Cheap Is Not Affordable – JCYCIO

“Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffett I’m often asked how companies can save money in their IT budget. Often that question is a lagging indicator of poor …

Source: Cheap Is Not Affordable – JCYCIO

8 CIOs share campus IT horror stories | Education Dive

From security breaches to sewage floods, tech is still susceptible to human error, malice, dated technology and unforeseen circumstances.

Source: 8 CIOs share campus IT horror stories | Education Dive

Campus WiFi: a “Tragedy of the Commons”

This Fall at Drury University, we’ve made a substantial number of investments in our Springfield campus networking infrastructure, as well as introducing long-awaited improvements to our day school user experiences:

  • We’ve upgraded our internet connection, from 400Mbits to 1Gbit;
  • We’ve replaced our campus core appliances, tripling our backbone throughput;
  • We’ve upgraded the first of our main campus residence halls to multigigabit ethernet (with plans to augment three additional academic buildings before the end of the current term);
  • Finally – just this week – we’ve rolled out wireless printing to our students.

An auspicious start.

We have much, yet, to do.

For example, an early set of discoveries I made, when I came aboard as CIO, was that:

  1. We used WPA2 Enterprise Authentication for our WiFi (good), but did not have a mechanism for allowing consumer student network devices (Rokus, Smart TVs, game boxes, etc.) to securely connect to our network, without a separate, student purchased wireless router attached to our network (super bad); and,
  2. We allowed students to attach their own wireless routers to our wired infrastructure (super duper bad).

Clearly, we didn’t want to relax our WPA2 Enterprise Authentication, already in place, just to accommodate consumer wireless devices.

Our compromise solution: MAC Authentication. MAC Authentication is used to authenticate devices, based on their physical MAC addresses.

It’s not the way you’d want to generally secure your entire network, but it does provide an easy enough authentication methodology for consumer devices to use, with a modicum amount of oversight for our Technology Services team to manage who – and what – connects to our network.

Allowing these types of devices to connect to our network (somewhat) securely, fixes only part of the problem; we still have a large number of “outboard” wireless routers attached to our network; some more open than others.

All insecure as all get out.

In order to secure our network and reduce the interference that these devices are causing in our dorm spaces, we need to shut all of these devices off. Permanently.

But – to abruptly disable all external routers, without a sufficient grace period to move student devices to the new (approved) way of connecting to our network, will only make students angry, and extremely disgruntled.

The situation is made even more complicated, because we had created de facto a campus wifi equivalent of the Tragedy of the Commons. The Tragedy of the Commons is an economic theory of a situation within a shared-resource system, where individual users acting independently according to their own self-interest behave contrary to the common good of all users, by depleting that resource through their collective action.

How so?

Well, we have a communal resource (our campus wired network) that is freely available to all students. Our WiFi network was heretofore not up to snuff, in being able to handle the number and variety of wireless devices our students were bringing to campus. They could attach their own routers and attach them to our wired network – solving their problem of poor access to our wireless network, and allowing their wireless devices to connect reliably – but interfering with the common campus WiFi network, or perhaps even their neighbor’s router next door, operating on the same channel.

Install your own external router, and your problem is solved.

Your neighbor trying to use the free campus WiFi, however, is screwed.

As I said, our very own Tragedy of the Commons.

The challenge, then, is to inform and influence our students that it is ultimately in everyone’s best interest if they don’t act in their own individual best interest; a problem that is as much cultural and political, as it is technical.

And another reason why I love working as a CIO in higher ed – where one can apply politics, economic theory, and technical chops, to improve student learning and outcomes.

As I said: an auspicious start.

We have much – very much – yet to do.

 

Shipping IS a Feature

This week, we rolled out a new service to our students: Wireless Printing.

On it’s face, this seems like something that should be trivially easy to support… until you realize, that there isn’t a unified way to support wireless printing across all the leading mobile platforms (iOS devices, Android devices, Mac and PC Laptops); rather, what exists is a litany of incompatible, vendor-specific solutions: AirPrint, CloudPrint, ePrint

It’s almost enough to make one throw up your hands, and simply walk away (which explains why the feature hasn’t been successfully tackled, until now, at our school).

Add to that, the charge of monitoring and managing user-specific print quotas?

Now we know why we can’t have the nice things.

Fortunately, I work with a great Technology Services team, who accepted – and met – my challenge to get Wireless Printing working for our students before Fall Break.

We settled upon two products, that were both able to support Wireless Printing across most – if not all – platforms, and give us user-specific security and quotas, to manage and monitor our printing: Presto, and PaperCut NG. Presto allows us to wirelessly print to our campus printers from iOS and Android devices, while Papercut provides integrated print management capabilities, as well as web printing for laptops.

Is it the perfect solution? Far from it.

But it is a perfectly good solution.

After our rollout, I was reminded of one of the guiding principles I have always followed, both as an entrepreneur and as a developer:

Shipping is a feature.

Another way to say that:

Don’t let the Perfect, become the enemy of the Good.

Or, the Good Enough.

Our team could have waited until we had crossed every single t, and dotted every possible i.

Instead, we shipped a working solution, that did 99% of everything we needed it to do.

Our students’ learning and living experiences are now better for it.

And at the end of the day, that is precisely why we’re here.

 

 

 

Two Factor Authentication

Don’t put your data in the cloud without it.

Logorrhea

Using cloud based services (Dropbox, Evernote, GMail)? Then you should know about two factor authentication.

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Obsolescence, Irrelevance, & Failing to Dream “Big Enough”

We can recognize obsolescence clearly, when it’s staring us in the face, in the immediate now – but we’re blind to its lurking presence, merely a few steps into the future.

Logorrhea

Yesterday saw the announcement of a coming new iPhone (the iPhone 7), with much of the attention across social media given over to the lack of a headphone jack, coupled with expensive new wireless earbuds (“Air Buds”, @ $160 a pair), that will soon be lost in a washing machine near you.

“Courageous?” Or simply idiotic? I can see it both ways.

I mean, I can’t keep up with my wired earbuds, much less multiplying them by two, and then disconnecting them.

One thing it definitely is, though, is audacious. Moxie, chutzpah, and cojones are also words that come to my mind.

Now, traditionally, Apple has been a company that “dreams big.” But – are wireless earbuds “dreaming big” – or just derivative? Will these new accessories soon find their way into the obsolescent dust bin of digital history (along with the 8 track tape, VHS, and – soon – optical media)?

Hey –…

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ALL CAPS EMAILS MUST DIE, DIE, DIE!

DIE. DIE. DIE.

AH. THE DREADED “ALL CAPS” EMAIL.

YOU KNOW. THE EMERGENCY ONE. THE ONE YOU MUST NOT IGNORE.

THE ONE THAT IS TAGGED URGENT, AS WELL AS SCREAMING AT YOU.

IN CASE, YOU KNOW, BEING SHOUTED AT HADN’T GOTTEN YOUR UNDIVIDED ATTENTION.

AN ALL CAPS EMAIL COULD GET WORSE. FOR EXAMPLE, IF IT WERE WRITTEN IN COMIC SANS. OR CRAYON.

BUT THAT IS ABOUT THE ONLY WAY SUCH A MISSIVE WOULD APPEAR ANY LESS PROFESSIONAL THAN IT ALREADY IS.

BECAUSE WHAT AN ALL CAPS EMAIL REALLY SAYS IS THIS:

I AM IN A SITUATION, OVER WHICH I HAVE ABSOLUTELY NO CONTROL, AND CANNOT ARTICULATE MY FRUSTRATION IN ANY OTHER WAY THAN TO USE VERY BIG LETTERS TO LET YOU KNOW I MEAN BUSINESS THIS TIME. REALLY. I’M NOT KIDDING, GUYS.

AN ALL CAPS EMAIL ISN’T IMPORTANT.

IT’S IMPOTENT.

FRUSTRATED? YEAH. WE’VE ALL BEEN THERE. TICKED OFF? YOU BET.

ARE YOU IN THE RIGHT? MAYBE. PROBABLY. SURE.

BUT THIS AIN’T HELPIN’.

LOOK TO THE LEFT OF THE KEYBOARD.

CLICK THAT KEY WITH THE LITTLE LIGHT ON IT.

TAKE A BREATH. TAKE A BREAK. TAKE A WALK.

THINK: HOW WOULD A PROFESSIONAL HANDLE THIS?

NOT LIKE THIS.

DIE. DIE. DIE.