Archive for the ‘Networking’ Category

Why Schools Turn to American Digital for their Expertise in Higher-Ed IT

Posted on: March 23rd, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Many higher-education institutions, such as Purdue University, are challenged by slow backup and recovery times, overextended data center costs, and aging equipment as they cope with serving their faculty and students in the digital economy. Older equipment takes up more space, uses more electricity, costs more to keep cool, and doesn’t run at the peak performance required for today’s 24/7 world. In terms of backup and recovery, schools such as Purdue University are faced with data stores that have outgrown their ability to back up within normal windows. It’s not uncommon for core business applications to be taken offline for several hours to perform backups. Additionally, legacy hardware often doesn’t provide the flexibility for high-availability options. By today’s standards, this is high-risk and unacceptable in terms of servicing users (students and faculty).

There is good news in this story. If your school is due for a technology refresh, you may find that it makes financial sense to transform your data center through virtualization and cloud computing. Today’s core educational applications, such as learning management and student information systems, can run very efficiently in the private cloud. Deploying an on-premises private cloud solution offers a more cost-effective solution on high-density platforms that take up less footprint, cost less to operate, and are simpler to manage. The key benefits are 24/7 access, simplified operations, cloud-like performance, and strong security.

As you consider updating your data center, you want a partner who knows how educational data centers work. American Digital understands the world of higher education. We know the struggles colleges are experiencing as they strive to move their mission forward, attract quality students, and maintain predictable cash flows. We know large projects have many stakeholders, so we can help navigate these challenges to help achieve benefits faster. We also understand the cyclical demands on resources, such as during student registration, so our solutions provide the resource capacity and flexibility to handle peak periods of activity.

Purdue University turned to American Digital as a partner to help them transform their data center infrastructure with a converged computing solution that enabled them to more efficiently run their SAP operations on a standardized platform. They significantly lowered power and cooling costs by reducing their data center footprint as well as decreasing their backup and recovery times by 50 percent. By deploying a virtualized platform, Purdue University also benefitted from simpler IT operations — such that they could quickly provision new resources as needed. One key aspect to the project was the infrastructure solution was from a single vendor, including the servers, storage, and networking equipment. One point of accountability was key to the client. American Digital was able to provide that so there was no finger-pointing from a support perspective.

At American Digital, we are aware of ongoing technology trends and the desire to deliver services quickly in a 24/7 world. We understand the value of agility from an IT perspective and work with our clients to understand their business and technical objectives while providing high-touch service through the entire process. In today’s digital service world, it’s important for educational institutions to not only be agile, but also maintain cost-effectiveness, achieve operational simplicity, as well as feel confident that sensitive data is protected. In American Digital, you have a partner that has the environmental and technical expertise to help you modernize your IT infrastructure so you can focus on your school’s mission and service your students and faculty better.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Align Your Internal Resources To Administrative, Faculty & Student Applications

Posted on: March 21st, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Higher education is facing a conundrum. Institutions are under constant pressure to manage their cash flow based on enrollment. Compounding this problem is the fact that many colleges and universities are running on older, outdated IT infrastructure, which limits them in many ways.

Legacy technology is expensive to maintain, which puts schools in a financial corner in terms of IT budget. Older technology can be complex as operational requirements are often manual and cumbersome when performing updates to hardware firmware, drivers, etc. This type of work is often mundane and tedious — taking up time that could be better spent focusing on more strategic projects.

In addition, just like in business, higher education institutions have SLAs (service level agreements) that dictate application availability for critical applications, such as student services information systems and learning management systems. Students and faculty demand 24/7 availability. How does one manage this “continuity” requirement? High availability and resiliency fall under the category of infrastructure management as well. If you want some form of continuity, you need a proper data protection plan in place, as well as a means to continue operations in the event of a disaster that renders the production systems unavailable. This takes time, knowledge, and planning, not to mention a financial investment, if redundant infrastructure is required.

What if IT could focus on delivering new applications to administrative faculty and students, rather than focusing their time, energy, and budget on maintaining the existing infrastructure? Today’s critical educational applications offer more flexibility and productivity for students and faculty. Students demand their application experiences be available on mobile platforms. They want to consume IT as they would anything else. If the university wants to attract and retain the best students possible, they must be at the forefront of technology. That means delivering modern applications that are both cloud-based and mobile-enabled. The same goes for faculty. If they can easily use their learning management systems, they will, in turn, be more productive and focus more time and energy on teaching and research.

So how do you solve the puzzle of helping collegiate IT organizations to become more agile and focus their time and energy on delivering new applications that further the mission of the college? The answer is simple. Find a way to offload the day-to-day management of existing infrastructure to a managed services partner who has the operational expertise in critical student and administrative applications as well as the means to deliver current applications 24/7 through a cloud-based data protection approach. You may find that outsourcing these critical, but mundane tasks will be financially feasible while enabling the in-house IT staff to focus on what’s most important.

American Digital has the expertise of working with educational infrastructure as well as knowledge of core applications used by higher education. As a managed service provider, we can help you move your mission forward in the most cost-effective manner possible.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Case for Higher-Ed to Outsource Infrastructure Management

Posted on: March 19th, 2018 by Daniella Lundsberg

Colleges and universities have it tough these days, especially the smaller ones. Lower enrollments mean smaller endowments, and weaker revenue streams. Every dollar must be spent wisely. The current generation of incoming students were born digital and are tech savvy. Not only do students select their higher education options based on culture and fit, but available technology is important to them. They expect to use collaborative messaging and mobile applications as part of their college experience.

Many smaller schools are relying on older technology to run their student information and administrative systems. The legacy technology is expensive to maintain and complex to manage. IT operations spends lots of time and money just keeping up with the existing infrastructure. At a time where higher education institutions are struggling for funding, this puts enormous pressure on IT organizations to keep up with rolling out modern applications, such as mobile-enabled apps and location-based services.

In addition to the pressure to deliver next-generation applications and keeping the campus network robust enough to handle the extra capacity required by the students’, faculty’s, and staff members’ ubiquitous phone usage, IT organizations also have to deal with high availability and resilience compliance. Having a proper continuity plan can be expensive and challenging to support.

All these pressures and challenges may seem daunting, but there is a way to move your school forward both from an IT perspective as well as focusing on the mission of the school. The answer is managed services. Financially, managed services make sense, as you can change your IT consumption model from CapEx to OpEx. Budgeting can be predictable and less expensive than capital outlays. Managed services offer many compelling benefits for smaller colleges and universities.

First of all, enlisting the help of a managed services partner who is well versed in how educational data centers are run can be helpful. For instance, the partner can help augment staff. Trusting someone who is familiar with the critical applications and operational aspects enables your staff to focus on more strategic projects — such as delivering mobile platforms, or cloud applications. Alternatively, outsourcing the IT services as a whole — including the infrastructure can be a compelling financial argument. Leveraging cloud-based applications through a consumption-based cost model while reducing on-site data center server and storage requirements can save colleges money in the long run. Not to mention, you can achieve your high-availability/resiliency SLAs without the cost of redundant hardware and software on-site. The cost savings can be used to focus on furthering the college’s mission and enable leadership to focus on what’s important.

American Digital has deep expertise with student information and learning management systems used by higher education institutions. Our managed services team also understands the challenges smaller schools wrestle with daily as they try to attract and retain the students they want, while working with outdated technology. Outsourcing your day-to-day IT operations just might be what you need to jump start your institution’s technology evolution.

Interested in learning more? Give us a call: 847-637-4300

Warning: Hot Wi-Fi

Posted on: March 17th, 2017 by Daniella Lundsberg

“Just max out the power. Or, just add another AP.” If you’re the lucky engineer tasked with supporting your company’s Wi-Fi, there’s a good chance you’ve heard this more than once from different people – from your director who was an engineer three jobs and15 years ago to the finance guy who thinks he’s a guru because he worked at Geek Squad while he went to college.

And while this can still be valid advice in some older, low-speed environments like sparsely deployed warehouse WLANs using only 802.11b handheld barcode scanners, it’s a big problem in today’s denser, more Wi-Fi-dependent world.

Below I’ve used analogies to explain three real-life examples of what your users experience when the wireless runs too hot – and what you can do to avoid them.

The picture below covers all three: 1) Near-far, 2) co-channel, and 3) oversubscription.


A near-far scenario occurs when a client can hear the AP better than the AP can hear the client. This is because client devices typically transmit at around 30mW or lower while APs can transmit at as loud as 100mW (or more depending where you are in the world). When network admins set the APs to max power, it’s like handing a megaphone to a speaker so they can have a conversation with more people (laptops) in an extremely large space (coverage area). The people can hear the speaker perfectly, but the speaker can barely hear them. So they have to yell and repeat themselves many times before they can finish their thoughts (data retransmission due to missed acks). Additionally, while some people speak only a few words at a time, others have a lot to say (send large email attachments). Because they have to repeat themselves so often, it takes longer for them to shut up, which further delays everyone else’s turn to speak. The end result is congestion to the point that nothing is sent or received.


Further affecting the conversation between the speaker and the people is co-channel interference. This is when multiple transmitters are heard on the same channel. Think of the picture above and imagine two people in the crowd trying to talk to each other while the whole megaphone thing is going on. They have to raise their voice, and you’ll still hear “what – what – what?” because of the rest of the people and the guy with the megaphone talking around them. They have to repeat themselves because, as they’re speaking a sentence, the megaphone goes off or someone in the crowd yells back at the speaker interrupting the two people mid-statement. This problem becomes worse as more people try to have their own conversation. And no, you cannot just crank them up and “move to 5Ghz only” because there are limits there as well, especially if you’re using channel bonding. But I’ll get into that in another post.


Oversubscription is when an AP has more clients associated than it can handle to maintain good network communication. The limits are not only the AP hardware but RF environment as well – things like channel utilization and noise floor play into this. Again, referring to the image of the speaker and the crowd, imagine if there were 20 speakers with megaphones on that floor. The crowd will tend to migrate to the one that interests them the most. (In a laptop, the NIC makes the decision about which AP it will associate to.) If all of the people on that floor can hear all the megaphones, there’s a chance that there will be uneven distribution and one AP will be overloaded with users.

Now combine all three scenarios above and imagine this happening throughout the entire work day. That’s what happens when you decide to crank APs to max power without understanding the environment.

Now what can you do to avoid this?

  1. Understand the density of APs, the speed requirements, and attenuating factors before modifying AP power levels. (The goal is to have some overlap between each AP coverage area, but not too much. So clients associate and roam to ideal APs on their own.)
  2. Strive in an office environment for AP Min/Max Tx power levels that are close to the Tx levels of the clients they’re serving.
  3. Disable some of the lower data rates if clients in your company do not require them.
  4. Last but not least, contact us at American Digital to see how we can increase your workforce efficiency by assessing, optimizing, and/or upgrading your WLAN.

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