Case Study

University of Leeds

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The University of Leeds is located in the city of Leeds, West Yorkshire in the UK. It was founded in 1904, but its origins date back to the founding of the Leeds School of Medicine in 1831 and then the Yorkshire College of Science in 1874. The university is among the top ten for research in the UK and is internationally acknowledged as a centre of excellence in a wide range of academic and professional disciplines. 

The university’s broad research and skills base and superb facilities attract interest from major multinationals and small local businesses alike. Leeds currently promotes projects through 58 inter-disciplinary centres and seven research schools. 

The student population includes approximately 32,000 undergraduate and 9,000 postgraduate students from 130 countries, making it the second largest single-site university in the United Kingdom. The university also has 8,000 academic and support staff. Notable alumni include former Secretary of State Jack Straw and NASA astronaut Piers Sellers.

Balancing Student and Academic Needs

As one of the UK’s top research universities, the University of Leeds sought a solution for balancing students’ personal bandwidth andservice needs with the resources needed to support its prestigious academic and research endeavors.

Each year, the university experiences significant increases in the number of mobile devices on its already-expansive network. Theproliferation of mobile users, mobile devices and the movement toward IT consumerisation were resulting in growing demand for wireless support. The university’s network management and operations teams therefore required greater visibility of internal and external traffic throughout their network.

StealthWatch is a network-spanning visibility platform.”

The university’s challenges included the need to balance managed and unmanaged device usage, and to cope with the increase in international conferencing while being sensitive to multicultural considerations and aware of differing operating systems utilised by the students. At UoL, the lifestyle of the students on campus and particularly those in residence has a direct impact on network infrastructure and performance.

Like many academic institutions, UoL also contends with file sharing applications that consume excessive bandwidth. The university therefore also needed the ability to identify machines running prohibited applications, with abuse reporting capabilities and the resulting evidential audit trail, to help enforce its zero tolerance towards illegal file sharing. 

StealthWatch Improves Network Visibility, Performance and Security 

After reviewing competitive technologies, the University of Leeds selected the NetFlow-based Lancope StealthWatch® System to provide fast and detailed insight into network traffic patterns and link utilisation. NetFlow is a core network monitoring technology built into many routers and switches, which automatically and continuously logs network conversations. Readily available and an efficient means for continuous network monitoring across enterprise networks, NetFlow can be leveraged by network operations and security professionals to make their jobs easier and deliver better service to their end users. By collecting and analysing NetFlow from existing devices, StealthWatch delivers comprehensive, end-to-end network visibility for maximised security and performance. 

StealthWatch enhances our efficacy in providing world-class service for our customers.”

Through sophisticated behavioral analysis, the system expedites troubleshooting for both network- and security-related issues, and greatly reduces network and security management costs. StealthWatch helps organisations address increasing demands being placed on their infrastructure due to trends such as IT consumerisation, user mobility, cloud computing, live telepresence and streaming video.

Nathan Courtney, University of Leeds Senior Network Development Officer, commented, “StealthWatch performs well and is straightforward to use. Lancope gives us better service provision visibility, and the immediacy of the system enhances our efficacy in providing world-class service for our customers. With StealthWatch, we are able to provide confident customer service when the inevitable ‘the network is slow’ call comes in.”

Previously, network troubleshooting and incident investigation eroded valuable time away from the day-to-day network management tasks at UoL. By significantly decreasing the time from problem onset to resolution, StealthWatch has not only saved the university vast sums of money, but has also increased the performance of its IT team members by allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks. “Simply put, StealthWatch is a network-spanning visibility platform that narrows the field of ‘what ifs’ and provides clear, usable intelligence to identify, evaluate and prioritise critical events,” said Courtney. 

StealthWatch provides clear, usable intelligence to identify, evaluate and prioritise critical events.”

StealthWatch and NetFlow have also enabled the university to identify potential data breaches of its highly confidential academic and research materials. “In our traffic logs, we can see the smallest trickle of potentially sensitive data that may be seeping, and we can focus the attention of our investigation to a specific department,” added Courtney. “From there, we can quickly scope the leak, and if necessary, initiate damage limitation or recovery procedures. Isolating our research to a specific area of the network prior to conducting a full forensic investigation is very valuable.”

In addition to improving network visibility, performance and security, StealthWatch also provides the University of Leeds with valuable intelligence to help make more informed decisions when presented with budgetary, provisioning and procurement demands. 

Scalable to meet the needs of even the largest networks, StealthWatch enables organisations like the University of Leeds to cost-effectively transform their networks to meet current and future end-user needs.