Fully Modernized Wi-Fi Network Attracts and Retains Students

The State University of New York at Potsdam, also known as SUNY Potsdam, is a public college located in the village of Potsdam in St. Lawrence County, New York. Founded in 1816, it is among the 50 oldest colleges in the United States. Its sprawling 900,000 square foot campus is composed of 26 buildings and includes the College of Arts & Sciences, the School of Education and Professional Studies, and the Crane School of Music.

Committed to the liberal arts and sciences as a foundation for all students, SUNY Potsdam seeks to prepare their 4,000+ students to act as engaged global citizens and to lead lives enriched by critical thought, creativity and discovery.

Gaining a Competitive Edge with Ubiquitous Wi-Fi

Faced with a 13-year old infrastructure, SUNY Potsdam was dealing with a network core that no longer provided redundancy and equipment that was off support and maintenance. This left the IT staff fighting fires around the clock. With high operational costs and no security, the campus had started experiencing failures and rolling outages in major systems, such as their VoIP telephony systems.

SUNY Potsdam was looking to modernize their aging infrastructure to support the business and academic needs of the campus. These needs included ubiquitous wireless, future-proofing their environment for the Internet of Things (IoT) and BYOD, and offering expanded smart classrooms. They also had the opportunity to standardize on a common technology and align resources to gain efficiencies with their sister campus, SUNY Canton.

Ubiquitous Wi-Fi capable of supporting large classrooms, outdoor areas, and athletic facilities all with heavy usage is not just a major selling point for prospective students, but a requirement. SUNY Potsdam knew they had to modernize their network to retain current students and attract new ones.

Modernizing the Network Beyond All Expectations

SUNY Potsdam’s sister campus, SUNY Canton had been a long-term Extreme customer. Based on SUNY Canton’s great experience and their desire to standardize both campuses on a common technology, SUNY Potsdam selected Extreme for their network upgrade. According to SUNY Potsdam CIO Kyle Brown, “Support was the key differentiating factor. It’s very difficult to find any support that even comes close to what GTAC (Extreme Networks’ Global Technical Assistance Center) provides. The sales and support team have gone above and beyond to assist us – I’ve never experienced this with another vendor.”

In just a short time, SUNY Potsdam has moved from fire fighting, heavy operational costs, and no security to a new centralized network managed by one staff member. The network upgrade has allowed the university to expand their BYOD program and increase campus security with the addition of 300 new video camera drops to their infrastructure. SUNY Potsdam is now well-poised for the large growth period they are experiencing as the number and variety of apps and devices on the network continues to increase. The campus is future- proofed for the next 7+ years and is able to accommodate the faculty’s growing use of IoT devices in their courses and curriculum.

With their modernized network in place, SUNY Potsdam is finally able to move forward with initiatives they were previously unable to support. This includes fully online programs, more collaboration with the SUNY learning network and better student support for mobility between campuses.

A Connected Student is a Happy Student

The entire campus community is extremely pleased with the new stable infrastructure services, increased bandwidth, and extended wireless. No longer limited by sparse Wi-Fi coverage on campus, the faculty is free to take advantage of new learning styles such as collaborative spaces and flipped classrooms. Between the positive impact on education and the cost and time savings, SUNY Potsdam expects to realize a significant ROI from the upgrade.

Brown, who serves as the shared CIO between the Potsdam and Canton campuses, says the very granular level of insight from a single network management pane of glass has been an eye-opener for him and his staff. He anticipates using the business and learning analytics tools to help make the business case for taking or avoiding certain actions and to rm up business and budgeting practices across the campuses.

With both campuses utilizing the same technology, the long-term vision of a shared IT organization supporting both campuses will be achievable. This provides the university with significant cost savings and time efficiencies as a result of shared services, support, procurement, and staff – not to mention collaborating on licensing for some Extreme products to avoid duplicating costs.

On top of all this, the university is now able to compete in a world where campus connectivity can be a deal maker or breaker in college selection. In closing Brown said, “Having a fully modernized Wi-Fi network has given us an enormous opportunity to leverage the reputation of Extreme in our marketing efforts as we promote the services we offer to attract prospective students.”

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