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August 5, 2009

Remote access a virtual certainty at Newcastle Council

Lower cost and better manageability on the cards

By Steve Evans

Newcastle City Council has completed a project to upgrade its physical remote access system to a virtual environment. The Council hopes the new platform will provide lower costs, better manageability, PCI compliance and greater system flexibility and resilience.

The project was instigated as part of the Government Connect Programme, which states that local authorities must have their mail servers within their own networks.

“We were keen to meet the compliance requirements set down by the Government and to gain some additional benefits through the project,” said Andrew Price, ICT technical consultant for Newcastle City Council. “With change comes the opportunity to review current systems and it was at this time that the virtual product (Netilla VE) was highlighted to us.”

The new virtual environment was installed by Enforce Technology, a UK channel partner of AEP Networks. As well as helping the Council to deal with compliance issues the new platform enables the IT department to create test environments that are separate from the Council’s live environments. This means that the Council can fully test new processes before they are launched.

Netilla VE has also enabled the Council to increase the number of users able to access the system at the same time, offering a, “degree of flexibility and resilience that a physical product was unable to deliver. In fact, we are now able to cater for almost unlimited numbers of users because the virtual environment has inherent flexibility,” said Price.

Paul Spencer, SVP of Secure Application Access for AEP Networks, said: “Business continuity is a significant consideration for all local governments to manage disaster situations ranging from floods to viral epidemics. Having an effective, secure, flexible and resilient remote access system in place is a terrific way to cater for all eventualities.”

The installation of the virtual platform took four weeks to complete. “Implementing a virtual SSL VPN is relatively straightforward and can be done with little or no disruption to existing remote users. Increasing the level of access is also simple as everything is done in software. We do this by creating sub servers in the virtual environment to soak up all users as required. The capacity is there just in case it’s needed, so customers can cater for a surge in users at any given point in time,” said John Calder of Enforce.

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