December 06, 2021

Article
3 min

A Hands-On Partnership Helps Drive a Missouri College’s IT Modernization Project

Data center and network upgrades improve performance and IT management at North Central Missouri College.

Steve Yerkey

Keith Benedict

When North Central Missouri College hired Jennifer Triplett as its CIO in 2019, it handed her an IT environment that faced serious challenges: failing infrastructure, frequent troubleshooting and poor performance.

As her top priority, Triplett set about developing a roadmap for IT modernization at NCMC, engaging CDW for support in assessment, planning, design and implementation. Through a series of site visits with our team of solution architects and engineers, a strategy emerged that would tackle upgrades to the data center as well as the college’s wired and wireless networks.

Onsite Assessments Deliver In-Person Value to IT Planning

Having CDW experts onsite with the college’s IT team was an important part of the modernization process. This gave us the opportunity to walk the entire campus and have in-depth conversations about the college’s goals and challenges. Although we could have done much of the work over the phone, it was extremely helpful to see specific locations in person; for instance, to gather details about power and access when planning where to mount certain pieces of equipment.

When we presented NCMC with options for the upgrade, we knew that a Cisco Meraki networking solution was likely the optimal choice. The college already had Cisco Meraki access points, and IT staff members liked the interface and the centralized management of Cisco HyperFlex, a hyperconvergence solution. Streamlining the ecosystem also served to shorten the learning curve and simplify IT management — a key benefit given the staff’s small size.

Hands-On Deployment Support Leads to Better Outcomes

In the design phase, we combed through the college’s existing equipment, including fiber cabling, to determine how to install everything and how much network equipment was needed in each building. One challenge was the age of NCMC’s systems, and we were able to assist with evaluating and addressing this issue. We also recommended a different approach to wireless coverage for residence halls and other buildings, which were among the areas where performance had suffered the most. 

NCMC staff were responsible for the installation, but our teams worked together closely. In addition to making sure the deployment went smoothly, we wanted the CIO’s team to have as much as hands-on experience as possible under our guidance. Our goal was to ensure that when we handed everything over, NCMC’s IT professionals felt comfortable moving forward on their own.

When the pandemic hit, the college was in a significantly better position to support remote learning, especially in residence halls, where wireless access had previously been poor. Students could now attend classes remotely from their rooms.

IT Staff and Users Enjoy the Benefits of Modernization

Today, NCMC’s IT staffers enjoy a level of visibility into the network that they never had in the past. Issues are easier to identify, and push notifications let staff members quickly address any concerns, such as excessive utilization in a particular location. 

Data center management is also much better. For instance, the old data center needed weekly, time-consuming patching that always carried the threat of a lost host. Now, patching is monthly, and the process is painless. 

Improvements such as these, combined with centralized management, can make a tremendous difference for a campus IT team. Ease of management, paired with solid performance, increases the resilience and flexibility colleges need to pursue IT modernization.

Story by:

Steve Yerkey, a Sr. Field Solution Architect focused on Networking for CDW. He has worked in the IT for 25 years. 

Keith Benedict, a Sr. Consulting Engineer for Advanced Technology Services at CDW. He has been with the company for more than 10 years and has a long track record of assisting customers and meting their networking needs.