Grupo Élève Passes Security Test with Ease

As Grupo Élève expands beyond Paraguay to Brazil and the United States, it must defend its applications in the cloud from attack while continuing to provide a seamless student experience. With the deployment of F5 Distributed Cloud Services, Grupo Élève optimized its e-learning platforms and reduced the cost of security incidents to zero.

Business Challenge

A good education has the potential to transform lives and grow economies. But access to quality teaching and learning materials isn’t always easy, especially if you live in less wealthy or rural areas. This is where Grupo Élève is making a difference. The organization provides unique and innovative educational opportunities to students in its home country, Paraguay, and more recently is expanding to Brazil and the United States. 

Since it was founded in 1991, Grupo Élève has built wide-reaching e-learning platforms and physical learning centers. It is also growing fast with more than 50,000 student transactions per month, helping to make it one of the top five educational organizations in Paraguay. But the company faces two key challenges as it prepares to scale. First, the learning environment changed dramatically after the COVID-19 pandemic when many students switched permanently to virtual learning. Tracking the identity and status of this booming online audience was difficult given the organization’s complex multi-cloud environment. It was also an issue for teachers who typically accessed the network through a VPN. When they were away from their teaching site, they occasionally ran into configuration and accessibility issues. 

Second, Paraguay has a large rural population. In the interior of the country, students rely on satellite rather than traditional broadband Internet access. Many students also study and work at the same time. All of this requires Grupo Élève to provide flexible access so everyone has the chance to study whatever their location and lifestyle. 

“We lacked full visibility into each student and their interactions with our services,” says Andres Gonzalez, Head of Infrastructure at Grupo Élève. He was also concerned about growing threats to the network from ransomware, bots, and other malicious agents. “As we expanded internationally, so did our attack surface,” says Gonzalez. “Traditional firewalls and VPNs didn’t offer the robustness or security we needed in our distributed cloud environment.” 


When Gonzalez first met with the F5 team, he had three key objectives: 

  • Multi-cloud security that protected applications across several cloud environments.
  • Agility and scalability to meet fluctuating demands.
  • An improved user experience that delivered fast and secure digital services to students and teachers.

Recognizing the urgency of the project, the F5 team quickly established a proof of concept based on F5 Distributed Cloud Services. This included secure multi-cloud networking (MCN), which extends application and security services across one or more public clouds, on-premises, native Kubernetes environments, and edge sites.

In addition, F5 Distributed Cloud App Connect and F5 BIG-IP Access Policy Manager enable Grupo Élève to establish zero-trust network access to their environments. This further minimizes the attack surface and enforces granular access control, requiring users to be authenticated at every step.

The team at Grupo Élève were impressed by the automation and orchestration features that simplify operations and reduce demand on the IT team. “F5 Distributed Cloud Services let us manage and protect applications deployed in our cloud and on-premises infrastructure easily in a single, unified solution,” says Gonzalez. 

He was also struck by the positive attitude of the F5 team. “The people that we worked with had unparalleled cybersecurity experience,” says Gonzalez. “They were completely on board with our strategic vision and how quickly we needed to deploy the solution.”  


Delivering a better student experience

Grupo Élève’s primary goal is to deliver a first-class learning experience to students whatever their location or means of access. F5 Distributed Cloud Network Connect supports this goal by reducing the complexity of distributed, multi-cloud environments while improving speed of access. It also enables Grupo Élève to track the most popular services and put resources behind features that are in high demand from students. 

“With F5 we can manage costs by retaining our existing multi-cloud architecture,” says Gonzalez. “It means that we can continue to offer value to students and teachers while continuing to enhance the education and learning services we offer.” 

More detailed information also enables Grupo Élève to eliminate so-called malicious connections where more than one device is connected to the network with the same user credentials. These events make it difficult to track individual activity and harder to investigate security incidents. “Nothing overlaps anymore,” says Guillermo Santacruz, Technology Manager at Grupo Élève. “We can always identify individual users and the services they access at any point in space and time.” 

Bounce reduction to boost revenue

With an average of 50,000 student transactions per month, it is essential that every payment is successful to maintain revenues and profitability. Before the deployment of F5 Distributed Cloud Services some 1,500 transactions bounced due to a timeout on the server or other issues. Now there are an average of just five bounces per month, a 97% reduction, reflecting significant improvement in revenue. 

Reduce admin workloads by 90%

Before the deployment of F5, the platform team would start work at 8:00 a.m. and sometimes leave at 9:00 p.m. in the evening. “Managing our previous architecture generated a huge workload, especially when accessing a server and making changes to the system,” says Santacruz.

The deployment of the F5 solution reduced this workload by about 90%. Now the team can leave work at a sensible time, and they also have the capacity to focus on more innovative, productive work. In addition, new hires don’t require detailed experience with multiple cloud platforms and on-premises deployments. “F5 Distributed Cloud Services is far easier to navigate and removes the needs for cloud-specific knowledge,” says Santacruz. 

Reduce cost of incidents to zero

When it comes to protecting people and data, F5 Distributed Cloud Services has already proved its worth. “F5 Distributed Cloud App Connect excels as a proxy between the end user and our hardware. It means that we always have an impenetrable barrier between the world and our data center,” says Gonzalez.

Paraguay recently suffered a ransomware attack that left many of the country’s largest businesses unable to operate. “Some organizations were down for 72 hours, potentially costing them hundreds of thousands or even millions in revenues. With F5 we didn’t lose a minute or a dollar—and most importantly our students weren’t impacted at all,” says Gonzalez.

Future-proof platform for growth and security

Grupo Élève is now equipped to further expand both its technology platform and user base. “We will continue to offer more services online to our students and teachers. While we know that may make us more vulnerable to attacks, with F5 Distributed Cloud Services we feel prepared to block potential attacks, botnets, or other malicious activity that may come our way,” says Santacruz. 

He also expects to move a larger proportion of services to the cloud. “F5 offers us the robustness, reliability, and overall experience that we need to continue our journey to the cloud. Whether managing costs, security, or delivering an outstanding student and teacher experience, we know that F5 is behind us all the way.” 

eleve logo
  • Enhance the student learning experience
  • Reduce admin workloads by 90%
  • Reduce cost of incidents to zero
  • Future-proof distributed cloud environment

  • Scaling to meet online student growth 
  • Maintaining security in a multi-cloud environment
  • Delivering a market leading e-learning experience