Three Ways to Manage Your Campus Network Efficiently

At the core of most businesses is the network. A business can’t function properly without its infrastructure. There is no exception for college campuses. Most mission-critical items needed for organizational and operational structures lie within a network. As universities grow, so does the need for their networks to keep pace with the expansion.

However, the costs and complexities associated to network management are also increasing. While most businesses believe the direct cost of a network ends at the initial point of purchase, according to Gartner, Inc., 80 percent of total IT costs occur after the initial acquisition of the hardware and software.

The total cost of a network includes a blend of direct costs like operations, hardware, software, and administration, but also indirect costs like the end-user downtime and operations.

Simplifying the Network Infrastructure
Realizing that, what can an institution do to reduce the cost of its network? Simplifying the network infrastructure and management process will reduce the total cost, expand productivity, and increase efficiency.

Ideally, an organization would utilize Ethernet or wire through its data center when developing a comprehensive network. While wired solutions can present more of an upfront cost, they tend to be better suited to accommodate applications that require high bandwidth and future growth—saving on costly upgrades down the line. A fiber-based solution is an affordable and high-caliber alternative to outdated frame relay, data T1, and private line offerings. Regardless of the type of network, prioritizing traffic and managing security are basic considerations.

Prioritizing Traffic
A critical approach to maximizing the bandwidth of a network is to prioritize particular types of traffic. Some data traffic requires a higher class of service than others, so selecting an appropriate path or prioritizing it is crucial. Examples of data that require high priority are VoIP or video calls. These are real-time applications that need a Quality of Service (QoS), and they should take precedence over email, web browsing, or other non-real time (NRT) applications. When managing a network, mark specific domains or sites as a high or low priority. What this means for employees and students is that they will always have the available bandwidth to complete mission-critical projects.

Another step towards prioritizing traffic is segmenting the network for security. Segmenting the wireless network into classes of data can allow different types of access and provide greater security. For example, there may be a need to create a BYOD network for employees, students, and guests to use their personal devices. This network would be segmented from the primary wireless network used by university-provided devices.

Managing Threats
It is critical to have plans in place to manage physical and virtual threats against the network. A network-based attack can render an entire network inoperable within a few minutes and expose a campus to significant damage by stealing or corrupting its data. Firewalls, encryption, and antivirus/malware software are ways to combat the common threats including viruses, trojans, worms, and other malware. Universities with multiple campuses would greatly benefit from configuring a unique, zone-based policy firewall design. Zones establish the security boundaries of a network, defining where traffic is subjected to the policy limits before it travels to another part of the network. Organizations should invest in taking additional on-premise steps to secure data by restricting access to businesses equipment to authorized personnel only.

When managing a higher education network, there are other factors to consider, such as budget required for appropriate technology, training, and jobs needed for continued maintenance. If an organization lacks the internal resources and expertise necessary to manage the ongoing performance of the network, then seeking a managed service provider is necessary. The pressure to quickly adapt to new technologies will only increase, along with the extensive effort and complexity to manage it.

Any institution with limited IT resources could benefit from a managed network. The provider’s team of experts can offer solutions to help remove complexities associated with managing mission-critical applications or platforms.

About the Author

Peter Jacoby is vice president of Network Services for RCN Business ( He can be contacted at [email protected] or 781/316-8815.

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