By KATIE MEYER
During this semester, IT has been quietly implementing a range of changes to various systems at Fordham, from web design to Wi-Fi access. Some of these, like the new Fordham login page and changed Wi-Fi verification procedures, have been very apparent to students. Others, however, may have gone unnoticed.
One of the biggest projects being undertaken has potentially the biggest payoff: revamping the Wi-Fi access around campus.
According to Mark McNeil, network engineering and operations director, IT found that there has been an increase of approximately 1,000 devices on both campuses this year, which created a jump in web traffic that put a burden on individual access points, particularly in dorms. To clean this up and provide additional bandwidth for all the devices, it decided to get rid of all equipment that was more than six to seven years old.
The updates began in dorms in October and will finish before the end of the semester.
Currently, all dorms have been updated except Finlay Hall, which is proving to be problematic because of its primarily brick and cement structure. John Murray, FCRH ’16, resident technical consultant for Finlay Hall, said that the Wi-Fi is still being improved despite the less than ideal circumstances.
“I’ve been very proud to be part of IT during this period of upgrades,” Murray said. “Even though the Finlay building has posed unique structural challenges to the upgrade process, I’m happy to report that progress has been made, starting with the third floor. The difference is immense, in terms of speed and connectivity, and I hope the students begin to recognize this.”
McNeil said that the improvements should make it easier for students to connect to the Internet without being dropped. This was primarily an issue for smartphones, which often were not staying connected because of weak Wi-Fi signals within rooms.
William Tsadilas, FCRH ’16, lives in O’Hare Hall and says that he has been generally happy with the Wi-Fi connection there.
“I honestly can’t say I have experienced much of a change in Internet quality over the past few months in O’Hare,” Tsadilas said. “I feel like Internet speed has become one of those things that I automatically expect to be fast and free, and I rarely pick up on much change in it anymore…I will say that the difference between this year in O’Hare and last year in Alumni Court South is huge. The Internet in South was painfully slow.”
Lindsay Philpott, another FCRH ’16 O’Hare resident, agreed.
“While I haven’t seen a huge change or improvement in the Wi-Fi at O’Hare, I have noticed it has become increasingly more reliable,” she said. “Although there are some days where it seems slower than others, there hasn’t been any huge problems for me. During the beginning of this school year, I was annoyed by longer periods of slower connection speeds, but luckily this semester everything seems to be running more smoothly.”
After all dorm updates are finished, IT will move on to updating classroom technology and improving outdoor internet connectivity.
Wi-Fi is not the only thing, however. Significant attention is also being given to online security, a concern that was only increased with the security breach in January that compromised over 1,000 my.fordham accounts. Elizabeth Cornell, IT communications specialist, said that one of the new security measures is that all Fordham employees, including student workers, are now required to change their login passwords every 180 days.
“That’s now just part of the process of being an employee at Fordham. The reason we have just employees changing it is because they do have access to some sensitive information, not just about themselves, but other people,” Cornell said. “If someone steals your password, they don’t necessarily use it the minute they get it. They hang onto it, and then they start using it, and so if you just change your password every so often, then the password they have is no longer valid.”
She added, however, that even if this new rule had been in place at the time of the breach, it probably would not have stopped it.
Cornell said that IT’s interactions with students will soon be changing as well. The department has a new Twitter handle, @fordhamit, which Cornell says will likely become the main medium for communicating with students.
“We will use this Twitter handle to announce service interruptions, and we will also post news,” she said, adding that, eventually, the Twitter is intended to take the place of emails.
“Students don’t want to get tons of emails,” she said. “The emails will most likely be stopped after the semester ends, so moving forward into the fall, students will have to check Twitter.”
IT also plans to revamp its website in the near future.
At the moment, Cornell said, “Each tab is cluttered with channels, and we are going to streamline it.” HR will have its own tab where updates and information will be posted, and there also is a possibility that the student tab will be redone as well. This is not yet decided, however. Cornell said that, if approved, the change will be announced next week. These changes are in addition to the re-launching of Fordham’s main website, coming this fall.
“Every department, every group will have new web pages… It will be very much an up to date website,” Cornell said. “Right now there are a lot of out of date pages.”
In order to make sure all club and group pages are up to date, student leaders will be responsible for revising the content of their my.fordham pages.
Cornell said that despite the large number of changes being made, there have been no major problems.
She cites cohesion in the IT department as a major reason for this smooth progress.
“IT has several departments, and we all have to work together,” she said. “Every project needs to have the different groups working together; each group has a role that they have to play in order to make the project go through.”