GIS Overhauling Infrastructure This Summer

By Purnell T. Cropper | June 20, 2012

Led by Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steven Alter, the Global Information Services (GIS) team has a summer project list long enough to overwhelm even the most experienced of project managers. However daunting, it’s business as usual for this department which, like others around campus, sees the summer season as a prime opportunity to overhaul infrastructure and continue to improve systems.

In addition to maintaining day-to-day operations and the upkeep of Arcadia’s network presence, this team began preparing for a whirlwind summer months ago. Starting over winter break, Alter and the GIS team orchestrated the start of what would become a campus-wide wireless face-lift. Every Oak Summit apartment was checked and given its own wireless access point, eliminating many of the “cold spots” found. This effort continues into academic buildings this summer and fall, not only detecting and reducing the wireless cold spots that occur within concrete structures, but also building improved connections with expansion in mind.

Most of what the GIS organization does is behind-the-scenes work that isn’t as obvious as a newly constructed building or new course selections for students to choose from. The nature of their work is, in most cases, to be as unobtrusive as possible. If the network and all other systems are working, they are attaining success.

However, this summer brings a change on campus that, for the time being, is noticeable. Trenches are being dug all over campus in order to lay new fiber optic cable infrastructure. The existing infrastructure has a 1GB speed but is being replaced with 10GB cable. In addition, redundant fiber paths are being laid to eliminate “single points of failure,” or spots in the network that could cause the whole network to fail, should a single failure occur. The addition of dual core networking technology by early-August employs this redundant network infrastructure, adding a further level of protection against network failures.

“The Information Technology infrastructure that we are currently engineering and implementing should meet the needs of the University, allowing the faculty to design courses without being constrained by current technology,” remarks Alter.

Many more long-lasting changes are to come this summer as the team continues to deliver an infrastructure worthy of a truly global institution. Having already accomplished disaster recovery improvements, network monitors, and data center relocations ensuring a higher reliability and framework, upgrades in classroom podiums and computer labs will append a more noticeable upgrade to the campus community.

This summer will see the development and implementation of new library programs, which are also a part of the GIS organization. The “mobile reference librarian” service that began in the spring is under review and seeking to have a Reference Librarian in The Commons once a week. In addition, the team is re-vamping the Instructional Technology support and will be unveiling a new Reference Desk in the Landman Library. Additionally, GIS liaises not only with faculty in Glenside but also all of The College of Global Studies Resident Directors, providing expertise globally.

Though Alter and his team oftentimes rely on the cooperation of many outside companies to ensure the University’s success, Arcadia’s global initiative adds a further responsibility to his team’s mission. Relative to Glenside’s Eastern Standard Time, Mexico’s time difference of -1 hour and Eastern Australia’s time difference of +14 hours means that an extra bit of planning and collaboration is required to avoid global slip-ups. Regarding his department’s responsibilities, Alter concludes, “With Arcadia University, you can have students landing in airports abroad, accessing our library resources on-line, major initiatives occurring on campus on any day of the week, classes being conducted Monday-Saturday and research occurring 24x7x365. We [GIS] are the service provider to ensure the University’s academic mission is accomplished.”