Wi-Fi and phone upgrades total $500,000

IT staff at Johnson and Lyndon have had an extremely busy summer updating and installing new campus-wide technology. In total, $500,000 has been allotted to NVU from the state to renovate phone, Wi-Fi, computer and IT support services.


The renovations began with combining multiple campuses’ phone lines. Michael Dente, NVU chief technology officer, says, “We unified the phone system, so you can call direct now without calling an outside line. We’ve added Vermont Technical College and the Office of the Chancellor on there.”


According to Assistant Chief Technology Officer Dotty Spoerl, these innovations will save a lot of money over time: “There will be a great savings in the calls, and it allows us to dial the other campuses as an extension . . . It will be more efficient, as well as cost saving.”


The phone system updates between Johnson and Lyndon cost $12,000-$14,000, with expected savings in Johnson ranging from $2,000-$3,000 per month.


One of the new features that comes along with a connected phone line is the ability for both campuses to use each other as a fail-safe. “We can now route calls between campuses, so if someone doesn’t pick up at Lyndon, it will go to Johnson and then those people can pick up,” Dente said. This works both ways to ensure the reliability of support services on each campus.


The next big update of the summer was the creation of the “NVU” Wi-Fi network. This project began by connecting the Wi-Fi controllers from Johnson and Lyndon. “There are two controllers, one on each campus, and if one of them fails, all of the devices, all of the wireless access points, on Johnson work through Lyndon’s and vice versa,” says Dente.


According to Spoerl, the new wireless system allows for NVU students and faculty to travel between campuses without the hassle of connecting to multiple Wi-Fi networks.


This new network introduces more than connectivity — it also offers speed up to 10 times faster than last year. “90 percent of the fiber optics on Johnson’s campus have been redone. All new poles of fiber from all the different buildings to facilitate at least 10 gigabit connections,” says Dente. “On top of that, we redid all of the network switches, so all of the network devices, all of the computers that plug in, and all the wireless access points are now into brand new network devices which support 10 gigabit.”


With limited time this summer, some projects have been put off for later this academic year, or next summer. “We had to push back the server upgrades for Johnson,” Dente said. “We are putting in an entirely new Storage Area Network (SAN) with all new hosts to create a virtual fail-over cluster, so that servers can be moved very easily.”


The previously used SAN held around seven terabytes, while the new SAN can hold up to 97 terabytes.
Another project being pursued this semester is the unification of both colleges’ IT support, something Spoerl says will directly benefit both campuses. “We are going to work this year with Lyndon to make our systems more similar, so that employees can work in both locations, so if we are down an employee, then a Lyndon employee will be able to help us out and vice versa,” she said.


The largest difference between Johnson’s and Lyndon’s IT support is the location of the help desk. “The next important thing is unifying the two help desks,” Dente says. “Lyndon has the Info Desk located in the library; it’s co-located with the circulation and reference areas. Students just walk into the library and its right there. What we’d like to do is get Johnson to do a similar thing.” When this change is implemented, students will be trained to staff the help desk during regular library hours.