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February 2004


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The Old College Try

Dartmouth’s WLAN earns an A+ for improving service to students and faculty.

By Eric M. Zeman

Sometimes old age is mistakenly associated with being outdated, behind-the-times or ineffectual. My 73-year-old grandmother, who surfs the Web and sends me her digital photos, would heartily disagree. She monitors her stocks and zips off e-mails to the family from all over the world with the help of her laptop. If anything, she’s embraced the digital age and changed with the times.

Founded in Hanover, N.H., in 1769, Dartmouth College, one of the most prestigious educational institutions in the country, is definitely venerable. Like my grandmother, Dartmouth has also accepted the digital age with a wireless deployment.

Serving a community of 8,500 faculty, staff and students, Dartmouth Computing Services is responsible for deploying and supporting the campus IT infrastructure. Dartmouth’s wireless LAN is one of the most advanced in the country, and students and faculty alike access it from all over campus. As on most college campuses, service expectations at Dartmouth are high and every problem is the most important one to the users affected. At peak times, like move-in week, both the network and the technicians are stretched to their full capacity. With high demands on their service organization, Computing Services was challenged to find ways to reduce response time while improving first call resolution rates and reducing service costs.

Enabling the Techs

Before finding a solution, Dartmouth techs carried laptops that frequently stayed in service vehicles during on-site customer visits. They took a long time to boot up, their batteries drained quickly and they weren’t well-suited to simple tasks like closing trouble tickets and retrieving problem details. Dartmouth looked to Aeroprise to provide them with the customer support application to enable their techs.

Techs run the Aeroprise Mobile Gateway and Personalization Console on HP iPAQ Pocket PCs and other handheld devices using the wireless LAN. Just the essential elements of their desktop applications are isolated, containing the information they need. The techs are alerted when new issues arise that meet previously defined criteria. For example, when a
professor needs help during a lecture, the network signals the tech nearest the classroom.

The result is that Dartmouth’s handheld devices are becoming every bit as useful as laptops or PCs—and the entire campus is reaping the benefits. “Our customers benefit most from our solution. Having remote access to our helpdesk application lets us respond to problems more quickly and push the right information to the right people at the right time,” notes Edmond Cooley, a professor in Dartmouth’s Thayer School of Engineering. “Our tools work the way we do.”

Among the benefits that Dartmouth has enjoyed are: a 50-percent reduction in time per service call, reduced travel time, reduced end-user downtime, reduced cost per technician, productivity improvements, eliminated redundancy and increased accuracy in real-time inventory updates by up to 80 percent. “With the solution, six techs can do the work of 10. Using our applications where we do the work cuts our time per service call by up to 50 percent,” says Bob Johnson, director of telecommunications and networking services.

Dartmouth is so pleased with the deployment, it plans to roll out location-based services and converge voice and data networks in the future. For now, however, their mobile solution has made the grade. •

Copyright ©2004 Leisure Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.
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