The Santa Barbara Unified School District has spent $3.26 million of bond funds on wireless access but still has Internet access issues, something technology director Todd Ryckman said he discovered is partly due to the outdated firewall.
For the last five years, the district has been using a firewall that allows only 240 megabytes per second of data through, even though individual schools have systems with higher bandwidth capabilities.
Although the district has spent a lot of money upgrading bandwidth for each school site, all data is content-filtered in and out of the firewall, so all of the schools and the district office are competing for that 240 mbps, Ryckman said.
“If any one thing happens at a site, it impacts everyone else at every other site,” he said.
He and the district’s information technology staff are working with Cox Communications to redesign the network, prioritize traffic and get everything working better, he said.
“When something happens, it stops everything right now,” said Meg Jette, assistant superintendent of business services, adding that employees can’t get on the Internet or shared document drives, which causes a lot of lost productivity.
Elementary schools have 100 megabytes per second of bandwidth capability now and secondary schools have one gigabyte per second. Those improvements “have really made the firewall weakness apparent,” Ryckman said.
He worked with the Cox Communications Data and Transport team and Lanspeed to re-engineer the network, he told the Board of Education on Tuesday.
“It became clear that we had a number of bottlenecks on the network with the firewall being the most severe,” he wrote in a report.
The board approved changing over to a new firewall from Palo Alto Networks, with a firewall installed at each site instead of purchasing a large one for the district office to get enough bandwidth. All of the firewalls can be managed from one interface, which is an advantage, he noted.
It needs to be done since the district “spent so much time, effort and capital in redoing our network,” Ryckman said.
The change will cost $192,263 for the first year of implementation and $76,510 for every year in the future. Jette said the initial costs will be paid for with money from the dissolution of Santa Barbara’s Redevelopment Agency, which kicked some money back to all taxing agencies in the area.