OBU Information Systems and Services Make Improvements

Move in. Plug in. Log in. That was the expectation for college students across the nation as they began a new academic year. At Oklahoma Baptist University, students on the campus computer network found that the three-step process was the normal experience for most campus residents.

Access to the OBU campus network system was challenging for students during the previous two fall semesters. In an effort to provide a safe and trouble-free network environment in the residence halls, OBU’s information systems and services personnel invested in network equipment designed to prevent the problems of the past.

“As we evaluated past problems and planned for move-in day 2005, we determined that we would need to make major changes to our network services,” said Gary Nickerson, assistant vice president for IS&S. “With the support of the administration, we began evaluating, purchasing, testing, and implementing a network access control system and an intrusion detection and prevention system. The implementation of these two systems allows us to control access to our residential network based on security policies and to deny access if those policies are breached.”

Students are now required to download and install a small software program called SmartEnforcer. Once installed, SmartEnforcer evaluates the computer system, verifying that the anti-virus program and operating system is up-to-date.

If a computer system does not meet the requirements, the student is directed to a web page that provides a list of websites to download and install updates which are required before full access to the Internet is permitted. This effectively prevents potentially infected computers from spreading viruses throughout the network.

“We have had fewer problems this year,” said Chad Aebischer, OBU’s web content manager. “The majority of problems we are dealing with are firewalls blocking SmartEnforcer’s access to the network, as well as spyware.”

“Setup was a lot easier this year,” said OBU student Christa Evans, a senior from Cherokee, Okla. “It was a five-minute process. I appreciate that they are taking students concerns about not having Internet access seriously and that they also are taking steps to protect our computers.”

Along with the connectivity improvements, students found a faster information flow on the campus network this fall. In the spring of 2005, OBU upgraded the campus Internet connection, moving from a pair of T1 lines to a DS3 connection. Nickerson described the move as a “dramatic increase in bandwidth” for the residential network and the academic/administrative network.