IT Upgrades Wifi and Internet Security

Though unseen by many students, Information Technology (IT) Services have been upgrading their facilities during this semester and past semesters to maintain and improve the WiFi network, as well as to enhance cyber-security across campus. Steve Hess, the manager of networking and telecommunication, explained that the current assistant vice president and chief information security officer, Joe LaCascio, with his IT team has designed “a multi-year strategy to improve IT services and service delivery.”

        Past improvements include the replacement of “core network routers, which transfer network traffic between user devices and college datacenters and the Internet,” said Hess, as well as “the distribution routers, which transfer network traffic from individual buildings to the core routers. The routing upgrade project improved network performance and reliability, laying the foundation for further upgrade initiatives.”

        Wheaton’s WiFi has also been improved. “New WiFi controllers have been installed, enabling expansion of the network and support for new model access points (APs), the radios which transmit the WiFi signal. The new APs were moved out of hallways and into student rooms and doubled in number. This design paradigm puts APs closer to student devices and reduces the client device load on each AP. New, faster network cabling and network switches were also installed to support these new APs,” said Hess.

        The WiFi has been upgraded in many buildings, including Clark Hall, McIntire Hall, Young Hall, the Meadows complex, and Gebbie Hall. “WiFi upgrades have also been completed in the Balfour Natatorium, Sidell Stadium (for improved live-streaming of games), a portion of the Dimple, Chapel Field, Mars Arts and Humanity 3rd floor, and Mary Lyon,” said Hess. “Chapin Hall and Everett Hall 4th floor were upgraded over Spring Break this year. Further upgrades of WiFi in remaining dorms and administrative buildings are planned.”

        “Over 600,000 dollars has been invested in cabling and hardware upgrades throughout campus to improve wired and WiFi network performance and reliability,” said Hess. “The network spans the entire campus, from Bittersweet to Balfour-Hood to the baseball field, currently comprising 654 WiFi APs (a 28 percent increase from early 2017), over 100 switches, eight routers, and many miles of fiber optic and copper cabling.”

        Additionally, the internet firewall was replaced “to increase throughput and improve performance during peak usage times, enabling some 59 Terabytes of data to pass through the Internet connection each week. This next-gen firewall uses heuristics and real-time threat protection as part of a multi-layer, defense-in-depth approach to cyber-security,” said Hess. “Cabling upgrades have also been completed in administrative buildings as part of a telephone system upgrade project.”         Hess concluded by noting that “the overarching goal of these efforts and projects is to maintain, expand, and improve the network infrastructure in a manner that supports the college’s educational mission and student needs.”