The University of North Texas is a 4-year liberal arts institution located in Denton, Texas. With an enrollment of more than 34,000 students, UNT is the flagship campus of the UNT System and the fourth largest university in Texas. More than 6,000 students live on campus between fourteen residence halls, making UNT the largest residential campus in the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
By the spring of 2007, UNT residence halls were feeling an increased pressure to stay competitive with the Internet connection speeds students were accustomed to.
“We found it difficult to maintain the high-caliber of service that students wanted with our previous service provider, which had no real guarantee of bandwidth,” said Chuck Fuller, Assistant Vice President for Business Service. Network delays were common, Fuller added, while students increasingly expected access to wireless Internet which the school was not able to provide.
The Search for a Network Partner
Faced with the need to update their existing infrastructure, UNT began the public selection process for a network partner.
“We started reviewing our various options and, after learning about Apogee, we investigated how well they would be able to upgrade the infrastructure and support the residence halls,” said Joe Adamo, Director of Communication Services.
As a state-run institution, the university was required to establish detailed criteria and evaluate vendors based on their ability to meet these requirements.
“What we discovered was that Apogee could fulfill all the requirements UNT specified, and with 24-hour phone support and potential on-site support, they would be able to provide a higher level of service for our students.”
Bringing Apogee Online
In Fall 2007, the transition began with a pilot. Two new dorms were entering the final stages of construction and UNT’s Communication Services department had realized that adding the buildings to the existing ResNet would require upgrading the firewall, packet shaper and filtering devices for the entire network. Instead of immediately taking on the major upgrades, the university decided to use the expansion as an opportunity to have Apogee bring the new network online in stages.
“Apogee brought two dorms on in August 2007,” said Adamo. “Later that year things went so well that we converted some of our other dorms over the winter break and then finally, in August 2008, we converted all of our residence halls to Apogee’s service. Connectivity between Apogee and the UNT network went very smoothly and continued to work very well during the transition.”
Refocusing Staff & Resources
Before the switch to Apogee, UNT had maintained a full-time employee dedicated exclusively to managing ResNet activity. “That person probably spent 75% of his time tracking issues, turning on ports, turning off ports and dealing with bad PC’s that were hogging up bandwidth,” said Adamo.
Now, he says, with the Apogee network in place, “we’ve been able to redeploy, look at other campus applications and actually get some things done that we’ve wanted to get done.
Beyond the Denton campus, the UNT system has a location in Fort Worth, a Health Science Center and two campuses in Dallas which are constantly growing and adding new facilities.
“We’re able to devote our time to supporting campus growth,” said Adamo. “We’ve also been doing a lot of core infrastructure upgrades, bringing in our own routers, putting firewalls up and implementing software revisions – all things that we haven’t been able to do because we didn’t have the man power.”
“Basically, we have a very long list of things we’re able to do now to upgrade our network and bring in new applications to support the campus and the extra hands help out a lot in those project areas. It’s like adding staff without adding staff.”
A Brighter Future
In addition to delaying significant capital investments by partnering with Apogee, UNT was able to trade in the costs of maintaining their aging infrastructure for a stable, predictable cost system with built-in technology refreshes. “We saved labor costs as well with Apogee’s around-the-clock support,” said Fuller. “With the number of connections on campus, we could not keep up in the past. Apogee came with a brighter future because it has upgraded service packages and a 24-hour help desk.”
In the end, said Adamo, it came down to finding the right fit for the UNT campus. “Apogee provided the best services with the features we were looking for and they’re very service oriented. From the installation to the support, Apogee has really gone the extra mile with UNT.”