The Back-Office Technical Function
Added on - 13 Sep 2019
1Networks and Information Security Case study - Copyright © Edilson Arenas - CQUniversityThe First National University (FNU)BackgroundThe First National University (FNU) is a major public higher education institution. It was the firsthigher education institution in the country to launch distance education and more recently onlineprograms. Apart from its main Campus, the University has operations in five (5) regional campuses(RCs) and ten (10) metropolitan campuses (MCs). At present, FNU provides diverse range ofundergraduate and postgraduate programs as well as Vocational and Educational Training (VET)and short professional programs. More than 45,000 students are currently studying various levelsof programs at FNU as on-campus students. Additionally, around 15,000 students are currentlystudying at FNU under the online and distance education programs.FNU has three (3) major facilities to support its information technology services, namely,Headquarters, Operations (Data Centre) and Backup. The Headquarters facility is located in themain Campus. The Operations facility is located 50Kms from the Headquarters in a warehouse theUniversity owns near an industrial area. The Operations facility houses the back-office technicalfunctions, the Data Centre, and the IT staff. The Backup facility is located in the country area about1000km from the headquarters. FNU uses the Backup facility as a warm-site facility that can beoperational within minutes in the event the Operations facility fails.Apart from the main campus, all regional and metropolitan campuses are very similar in terms ofsize, staff, and technologies. Their IT infrastructure uses relatively old and complex technologies.FNU still uses a number of protocols to enable campus communication to the main server farmlocated at the Operations.Each campus is connected to the university backbone through old Multiservice Platform Routers forflexible LAN and WAN configurations, easy upgrades, and the handling of various protocols at theinternet and transport layers. The router enables the campus to communicate with different FNUcampuses located in different sites.To support the day-to-day learning and teaching activities, academics and administrative staff atFNU also deals with a dozen (12) of external partners including hospitals, research centres, vendorsupport, and technology partners in many different ways, non-necessarily compatible each other.At FNU the current network has consistency, performance, and reliability problems owing to agrowth in enrolments and recent operations expansion. The IT department has been informedabout an increase in student and faculty complaints. Particularly, faculties and academic staff claimthat owing to network problems, they cannot efficiently submit grades, maintain contact withcolleagues at other campuses, keep up with research, and conduct their daily tasks. Similarly,students say they have submitted student work late due to network problems. Assignmentssubmission has been problematic since the introduction of the online submission approach.Students complain that late submissions have impacted their grades badly. Despite the complaintsabout the network, faculty, academic staff, and students use of the network has almost tripled inthe last three fewyearsAnother issue at FNU is that there are noBYOD and Work-at-home (WAT) policies. This has become afocus of contention between the IT department, staff and students. The IT department is concernedabout a number of rogue wireless ad-hoc access points often placed by students within the campuspremises. The vast majority of staff, faculty and students agree that there is a need of implementing
2Networks and Information Security Case study - Copyright © Edilson Arenas - CQUniversitysecure wireless and remote access including the WAT and BYOD policies.The evidence is overwhelmingon the need to rethink the way network services are provided at FNU.The senior management at FNU has identified a number of key business factors that needimmediate attention:1.Enrolment for both on-campus and distance education is to increase 50% in the nextthreeyears.2.Improve faculty efficiency and allow academic staff to participate in more researchprojects with colleagues at othercampuses and partner universities3.Improve student support efficiency and eliminate problems with assignment onlinesubmission.4.As part of the BYOD policy, allow students, staff and visitors to the University to accessthe campus network and the Internet wirelessly using their mobile devices includingnotebooks, smartphones, andtablets.5.As part of the WAT, allow students and staff to remotely access the campus networkfromhome.6.Secure the campus networks fromintruders.In response to the senior management call, the IT department at FNU developed a list oftechnical goals that should be implemented as soon as possible:1.Redesign the current network including provision for wirelessservices.2.Overhaul the IP addressingscheme.3.Increase the bandwidth of the Internet connection to support new applications and theexpanded use of currentapplications.4.Provide a secure, private wireless network for students, staff and visitors to access thecampus network and theInternet.5.Provide a network that offers a response time of less than a second for interactiveapplications.6.Provide a network that is available approximately 99.9 percent of the time and offers anMTBF (mean-time-between-failure) of 6000 hours and an MTTR (mean-time-to- repair)of less than 90 minutes.7.Provide security to protect the Internet connection and internal network fromintruders.8.Provide a network that can scale to support future expanded usage of multimediaapplications including onlineteaching.9.Automate the majority of the network tasks and services including plug and play,network configuration, network management, troubleshooting, networkmonitoring, resource sharing, load balancing, updates, and data backups.
Wide Area Networks (WANs) at FNUCurrently, FNU supports its wide area network operations using a mesh topology of three (3)Layer2 VPLS (Virtual Private LAN Service) point-to-point circuits. This mesh guaranteesredundancy between the Headquarters, Operations (Data Centre), and Backup sites.Each regional and metropolitan campus is also redundantly connected to the major facilities (linksto Headquarters, Operations and Backup respectively) via Frame Relay permanent virtual circuits(PVC). Similarly, two separate frame relay Internet Service Providers (ISP) are used for redundantInternet access: one PVC via the main Campus (Headquarters) and the other PVC via the Backupsite. The external partners are connected to FNU via DSL.Campus Network in FNU (Main, Metro, and Regional Campuses)Each FNU campus is supported by 100Base-TX Switched Ethernet LANs, and FNU is expecting toupgrade to more modern Switched Ethernets. Staff at FNU are distributed as follows:1.250 employees including academic (x150), administrative (x50) and management staff (x50).There are about 2,000 on-campus students in each of the regional and metrocampuses.2.The main campus houses around 2,000 employees including academic (x1000);administrative (x500) and management staff (x500). Nearly 15,000 on-campusstudents are studying at the maincampus.The Operations facility is also supported by 100Base-TX Switched Ethernet LANs. In the Operationsfacility, there are 100 engineers in charge of technical support of the data centre, networking,maintenance, and application development. The organisational and operational structure of theBackup facility is similar to the structure of the Operations facility.Academic staff at the main campus, regional, and metro campuses teach courses in seven faculties,namely: arts and humanities, business, social sciences, mathematics, computer science, the physicalsciences, and health sciences. The administrative staff handle admissions, student records, and otherstudent operational functions. The management staff consists of human resources, seniormanagement and information technology. Enrolment at FNU has almost tripled in the past threeyears; and the faculty and admin staff has doubled insize.Each campus backbone (including main, regional and metro campuses) supports the operations ofthe seven faculties, management, and administrative staff. The following are the details of the ITinfrastructure:1.A high-end switch in each building is connected to a high-end Campus core switch in thecampus backbone.2.Within each building, 24-port Ethernet switches on each floor connect end usersystems.3.Floor switches are connected to the high-end buildingswitch.4.The 100Base-TX switches are layer-2 switches running the IEEE 802.1D Spanning TreeProtocol.5.All devices are part of the same broadcast domain. All devices (except public servers) arepart of the 192.168.0.0 internalnetwork6.Addressing for end-user hosts is accomplished with DHCP. A Windows server in thecluster located in the Operations facility acts as the DHCPserver.