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Research: Even as Networking Demand Surges, Pre-Emptive Planning Falters
- By Dian Schaffhauser
American campuses are scrambling to keep up with continued explosive growth in the use of mobile devices but their toolsets and practices for managing that growth don't always sync with their needs. For example, three out of four schools allow an unlimited number of devices, up from 68 percent in 2012; yet a mere 26 percent of schools cap bandwidth usage, down 6 percent from last year; only 21 percent implement cache servers; and just 15 percent provide minimum guaranteed service levels by user. A third of institutions have no plan in place for their networking strategy.
Those are some of the results that come out of this year's State of the ResNet Report, issued jointly by the Association for Information Technology Professionals in Higher Education (ACUTA), the National Association of College and University Business Officers (NACUBO) and the Association of College and University Housing Officers - International (ACUHO-I). This is the third year the report has been issued, eliciting responses from people at 412 unique colleges and universities around the country. This is the first year that housing executives have been included in the surveying process.
Among other findings in the report:
- For the second year in a row, reported bandwidth consumption by iPad and Android and other tablets exceeds consumption by desktop and laptop computers — 73 percent vs. 69 percent, respectively, for 2014;
- While a majority of respondents said they expect costs to rise for sustaining wireless network growth, only 38 percent saw budgets increased and 10 percent actually saw their budgets drop;
- The funding models for campus telecommunications and network services are evolving. In 2013 49 percent of institutions reported that the network was paid for as a core university service. In 2014 central funding covered networks at only 31 percent of schools. What grew dramatically was the combined use of central funding and student fees; that count rose from 24 percent in 2013 to 36 percent in 2014;
- On the security front, 36 percent of schools said they have no information security or internal audit team in place; 84 percent have a team of between zero and four staff members. Yet slightly more than half of all respondents report that they could use more network diagnostics related to security breaches; and
- 44 percent of housing officers expressed concern about the ability of the institution to meet future residential network demand; only 9 percent of IT leaders expressed similar concern. In fact, one in five respondents said they never meet with their IT, housing or business counterparts at all.
"Schools are making strides in providing better coverage and bandwidth, but are grappling with a laundry list of needs — holistic planning, better communication between departments, tighter security, etc. — while processes like resource allocation and diagnostics haven't kept pace," said Dee Childs, chair of the ACUTA Environmental Scanning Committee and chief information officer at the University of Alabama. "Administrators are trying to build better and bigger networks with yesterday's tools. It's our hope this study will provide a knowledgebase of practices and priorities to help administrators anticipate, plan ahead and address the challenges as they scale infrastructure to meet demand."
The State of the ResNet Report is available free at acuta.org.
Dian Schaffhauser is a senior contributing editor for 1105 Media's education publications THE Journal and Campus Technology. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @schaffhauser.