Campus ITC upgrades wireless network

With 8,100 users making 16,000 wireless connections daily on campus, the duty of monitoring and upgrading MSU’s wireless network is a continual process. The network moves 1.5 terabytes of data every day. “If you want to put that in context, 1.5 terabytes is about 750 HD movies worth of digital content moving through our network on a daily basis,” said Jerry Sheehan, chief information officer at the Information Technology Center (ITC). Sheehan explained the ITC is always working to meet the growing wireless needs of an expanding student body. In the last few months the ITC staff have upgraded and expanded the campus wireless service while adding additional services as well.

Sheehan, who became the ITC’s chief information officer last May, explained that the organization’s current efforts to implement and improve wireless services across campus are part of a process that began about two years ago. Since that time, the ITC has deployed the wireless network in 40 buildings across campus using 1,300 access points, including the Brick Breeden Fieldhouse which received wireless networking this past September. Additionally, campus wireless connectivity has been improved in the past six to nine months increasing access point connectivity from 10 to 30 gigabits while reducing cost. In the past few weeks the ITC identified and patched network wide connectivity problems that had been discovered by students and rolled out the eduroam service for MSU.

Eduroam is an international service which provides secure network access to students, faculty and staff as they visit campuses other than their own, providing great national and international opportunities for MSU. This means that MSU students, faculty and staff are able use their NetID to freely access eduroam when they visit over 5,500 supported campuses across the world. Likewise, guests from these same universities will be able to login to MSU’s eduroam service while visiting. For visitors this will provide a higher quality network experience than more conventional guest networks.

Over the next few years, the ITC plans to continue upgrading the campus wireless by adding wireless access to buildings that do not have it as well as continuing to improve connectivity in existing areas of service. Sheehan believes that the existing wireless network will provide a solid foundation to work upon as these changes are made, but to provide a reliable network, students and other users are encouraged to engage with the ITC and let them know what problems they may be facing.

While the ITC’s decisions to upgrade the network are directed by the funding they receive through the Office of the Provost, recommendations for infrastructural investments are created using the input of the students and staff at MSU. Based on the feedback it receives, the ITC is able to make strategic decisions on what changes need to be made and then present these recommendations to the MSU governing structure. The importance of user input in this process is why the ITC has made it one of its goals to find better forums through which to speak with users of the network.

“The reality is that we have some pretty sophisticated tools to allow us to monitor the network and we do that on a daily basis. But it’s really important that when a user experiences something that they think is persistent or a problem, they let us know,” Sheehan said. “The input that we get can be good, or it can be bad. The important thing is that we get the input.”

The Information Technology Center is located in the Renne Library on campus. They can be reached at 994-1777 or at helpdesk@montana.edu. For more information, Jerry Sheehan can be reached at jsheehan@montana.edu.