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Mobility: Why Access Matters…

For nearly everything that I do in college, I need access to the Internet: classes, studying, meetings, and, discussions. In class, I access lecture documents on Blackboard. In meetings, I review and send emails. Studying, I research topics online and download information from the library. Essentially, I’m connected to the network constantly, and to be successful, I have to have the ability to connect any time, from anywhere, on any one of my several devices.

As most CIO’s and IT professionals would agree, building a scalable and robust network is a thankless and daunting task. It’s even more difficult in colleges and universities, where enabling tens of thousands of students to quickly and safely access the network is a critical imperative.  And if the equipment is unreliable, access is compromised.  When this happens, the institution faces difficultly in implementing online teaching initiatives, costs can increase and ultimately, there may be a productivity decrease. Additionally, faculty and students can become disgruntled and unmotivated as a result of network complications.

Until recently, I had no idea as to the complexity behind the management of an IP network. In fact, I didn’t even know what an IP network was, and had no concept of the behind-the-scenes person hours required to ensure that the network is up and running 100% of the time. Most students have little awareness of these complexities.  Frankly, all we care about is being able to get onto the internet to do what we need to do, when we need to do it.  Working at Cisco, I’ve come to realize just how challenging implementing and operating a network can be, and now, I understand that Cisco technology can make these “behind-the-scenes” type works far more efficient.

Bowdoin College, located in Portland, Maine, is a perfect example of how Cisco technology can transform a complex Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and wireless access initiative into a simple procedure. When their 2,000 students and faculty members began to bring and use more devices on campus, IT administrators faced network challenges regarding scaling and security. This issue was exasperated over time as this BYOD tendency became more and more prevalent. The Bowdoin IT staff saw the need to deliver a more comprehensive, high-capacity, indoor and outdoor wireless network that would enable access from anywhere throughout campus. Now, using Cisco wireless access points, controllers, and management tools, the technology staff upgraded to a borderless network that allows the university to connect anyone (student, faculty, or guest) to any device or service, virtually anywhere on or nearby campus, at any time. Students and faculty members are encouraged to bring and use as many devices as they’d like on campus. One instructor mentioned that the system has allowed individuals, “to take the network for granted.” She then states, “That’s exactly what we wanted.”

“Now, students and faculty can collaborate with ease, working anywhere anytime on campus, without even thinking about wireless connectivity, because it’s there, transparently, wherever they need it.”

— Mitch Davis, Chief Information Officer, Bowdoin College

My generation, and those following us, have and will continue to have high expectations for network connectivity.  Solutions provided by Cisco have the ability to connect the unconnected. Solutions that will enable students to “…take the network for granted,” and be 100% connected – So that, no matter where we are, we can access the information we need, when we need it, anyplace on any device.

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