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SCSU planning internet upgrades; SGA president: Problems ‘a real hassle for us’

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South Carolina State University (copy)

South Carolina State University is upgrading internet services across the campus to improve speeds and connectivity, according to the chief information officer.

“Over Christmas break, we're going to start addressing some of those issues, like cleaning up VLANs (virtual local area networks). We're going to start looking at network closets and preparing for the investment that Interim President (Alexander) Conyers made to the IT department,” S.C. State CIO Travis Johnson said during a board meeting last week.

S.C. State Student Government Association President Javonni Ayers said the improvements are needed.

“I know you all keep talking about you want to invest in fixing the infrastructure, but is there a timeframe? The internet is a huge issue. That is something the students have been talking about all semester. The internet went out late last night while we were doing work again, and it's becoming a real hassle for us. Like I said, the internet just went out during this board meeting,” Ayers said.

She continued, “We've been having these issues with the internet for some time now. I have been blowing you all's phone up and sending you pictures, screen shots of everything, but it's becoming a real issue for the students.”

Johnson said, “I definitely agree with that.”

He said the internet problems are going to be further probed on Dec. 7.

“We are meeting with a vendor Tuesday that's going to help us start from the bottom to the top of the network. ... We have VLANs, they're just out of date, and there are some VLANs that are truncating across the network. That means they're going from building to building,” Johnson said.

He continued, “Our plan is, first, to go to all the VLANs and all the switches in the student dorms, or housing. We're going to fix those VLANs first coming from the core. Tuesday you'll see a vendor on campus – and I don't want to give that vendor out – and we're going to start with the dorms.”

Johnson said the university has gotten the keys to the networks of all buildings across campus that it had not had keys for.

“That's going to start the process. We've already started ordering new network switches that's going to be 10 gig-enabled. So when we do up the bandwidth throughout the campus, you guys will feel the speed. Right now our bandwidth is not where I would like it to be, but the plan is to go somewhere between 6 to 10 (gigabits per second),” Johnson said.

Johnson continued, “I'm actually waiting on quotes from our ISP provider, which is SEGRA Communications out of Columbia. ... I have a meeting with them on Tuesday. We're going to walk all the buildings and walk all the network closets.

“I will promise this. Coming from the December break, you guys should feel some difference, but until I can rip and replace the network closets and get those 10 gig-enabled switches in, you're going to really feel the difference.”

Trustee Macie P. Smith asked Conyers if there are any backup systems for students “since we are in the whole virtual phase of learning.”

Conyers said, “I don't think there's a backup other than trying to, at this point, really repair it as quickly as possible. That's one of the things that we're looking at, alternate backup plans.”

Johnson said redundant data paths are being planned to address that issue, too.

“We're looking at a redundant path coming to the campus. Right now our traffic is coming directly from the Greenville, Columbia (areas). We want to put that secondary pipe in coming from Charleston so if something happens, it will be a backup and you won't feel the difference,” he said.

Johnson said the university is also going to be doing some data center renovations beginning on Dec. 13.

“We have a power source in Turner Hall, and we also have a power source here in Crawford Zimmerman (building). So that fiber has already been laid. So we just have to wait for a connectivity point to finish terminating the ends. Once that's done, we'll have a dual redundant path redundancy within the campus and on the campus also,” he said.

Johnson said he would share information from Tuesday's meeting with SEGRA Communications officials with not just faculty and staff, but in a meeting with students.

Board Chairman Rodney Jenkins said, “With the two of you guys (Ayers and Johnson) double teaming this, we would hope that we'd give at least some comfort to the fact that something's happening. It's not being fixed immediately, but something's happening.”

The university asks anyone with problems or additional technical needs to email helpme@scsu.edu.

Contact the writer: dgleaton@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5534. Follow "Good News with Gleaton" on Twitter at @DionneTandD.

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