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VPN Migration Team Wins FY21 Q1 PTEA

Posted Date: 28 Jun 2021

Effective Date: 28 Jun 2021

This is the logo for the GlobalProtect VPN project.Northwestern’s Virtual Private Network (VPN) is one of the most important and widely used security tools across campus, allowing students, faculty, researchers, and staff to use IP encryption to connect to the University’s network and the internet from any remote location securely. Northwestern IT recently enhanced the protections offered by this critical service through the Transition to GlobalProtect VPN project. The project team’s successful execution led to a unanimous vote, naming it the FY21 Q1 Project Team Excellence Award (PTEA) winner.

The project fulfilled three primary objectives: adding Multi-factor Authentication to the login process, consolidating existing VPNs across campuses, schools, and units, and delivering a new solution that integrates seamlessly with other existing tools used by the Information Security Office. Mary McLaughlin and Chris Fabri led the eight-person core IT team celebrated at Northwestern IT’s June Extended Staff Meeting. The group was cited for their outstanding work across Northwestern IT and all University departments and their ability to adjust to new timelines and constraints introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The project received particularly high marks on the PTEA scorecard in the impact to the Northwestern community category. Thousands of Northwestern community members use VPN services at any given time, and the project team took great care to ensure users did not experience disruptions. The team took an adaptive approach, relying on a robust set of statistics, metrics, and analysis throughout the migration to create constant awareness of how migration to the new service was proceeding and identify any needed adjustments to ensure continued success.

The project team exhibited excellence in communication and collaboration, prioritizing partnership with schools and units throughout the project's lifecycle. During the migration, the team customized configurations to meet every department and group’s needs previously using the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) VPN service. The transition work required migration to a new service and extensive work to reconfigure the network and host-based firewalls in the University’s data centers.

The team's careful and thoughtful approach to introducing a new VPN solution resulted in significant cost savings across the University and also streamlined internal processing between teams that work to keep the Northwestern network secure, reliable, and efficient.

Congratulations to the core project team members: Mary McLaughlin, Chris Fabri, Christine Ganjani, Ke Gong, Chris Hart, Ryan Kelly, Brad Priller, and Frank Wayne.

To learn more about the Project Team Excellence Award—including nominating a project team—visit the Inside IT Staff Recognition page.

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