DFCM Technology Upgrade

In early 2014 the Department of Family and Community Medicine (DFCM) requested that Discovery Commons perform an assessment of their technology infrastructure, and report on what improvements may be needed. Some of the issues reported by users included slow network performance, slow desktop performance and file incompatibility issues, worries about data backups, printing issues, problems with file sharing between locations, and overall concerns about the security of data. Discovery Commons completed an extensive inventory and assessment, and recommended changes for DFCM that included the Global Health Office and Physician Assistant Program, and covered both office locations. These recommendations were accepted, and we were asked to perform the required upgrades.

First, we upgraded the network from 10 MB to 1 GB speed by replacing all the network switches and associated networking equipment. We also installed a new secure wireless network. Next, we purchased, installed, and configured a new, high-capacity server to provide shared file storage, shared printing, and security (Active Directory) services for both locations. We also set up and configured a backup / data replication system for the server which included remote site secure data storage.

Once the new server was set up, Discovery Commons’ technicians went through the process of moving each individual’s accounts and files from the old server(s) to the new one. This delicate process involved keeping all of the rights to each folder intact, and reconciling to ensure the full capture of data. We also recommended options for hosting websites using the virtual server hosting service offered by the University rather than on locally-hosted servers, for greater reliability and security.

Once the network and server upgrades were complete, we standardized the 90+ DFCM desktop and laptop computers on the University-standard Windows 7 Enterprise operating system. As part of this activity we also purchased and installed approximately 25 new desktop computers (to replace old ones that could not be upgraded). Every computer was connected to Active Directory for security, and to the new server for file and print/scan services, nearly eliminating the storage of data on local hard drives. Great care was taken to transfer local client profiles (wallpaper, icons, and custom dictionaries) to the upgraded computers as well, to provide users with a sense of comfort and familiarity.

Standardizing the computers has had many benefits, including a significant reduction in support costs, the near-elimination of file incompatibility issues, an increase in data security due to the built-in BitLocker encryption on laptops, and a great reduction of the impact of viruses, worms, and other malware. We also configured secure remote desktop access for those users who needed it, ensuring that DFCM staff members still have flexibility in where and when they are able to work.

Since the upgrade and standardization project was completed, we have continued to provide DFCM with regular server maintenance support, as well as regular, on-site, end-user technology support. The end-user support is provided on a pre-scheduled basis, focusing on the purchase and configuration of new computers and devices and on day-to-day user support. Overall support costs have been significantly reduced due to the reliability improvements introduced as part of the upgrade project.