May 23, 2011 — As the University of Virginia's new graduates leave town and much of the University community takes a deep breath, one area is gearing up for changes: Information Technology and Communication.
"There's no time that's a good time to make changes," said Zeke Crater, technical support manager and technology architect at the University Library, who is the project manager for one of two major projects this week, an upgrade to the University's wireless network. But with school out of session, many students and 10-month faculty have left. Employees may be taking some time off for Memorial Day Weekend. Fewer people on Grounds makes this the most optimal time for the work to be done.
Also on tap this week is a move to the new University Data Center that will entail sporadic service interruptions.
Both ITC projects have a big upside. The wireless network upgrade will provide the ability to handle faster Internet speeds and will enhance security, Crater said. The new data center will provide much greater capacity "to meet the general increasing demand for computer and storage infrastructure, for significant expansion to meet the specialized needs of researchers for scientific computing, and for administrative applications such as the financial and student systems," according to an ITC document.
The University's current wireless networks, "cavalier" and "jefferson," use the Wireless Protected Access, or WPA, encryption system. Beginning Wednesday, those networks will be offered with WPA2 encryption, which has become the industry standard, Crater said.
Both systems – WPA and WPA2 – will both be in place through the summer to give users a chance to switch their wireless devices to the new standard. WPA will be turned off Sept. 30.
Users of Apple products like Mac computers with current operating systems, iPhones, iPods and iPads will connect to WPA2 automatically, according to an ITC announcement.
Those who use Windows computers and non-Apple mobile devices will need to make small changes to connect to the WPA2 network. ITC advises either running the new ITC Network Setup Tool, which will make the change for you, or manually changing the wireless encryption method to WPA2 in your wireless settings drop-down menu.
"For the vast majority of people, this will be painless," Crater said.
However, those who own mobile devices made before 2006 may find they are incompatible with WPA2. "In those cases, a device driver or operating system upgrade can sometimes be installed to enable WPA2 support, but it's possible that very old machines will no longer be able to connect wirelessly" when the WPA system is turned off in September, according to an ITC document.
The move to the New University Data Center, located near the Fontana Food Center on Old Ivy Road, "effectively doubles the University's inventory of physical data center space and provides many times the power and cooling available in Carruthers Hall," which currently houses the hardware, according to ITC documents.
However, it will also require the physical movement of equipment, leading to reduced performance at some times and service interruptions at others, beginning this week and peaking over the Memorial Day weekend. An estimated schedule of service disruptions can be found here.