The County Council of the City and County of Cardiff has been the governing body for Wales’ capital since 1996, with a network across 350 sites and a workforce in excess of 13,500. As well as providing services for its array of offices, PSBA’s network solutions are also used by 51,000 pupils, across 127 schools in the city.
Cardiff Council had previously been using a local filtering service for the schools, which meant that network traffic would be filtered and sent out to the internet via County Hall, and back again. This often led to high contention within the network, especially during peak times, which would impact the end users’ experience. Although the council apportioned the majority of its internet connection to the schools, the pupils were contending for fixed bandwidth.
With the move to more online testing and the growing use of the Welsh Government promoted Hwb e-learning suite, Office 365 and other internet based services, a significant increase in internet usage was forecast and capacity and resilience of service was identified as key areas that needed addressing.
PSBA implemented its WebSafe filtering service for Cardiff Council, which redirects web traffic from the council to the Next Generation Data centre (NGD) in Newport, reducing contention and ensuring schools have a dedicated, centralised service to match their requirements. The new centralised service provided an uplift in bandwidth from day one by traversing via NGD, as opposed to Cardiff’s County Hall, providing a seamless and reliable service for users. By adopting this model, it anticipates the inevitable increase in future bandwidth demand.
It also enables the council to meet the demands of increasingly sophisticated school services, such as the Hwb programme, which provides a number of digital resources and support services for parents, students and teachers in Wales.
The rise in internet based services in schools is growing exponentially. The movement to online testing continues and the learning experience must be seamless. PSBA ensures that the schools have a reliable and resilient network, so technology is not an inhibitor.
As well as improving network speeds, the WebSafe service screens incoming web page requests and determines what should and shouldn’t be blocked, alerting the school in real time. Its security provisions extend to blocking malicious Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks from outside of the network as well.
Cardiff Council is also planning to adopt the PSBA Roaming service. It will allow other public sector organisations on the PSBA network to connect to their home networks securely when they are visiting Cardiff offices. This new approach promotes new, flexible methods of working, and removes the need for staff to travel long distances for meetings – time that could be spend in more profitable ways.
Phil Bear, head of ICT at Cardiff Council, said: 'Society is becoming increasingly digital, so it is vital that public services mirror this shift and ensure staff and other users have access to a seamless and reliable communications network. We’ve already seen the benefits of a single, centralised network – removing much of the day-to-day operational requirements for IT staff in individual offices.
'The value of PSBA across the public sector in Wales cannot be underestimated. It has allowed us to ensure that all of our users have access to a high quality digital platform and to work more collaboratively across organisations.'