Leeds Learning Network
Filtered content for education
Created by Leeds City Council in 2000, Leeds Learning Network provide secure, filtered Internet and email services to schools, libraries and education centres in the city. There has been a filtering solution in place since the outset for which Leeds Learning gained accreditation from Becta in 2002. Becta is the UK Government’s partner organisation in the strategic development and delivery of its information and communications technology (ICT) and e-learning strategy for the schools and the learning and skills sectors.
Bottleneck to growth
Use of the internet in schools has risen dramatically in the last 5 years and Leeds Learning have had to scale the original system by a factor of fifty to keep up with users demands. However according to Chris Towning, Leeds Learning Network Manager this wasn’t sustainable at the current rate of growth.
When you consider that most IT suites are in continuous use and the websites being viewed are content heavy and getting more so, scaling alone wasn’t going to help”, said Towning. In an effort to pre-empt problems arising in the future, Leeds Learning started investigating web cache solutions. They had enabled a number of non-standard features on their existing Symantec Web Security filtering engine. This caused products based on Squid and Microsoft’s Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server to lose essential session information, such as user login details.
CACHEBOX takes the load
During their search Leeds Learning were introduced to ApplianSys, who began an intensive investigation into the existing filtering infrastructure. With considerable experience in working with open source and commercial caching software, ApplianSys diagnosed the problem and identified a resolution. Within a matter of days they had successfully implemented a web acceleration solution using their CACHEBOX appliance working seamlessly with Symantec Web Security. Devices were then deployed to key high-throughput, bandwidth starved areas immediately relieving congestion.
The CACHEBOX solution works by caching all the ‘heavy’ objects locally but not the actual HTML web pages. When a user requests a page from a site, upstream filtering checks with existing profiles and makes the decision on whether the user has the appropriate permissions to view the page. If access is granted the page is downloaded and then reconnected to content such as Flash, video and graphics, which were cached previously.
On day one of the implementation of the solution 25% of content was cached locally, more recently this has risen to 35-60%. The new solution has more than lived up to expectations: “With the ApplianSys solution we make significant savings on our internet access, it’s almost a third of what we were paying previously. For a region this size that’s a saving of per year”, commented Towning “But the main benefit is the improvement in delivery, workstation performance in the classroom is now spectacular. It all leads to a much better perception of the quality of service we’re delivering to our customers,” he added.
An ongoing relationship
More recently Leeds Learning needed a solution for blocking adware requests which had grown exponentially over time. The ApplianSys technical team quickly produced a solution that resulted in 90,000 requests being blocked on one day alone. ApplianSys’s ability to deliver a solution when others had failed is something Leeds Learning certainly appreciates: “Appliansys are a very responsive organisation; everything we have asked for has been delivered”, concluded Towning.