A consultant told South Carolina State University that a lot of work needs to be done to repair phone systems and improve Internet infrastructure.
“The phones have not been fully operational since July 4, and this affects over 600 people and their ability to accurately retrieve calls, retrieve voicemails, etc.,” said Kevin Summers, owner of Summers Estates LLC based in Branchville.
“The root cause is that … companies stop supporting the software because they don’t own the parts, or they have moved to another version,” Summers said.
Summers discussed the issue with SC state trustees during their September 15 board meeting.
He is the advisor brought in to fix problems while the university is considering investing, for example, in a new landline phone system or installing a completely new wireless system after water damaged existing lines.
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“The PBX (Avaya equipment) has to be replaced, but the problem is also that as you put on the network capacity, it has to have sound quality. So even if you replace the PBX, the network can still give us some issues.”
Summers continued, “We are awaiting the state award for a cloud solutions provider, which is expected in a matter of weeks. Once that award is given, it will likely take a month for the pilot and two to three months for full deployment.”
Summers said his work will involve “looking at everything related to technology from the ground up.”
“What comes out of that is an analysis of the gap between the current capabilities to position IT and where you want to be in the future and then the roadmap. Unfortunately, technology often takes many years, especially when you start talking about infrastructure.”
Summers said he will gauge what the university’s technological capabilities are against other universities.
“Then we’ll put in place an implementation plan, but in parallel we’re also looking at phones, wireless cameras, security cameras – too – some critical on-the-fly projects,” he said.
He said the university had not made the necessary updates to its technology infrastructure, causing frustration for students, parents, faculty and administration.
“Although the university received funding from the CARES Act last year, there are three or four years prior to what I call technical debt. Although the enrollment was probably lower, when you look at the technology infrastructure, the network has not been updated. “All phones and computers should be updated within this time frame, but obviously with limited funding, you have created a tech stock for debt,” Summers said.
“Student expectations are just through the roof. … They have the games, they have their cell phones, they have their laptop, they have other devices too. … What I see is that there are many departments in control of their own destiny, and they have hired technology consultants information to meet some of their immediate needs.
It will take some time to make the required changes, Summers said.
“Even with the funding, you have to be able to implement, and you need resources both internally and externally to implement it. It is difficult when you have a small team of about 10 people who have been carrying out parallel-day-day operations with new projects.”
Summers continued, “Even with CARES funding, it’s time to get to implementation without these wireless resources, which I’d say cover about 60 percent.
“I hear from students, faculty, and management that wireless works in certain areas, and in certain areas it doesn’t. … We may have all the access points, but we have to deploy them, and the same with the network in terms of capacity, and then security as well,” Summers said.
“There are more than 100 projects that need to be planned, financed and resourced, and then there are just, as I said, the resource gaps that need to be filled to be able to successfully implement the order,” the consultant said.
Summers said the university’s technological infrastructure is not scalable.
“We’re working on what that cost means. I took the analogy that we’re bringing in all this great new technology. It’s like new cars that you put on the road, a Tesla with all this great technology, but maybe you’re running on a two-lane highway, where you need To a four-lane highway.And that’s what I see in infrastructure, where you have to do some scalability to support those new cars.
Information security also remains an issue, Summers said, with only about 20 percent meeting security standards.
“Obviously you all know what that — having a ransomware security incident — can do to your brand, and of course to operations,” he said.
The university was a victim of a ransomware attack last year.
Summers said the goal is to create a seamless flow of information for students, university management, faculty, and staff.
“There will be some additional funding requirements given the technical debt for many years,” he said.
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