pacific Ocean and the
enormous distances between the tiny dots
of land create unique circumstances where
communication is not only expensive, but
also difficult. Communication is also vital,
particularly in cyclone season where it becomes
a matter of life and death.
As a volunteer with New Zealand Red Cross,
Kraig Winters is all too aware of the challenges
faced by many Pacific Island countries. “To put it
in perspective, a 128-kilobits/second line can cost
around US$700 a month,” he points out.
And yet that connectivity is crucial. “It makes a phenomenal difference to development, which is perhaps more apparent in the limitations of the network rather than its capabilities,” Kraig says. Technology is part of daily life in the islands, despite its scarcity and cost. In addition to supporting the local population, the available connectivity must also support the work of New Zealand Red Cross and other agencies.
The routine activities of New Zealand Red Cross in the Pacific include capacity building programmes including the provision of first aid and other training, and contributions to sanitation and health.
However, it is always a case of when, rather than if disaster strikes. “When that happens, you quickly discover there is zero scalability in the available tech infrastructure,” says Kraig. Red Cross and other organisations scramble to help, but one of the immediate issues is communication. “When you have another 20 delegates from partner Red Cross National Societies suddenly needing connectivity, it really stretches things,” Kraig says.
With limited resources, New Zealand Red Cross provides support on a ‘needs-based assessment’. In this hour of need, minutes count. But the traditional way of performing the needs assessment was literally pen and paper forms. Processing them could take five days at a time when people might have injuries, and food, water or shelter shortages. “The clear answer to this is digitisation of the process, using tablet computers and electronic forms,” Kraig points out. But with overburdened infrastructure, the additional overhead could restrict the reality of what seems an obvious solution.
“One of the other issues is the state of the equipment. There was little control of who uses the available connectivity and how, so you’d have contention from torrent downloads, social media, video streaming, all kinds of stuff, alongside urgent lifesaving communications. And there was a massive problem with viruses and malware even further choking things back.”
Kraig runs Christchurch-based IT support company ServerWorks. He designed New Zealand Red Cross’ ‘IT in a box’ concept idea, made for high resilience and easy deployment, with full remote control. “This has the entire IT services stack in a single cabinet, capable of handling the moist tropical air. We’ve done a pilot in Tonga which has proven highly successful and will roll out another three per year over the next five years,” he says.
Fortinet malware protection solutions are baked into that box, Kraig says. “Eliminating malware from the devices and networks has made a major difference. The simple way of putting it is that Fortinet has given us bandwidth back.”
It also enables the use of digital solutions like New Zealand Red Cross’ Rapid Assessment Mobile Platform (RAMP), which Kraig says now achieves in five minutes what once took as many days. “When you depend on something, it has to be dependable. You can’t manage a disaster without technology these days, especially not in places as isolated as the Pacific Islands. Since we’ve introduced better technology, and particularly with the removal of all the malware, there is now technology in place which just does what it has to do,” he concludes.
The internet has opened up a whole new way of teaching. But with nasty stuff around every corner, how do we keep our kids safe? Children today live in a world where they can find just about anything online in a matter of seconds. And while that presents exciting opportunities for learning, it also places extra pressure on schools to keep their students safe. John Western, Principal at Seatoun School explains, “We have a duty of care to make sure the experience is as safe as possible for our learners. That means we need confidence that they won’t inadvertently go to the wrong place or see the wrong thing.”
This is where Network for Learning (N4L) comes in. As a Crown-owned company, it’s their job to connect New Zealand’s schools to fast, safe and reliable internet. And with online threats and cybercrime on the rise, they recently completed a nationwide upgrade of the government-funded Managed Network, which connects 2,450-plus schools across the country.
The upgrade sees each school equipped with a new combined router, firewall and internet filtering solution. And on a typical day, these will block more than 3.3 million attempts to view inappropriate content, including pornography, political extremism and self harm. On top of this, N4L also stops 2.7 million malicious internet threats each day, plus 83,000 attempts to infiltrate our schools’ internet systems.
These numbers aren’t lost on N4L CEO, Larrie Moore. “Running the country’s largest Managed Network, with more than 825,000 students and teachers using our services every day, comes with enormous responsibility.” It’s a responsibility that’s paying off though, with positive feedback coming in from all corners of the country. Robert Gilbert, Deputy Principal at Tauranga Boys College, says, “When kids are going out on the internet, we want to know that they’re safe. We have to be confident that our students aren’t accessing things they shouldn’t be. And that’s what the new upgrade has done for us.”
The upgrade helps teachers get on with what they do best — teaching. The technology is essentially invisible, and is centrally managed by N4L. “It just operates in the background and doesn’t require me to do anything new.” says Rhian Elmes, Head of Arts Faculty at Tauranga Boys College. “My focus is then on what I’m doing in the classroom — what’s being taught — and not on the actual infrastructure of the IT.”
Of course, an undertaking like this doesn’t just happen by magic. N4L brings together top local and international technology providers, including Spark and Fortinet, with the latter providing the advanced cybersecurity solutions working to keep the dark side of the internet at bay. And as Fortinet Client Director, Nick Frantzen, explains, it’s more than just a job for them: “the majority of our staff have school-aged children, so this is an effort close to all of our hearts.”
Both Frantzen and Moore were quick to stress the importance of continual innovation in this space. “The tools we provide address today’s issues, but also allow for protection against future threats”, says Frantzen. Moore agrees, saying “It’s essential we stay alert not only to how students and teachers are using the internet, but also to industry developments that allow the delivery of the best and safest connectivity solutions for education.”
Wi-Fi connectivity is one of those things taken for granted, so long as it works as it should. Like water from the tap or electricity from the socket, it’s just not something which requires any thought. Which is why, for Wellington’s Onslow College, replacing a poorly performing Wi-Fi network delivered a dramatic improvement at the school.
Onslow College IT Support person Josh Miller says connectivity at school is crucial. “We’re moving all our data into the cloud and this sums up the importance of being online. If you lose the connection, you can’t work. And even if you have your data internally, if the network is down, it impacts on how we teach.”
Onslow College is a coeducational state secondary school in the Wellington suburb of Johnsonville. Through a quirk of administration, the school found itself with two disparate Wi-Fi systems, neither of which provided complete coverage of the grounds, says Miller.
“They coexisted reasonably well, but it was far from ideal. When you’ve got a staff complement of 120 and over 1300 students, each with their own laptop or access to school devices, dropped connections meant endless frustration. You’d have to reauthenticate to the Wi-Fi and to the firewall, so it was a real pain point and this seriously impacted on the teaching and learning”.
Should a teacher's connection go down, lessons were interrupted as material stored on cloud drives was no longer accessible. “They’d get highly annoyed,” he confides. “Unsurprisingly, too. After all, without that connectivity, their mission of educating grinds to a halt. As far as teachers are concerned– it doesn’t matter what caused the interruption, only that it’s off.”
He says he was interested to learn from a trusted source that Fortinet provides Wi-Fi networking as well as security solutions. “we knew they had firewall solutions, but we were unaware that they had a wireless offering. Our source heartily recommended Fortinet, so we went with it.”
It wasn’t so much the Wi-Fi equipment which impressed Miller the most, but the installation. “The implementation team was outstanding. They painstakingly configured our system in the least disruptive way for a changeover.”
“This was not a ‘deploy and walk away’ situation like we’d previously experienced. The team made sure we understood the configuration and were comfortable with the management interface. And even months later, we feel looked after, with regular checks on how things are going,” Miller notes.
Good connectivity, Miller says, should be completely invisible and that’s how it is for Onslow College today. “Thanks to Fortinet, we’ve moved away from regular complaints about Wi-Fi. Now we rarely touch the system; students are getting on with learning, and teachers are getting on with teaching.”
Southern Institute of Technology in New Zealand initially deployed FortiGates as primary firewalls. Several years later, they have expanded their use of Fortinet products so that they are now protected by us across their whole network of 5 campuses.