Patrick Gemme of the College of the Holy Cross says the number of mobile devices on campus has increased threefold over the past three years.

Oct 05 2012

Can Colleges Handle the Influx of Mobile Devices? Holy Cross Thinks So and They Are Out to Prove It

The College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass., took on the BYOD trend by upgrading its wireless network and deploying MDM software.

The bring-your-own-device trend is so pervasive today that college and university IT departments must respond if they want to keep up with the influx of mobile units on campus.

"The number of devices on our network has increased threefold in just three years," says Patrick Gemme, technical services engineer at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, Mass. "Today, we're managing 3,000 wireless devices at any one time, compared with 1,000 a few years ago."

And it's not just students fueling BYOD trends. Gemme says that while Holy Cross students bring roughly three devices each to college today, faculty and staff also like bringing multiple devices to campus.

"Many people today carry a tablet, smartphone and an e-reader," he adds.

Gemme says Holy Cross started its network upgrade five years ago, covering the campus with wireless access points from Aruba Networks. Today, Holy Cross has roughly 500 Aruba AP-125s spread across campus, delivering wireless coverage to 95 percent of the college.

Three Aruba M3 controller modules reside in two Aruba MMC-6000 chassis in the college's network operations center. The gear gives Holy Cross the wireless backbone and switching muscle it needs to support the growing bandwidth demand spawned by wireless devices and associated mobile applications.

Tracking It All

The next step for the Holy Cross IT team was to find a way to more ­effectively manage all those mobile ­devices. In late August, IT staff started testing Aruba ClearPass mobile ­device management (MDM) software.

Gemme says ClearPass offers a more granular view of the network than the open-source software that Holy Cross had been using. "It gives us a much better list of all the wired and wireless devices, and I can call up a user by name and see everything they use and the most recent devices they have connected to the network."

Along with increased visibility, ClearPass offers enhanced management features. For full-time students, faculty and staff, Gemme will be able to use the MDM tool to set single sign-on privileges for accessing the network and applications. For one-time guest users, he will be able to establish temporary Internet access rights.

"We're trying to make it easier for the users," Gemme says. "With ClearPass, everyone can access the Internet, and we know who they are and what applications they can access. By making it so users have to authenticate to access our internal network, it will make it much harder to hack in."

The IT staff at Holy Cross will continue to test ClearPass throughout the fall. The plan, Gemme says, is go into production mode over the winter break.

<p>Bradley E. Clift</p>