A Silver Lining in the Cloud: Ferrilli Helps Hartnell College Leverage Cyberattack Recovery to Modernize IT Infrastructure with AWS

Executive Summary

After a cyberattack disabled Hartnell College’s entire IT infrastructure, Ferrilli helped the institution get back online in days with a new cloud-based infrastructure built on AWS. The scalable, flexible, and stable infrastructure can grow with Hartnell College’s needs for the future. Ferrilli built the infrastructure on AWS Control Tower, and Hartnell is utilizing Amazon AppStream 2.0 to enable remote access to powerful applications.

Seizing an Opportunity

It’s usually hard to find a silver lining in a cyberattack, but for Hartnell College, one of the oldest higher education institutions in California, a security breach gave the IT team the opportunity to build a modern new infrastructure to better serve students, faculty, and staff.

IT leadership at the community college first became aware that something was amiss on a Sunday morning in October 2022. When they received alerts that the network was down, it didn’t take long to discover the college had become the victim of a ransomware attack that disabled its entire IT infrastructure. “A ransomware group had accessed some of our critical data and demanded money to unlock our servers and systems. It was a nightmare scenario,” said Dr. Chelsy Pham, vice president of information technology resources at Hartnell.

With networks, wi-fi, and phones down, Hartnell faced pressure to get systems back online quickly to minimize disruptions. For that, the institution turned to AWS Partner Ferrilli, its trusted IT partner.


“Under normal circumstances, migrating an institution’s entire infrastructure to the cloud could be a long and difficult process taking months or even years, but we couldn’t wait. Luckily, AWS and Ferrilli had all the tools, resources, and expertise we needed to rebuild our infrastructure very rapidly.”

Dr. Chelsy Pham
Vice President of Information Technology Resources, Hartnell College

Recovering and Rebuilding in the Cloud

Ferrilli is a leading technology services provider exclusively serving higher education institutions. With colleges and universities increasingly becoming the targets of cyber criminals, Ferrilli is dedicated to helping institutions recover, which is why the first phase of the recovery effort was supported by Ferrilli’s Pledge 1% commitment. Pledge 1% is a global movement that encourages and empowers companies to donate 1% of their staff time, product, profit, and/or equity to a cause of their choosing. As a Pledge 1% partner, Ferrilli donates 100 hours of security services to institutions that have fallen victim to a cyberattack.

Although not everything was retrievable, Hartnell had backups of a good portion of the College’s data, which provided a foundation for rebuilding what was lost. However, the institution’s IT infrastructure was a traditional on-premises setup, which the CIO had wanted to migrate to the cloud. Rather than rebuild the outdated infrastructure, they decided it was time to quickly transition to an Amazon Web Services (AWS) environment. “Under normal circumstances, migrating an institution’s entire infrastructure to the cloud could be a long and difficult process taking months or even years, but we couldn’t wait,” said Dr. Pham. “Luckily, AWS and Ferrilli had all the tools, resources, and expertise we needed to rebuild our infrastructure very rapidly.”

Within a matter of days, Ferrilli helped Hartnell get its student information system back online and access staff data so that they could make payroll. Then they were able to finish rebuilding the AWS infrastructure to best support the institution moving forward. “We’ve had a long relationship with Hartnell, so they knew they could trust us to help them recover quickly,” said Robert Ferrilli, CEO, Ferrilli.

Building an Infrastructure for the Future

Since they were building the cloud structure from scratch, the team was able to design the cloud-based architecture to be more scalable, flexible, and stable so that it would last many years into the future. Ferrilli built out everything to AWS’ best practices using AWS Control Tower landing zone.

Hartnell and Ferrilli also deployed Amazon AppStream 2.0 to enable remote access to powerful applications — like AutoCAD and Adobe’s design suite — from any location, device, or operating system. “By deploying AppStream 2.0, we were able to provide more flexibility for students and faculty, who previously could only access such programs through a computer lab on campus,” said Ferrilli.

With security a major priority, Ferrilli built a disaster recovery plan into the new AWS-based infrastructure and rolled out CrowdStrike Falcon, a cloud-based platform to prevent all types of cyberattacks. The team ran double scans on all devices to make sure they were safe for the rebuild. They also set up Duo Single Sign-On with multifactor authentication to enhance security and user privacy.

Looking Ahead

In less than two weeks after experiencing a devastating cyberattack, Hartnell had a modern, cloud-based infrastructure with all systems recovered. Since building the new AWS environment, Hartnell’s IT team has seen network stability vastly improve. The modern infrastructure designed by Ferrilli provides the security and flexibility needed to support the institution’s educational mission well into the future.

Hartnell is still in the beginning stages of its cloud journey. Moving forward, the institution plans to work with Ferrilli to implement additional AWS tools and resources to improve efficiency and security. AWS is constantly adding new capabilities, and Ferrilli and Hartnell are looking forward to continuing the modernization journey together.

Hartnell College

About the Hartnell College

Hartnell College is a public community college in Salinas, California that serves 14,000 students annually on five campuses. Founded in 1920, Hartnell is one of the oldest higher education institutions in the state and is designated as a Hispanic-Serving Institution.

AWS Services Used


  • Scalable, flexible infrastructure
  • Enhanced security
  • Improved network stability

About the AWS Partner Ferrilli

Exclusively serving the unique needs and challenges of higher education, Ferrilli’s certified AWS architects are available 24/7. They take the time to understand an institution’s individual needs and provide objective guidance in moving infrastructure to the cloud. Ferrilli’s full suite of AWS services include current state reviews, virtual infrastructure setup, VPN connections, UAT, and ongoing support.

Published June 2023