The network is evolving into the backbone and, in many instances, the central nervous system of campus life. No longer just a clunky, wire-based delivery system for various passive computer applications, the network has evolved into an active, often proactive, campuswide information and communication system that touches and interacts with almost every person and department on campus--and beyond.
And as demand for faster and more robust networks continues to grow, coupled with bandwidth-hungry, internet-based applications, IT departments are constantly playing catch-up to deliver the 24/7 services from an ever-demanding clientele. Moreover, there are the constant back-end technologies to manage: security, wireless, spam, viruses, storage, remote access, software upgrades and patches, service, support, maintenance, and hardware upgrading. Then toss in digital content and copyright management issues, preventing illegal music downloading, dealing with hackers, and the occasional network crash, and you get a sense of what it takes to keep today's networks humming and delivering cutting-edge services and applications.
One of the major projects that IHE network administrators face is migrating to wireless networks. In 2003-2004, for the second straight year, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of colleges and universities that have access to wireless networks, according to The College Technology Review. The report notes that some 70 percent of IHEs are using wireless, up from 45 percent two years ago.
The Campus Computing Project (CCP), in its 2003 survey of IHE information technology, found "dramatic gains over the past year regarding campus planning for and the deployment of wireless networks." The report cites, for example, the portion of campuses reporting strategic plans for wireless networks rose to 45.5 percent in fall of 2003, up from 34.7 percent in 2002, and 24.3 percent in 2001.
"Wireless is clearly exploding across college campuses, much as it has in the corporate and consumer sectors," says Kenneth C. Green, founding director of the CCP, and a visiting scholar at Claremont Graduate University (Calif.). "Rising expectations about wireless services are fostered in part by the recent, dramatic growth of inexpensive wi-fi (wireless fidelity) in the consumer sector. Students and faculty come to campus wondering why there is no wireless service in dorms, offices, classrooms, and the campus quad if they already have wi-fi at home," he explains.
And according to the fifth annual Educause survey of IT trends, some of the top 10 issues that IT managers named as priorities include infrastructure management and security and identity management.
Regarding network internet initiatives, the Technology Review report found that virtually all IHEs provide student access to the internet through computer labs, Libraries, and other campuswide Locations. Additionally, more than two-thirds have internet capability in classrooms, and the numbers are growing consistently for access in dorms and student centers, according to the report.
"Campuses are continuing to evolve their networks for two main purposes: to add or upgrade technologies that help educational excellence (responding to their core mission), and to improve technologies that help administrative efficiencies (related to cost and revenues)," says Charles Fadel, Global Education Marketing Lead at Cisco Systems.
Fadel adds that he sees a renewed interest in IP-based video for distance learning applications and for video streaming of supple mental materials into a lecture hall.
Although there are concerns among CIOs and IT administrators about the security of wireless networks, many IHEs are adding wireless components to solve long-standing problems.
At Cornell University's (N.Y.) School of Hotel Administration, wireless technology was used to salve a lack of computer time for students. …