NorQuest and Red Deer Polytechnic join the growing club of eduroam providers in Alberta

This past year, two Alberta post-secondary institutions — NorQuest College and Red Deer Polytechnic — joined the global league of campuses offering eduroam connectivity to staff and students.

Education roaming (eduroam) is a secure, world-wide roaming access service that allows students and staff from participating institutions to seamlessly (and safely) connect to the wifi when visiting another participating institution. In Canada, eduroam is available through CANARIE, the national not-for-profit organization that, together with 13 provincial and territorial partners, form Canada’s National Research and Education Network (NREN). As the Alberta NREN partner, Cybera provides technical assistance to members in this province looking to connect to eduroam.

Expanding the pool of participating eduroam institutions

“We wanted to allow our campus to welcome eduroam-enabled visitors with barrier-free internet access, to give them an improved on-campus experience,” says Peter Rajic, Team Lead of Digital Security for Business Technology Services at NorQuest College. “We also wanted to make it easier for our employees and students to connect securely to wifi when visiting other eduroam-connected institutions throughout the world. Plus, we wanted to join our post-secondary colleagues in offering this service.”

As they began configuring their system to incorporate eduroam, the goal of NorQuest’s team was to create a secure and user-friendly experience. The results have been a markedly improved internet access experience for eduroam-enabled visitors to NorQuest’s campus, as well as for off-campus employees and students visiting other eduroam-enabled institutions, including the Edmonton Valley Zoo.

Increasing security at Red Deer

For Red Deer Polytechnic, the motivation to implement eduroam had been around for years, “but it was issues with our old [network server] appliance that finally prompted us to rebuild our wireless infrastructure,” says Patrick Hewitt, an Infrastructure Analyst within the polytechnic’s Information Technology Services team. “This rebuild included implementing eduroam.”

Improved privacy and security have been the biggest benefits of implementing eduroam, from Hewitt’s perspective. “We didn’t have a secure (802.1x) wireless offering for our BYOD [bring-your-own-device] wifi users prior to the implementation of eduroam, so that has been a huge benefit.”

“Also the Configuration Assistant Tool (CAT) has been very helpful for onboarding the new BYOD clients to our secure network.”

The CAT offering from eduroam builds custom installers for a range of popular PC and smartphone platforms, while enhancing security for the end user. The tool ensures that users are protected against rogue wi-fi hotspots that may try to access their usernames and passwords.

Setup support from Cybera and CANARIE

Both institutions found the setup process relatively straight-forward, particularly with support from their NREN partners. Rajic says it took his team around two to three weeks to configure eduroam (working off the side of their desks). “We found the documentation and screenshots very useful and detailed, and we were able to build the service to be resilient and secure.”

The implementation at Red Deer Polytechnic was part of a wider wireless infrastructure build. “The support from CANARIE definitely helped,” says Hewitt.

Rajic’s advice for other post-secondary institutions looking to implement eduroam is to ensure they adopt CANARIE’s strongly recommended eduroam security best practices. “You’ll want to create an eduroam Configuration Assistant Tool (CAT) profile for your institution to provision a security-first configuration as the easiest path to connect,” he says. “It’s quick to set up and will help to protect against rogue wireless hotspots trying to gain users’ network credentials. You’ll also want to consider assigning users per realm, with eduroam visitors outside your firewall and trusted users inside, enabling some institutions to only have eduroam as a guest wifi.”

For more information on getting started with eduroam, contact Cybera’s project management team.

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