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Vice-Presidents' Council invests in student computing

By Emilie Bourque Whittle

Memorial's Vice-Presidents' Council recently allotted substantial funding to help upgrade student computing services in two ways. The wireless network will be improved and McAfee anti-virus software will be provided at no cost to users.

The investment towards improving the wireless network, used primarily by students (faculty and staff tend to use the wired network in their offices), is $402,000 this year, with more money to follow over the next two years. Providing anti-virus software to all students, faculty and staff at no cost to them for the next three years will amount to $320,000.

In November, Computing and Communications (C&C) announced that McAfee software, which protects devices from viruses, malware and other malicious software threats, would be available to all students, faculty and staff for all devices they use, including those at home. Previously, the use of such software was something only monitored/required for on-campus computers.

Graham Mowbray, director of C&C, explained that as of last July, most of the university's McAfee licenses were about to expire, so it was a great time to negotiate a new kind of deal with the company, one that could help cover more devices.

Although the new agreement with McAfee was originally negotiated for the St. John's campus, Grenfell Campus and the Marine Institute can opt-in as well.

The fast pace of technological change makes information technology (IT) planning difficult. Mr. Mowbray said that as IT becomes both more complex and accessible, the demand for multiple devices and a wireless network to support those devices grows. Along with it grows the need to protect the wireless devices from viral attack.

"The diversity of these devices means that you cannot just apply one set of security rules to them," said Mr. Mowbray, who explained any one student might own several devices such as cell phones, e-readers and laptops, all needing virus protection and Internet access.

To address the dual need for a better wireless network and enhanced virus protection, C&C wrote proposals to the Vice-Presidents' Council (VPC) about both concerns. After hearing the issues at hand, the VPC approved the investments.

The network upgrades are ongoing and have included providing a five-fold increase in the number of access points (wireless routers) all across campus and upgrading to a newer wireless technology.

"Today's freedom to move information from computer to computer, from the campus to home and back again, contributes to the greater need for virus protection," said Mr. Mowbray.

Before this funding from the VPC, there were roughly 5,000 computers on campus that were running McAfee software. Computing & Communications now hopes to increase that number significantly with no-cost software for students, faculty and staff. This will also reduce the chance of an infected home computer spreading trouble to a campus computer through something like a USB stick.
"What we have now is a three-year fund for site licenses," said Mr. Mowbray, thanks to the VPC.

For more information on how to access the McAfee software, visit www.mun.ca/antivirus. Clients should note that in order to download this software, they are required to log in to the MUN portal (my.mun.ca). For any help, contact the C&C service desk at 709-864-4595 or by email at help@mun.ca.

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