Amid tight budget cuts, University Information Services has adopted a series of changes to simultaneously modernize and cut costs for Georgetown’s wireless network.
“With the constrained budgets that all of us are operating under, we had to find and drive efficiencies in how we were doing the business of IT,” Chief Information Office Lisa Davis said. “Through those efficiencies we were able to find those savings to reinvest those savings into modernizing campus.”
The modernization efforts include streamlining Georgetown’s mobile device application, transitioning from the aging mainframe to a cloud system, switching from GUmailstore to Gmail and changing staffing.
In total, the modernization efforts saved UIS $2.25 million, or approximately 10 percent of their nearly $30 million dollar budget.
“Most of it went to Wi-Fi. We actually provided increased research licenses for our medical community,” Davis said.
Davis said that some of the saved money funded Drupal, an open-source software, and UIS mobile app developments, such as NextGUTS.
Davis noted that many of these modernization efforts revolve around centralizing services on campus.
“Finding ways to centralize services helps us lower costs,” Davis said. “Wi-Fi is the biggest example of that.”
Georgetown, which has struggled with campus-wide Wi-Fi in the past, is scheduled to have ubiquitous Wi-Fi by December.
Davis said that the budget for fiscal year 2014 is even tighter, and will call for even more cuts. To that end, UIS will introduce two new money-saving programs.
“We just launched our unified help desk, increasing coverage to 24/7. Instead of having to call separate help desks there will be one number to call for assistance,” Davis said.
UIS also hopes to unveil a revamped printing network within 18 months that will give students access to mobile printing.
“Everyone wanted printing like [the McDonough School of Business],” Davis said. “We’re just finalizing a contract deal with Xerox. With mobile print, you have all the locations of [on-campus] printers on your device and you’ll be able to choose where to print things. We’re one of the first universities to offer this modern and mobile printing.”
Even though UIS is cutting costs, Davis stressed that none of the changes will decrease service quality.
“I see easier access, faster response,” Davis said. “It’s not just about saving money, it’s about increasing performance or we just won’t do it.”
Long term, Davis said it will be crucial to address Georgetown’s aging, 25-year-old network.
“One of our top issues continues to be addressing Georgetown’s network infrastructure,” Davis said. “We have tweaked and leveraged that network to its full capacity to the point where we have multiple points of failure on the network.”
In the case of an outage, this could prove problematic for campus.
“We have no redundancy on our network. This is a problem. If we have an outage, it would be serious — you wouldn’t have access to data, applications or Wi-Fi,” Davis said. “I’ve spent the last year-and-a-half trying to address and modernize the network infrastructure.”
UIS has charted that the modernization project would cost approximately $2.5 million, which the team has broken down over five years. The department is looking to see if any of its corporate partners would be interested in owning the university’s network.
“We know what needs to be done. Now we’re trying to identify a funding strategy,” Davis said. “We’re looking at alternatives of how we may fund a project like this. We’re integrating our strategy with master planning.”