Staff Focus

Fall 2020: Staff Interviews

Former MUN Harlow students Sara Inkpen and Elizabeth Furey interview some staff from Harlow campus. The interviews are part of the Hidden Memorial series, unveiling hidden places throughout  MUN and  interviewing key people who make MUN a really great place to work and study.

Summer 2020: IT Systems Administrator

"It’s all about the Speed, right? Not quite."

Darren Smith tells his story of the network upgrade at Harlow Campus

Hello my name is Darren, a middle-aged IT professional. I am happiest when I am fixing and improving things.

Over the decades I have been in various IT roles, kicking around in basements and server rooms in London and the South east of England. I have worked in the NHS, worked with Small businesses, and worked for global private company supporting high net worth individuals. I like to think I have had good exposure to lots of technologies and to different types of businesses and people.
Now I am working locally to my home as a Systems Administrator in the Higher Education sector.

I joined Memorial University, Harlow Campus at a time when almost everything needed upgrading. Some systems are over 10 years old, some software has reached ‘end-of-life’ and hardware has crawled over the line into 2020 just about clinging to life. This is normally an exciting time for any IT professional. The prospect of being knee deep in new shiny equipment, rolling up your sleeves and diving in…it’s what any IT pro loves.

Starting this job in January 2020, I had vision of being a superhero, arriving to bring the IT back to life, standing there proudly, cape and pants on the outside of the trousers with an amazing new IT setup whizzing away behind me.

Of course, that vision evaporated quite quickly. Settling in, I could see that this was going to be a real challenge. The internet connection, the switches, the servers, the desktops, phone systems CCTV and more - nearly everything needed an upgrade. What about that pile of shiny new tech? Well this is education, and I’ve learned that budgets are tight, funding is sparse and projects go through a long process to come to fruition.

Well just to make it even more of a challenge we had some extra delays this year starting with ‘Snowmageddon’ where Newfoundland had 3 metres of snow. Communication with the Memorial university was at a low for about six weeks. Understandably, working from home meant Newfoundlanders and Labradoreans could not focus on international campus matters as much.
And of course, we all know about Covid-19. That little event didn’t help much with trying sort out projects!

I am pleased to say that despite the difficulties, I have been working with Chris Stubley in Memorial University, Canada and we have planned a project to update the network side of things. The plan will improve the speed of the internet and improve the Wi-Fi speed and network speed. We are not far from a nice juicy 500Mbit internet, 10G backbone, super-fast Wi-Fi with improved coverage and pristine double capacity fibre links to our properties. It feels like we are changing our network from a country road to a four lane motorway.

It’s all about the Speed, right? Not quite. It might surprise you that the focus has not been about the speed of the network but of course it has been a consideration. The main focus has been on providing a reliable quality network for future Students. This is by making sure our new switches and equipment are ‘always on’. Considerations about power, equipment location, network monitoring and even what suppliers we use have all been made with quality and reliability in mind. The speed increase just comes along as an added bonus.

This week we started the first phase of our network upgrade. Working with trusted cabling company, Javalin Network Solutions Ltd, we now have new CAT6A links and internal fibre has been upgraded.

Over the next six months we have some exciting IT improvements yet to come at Harlow Campus, including 500Mbit internet, super reliable Wi-Fi access points and some up-to-date systems. We can’t wait to get some fresh students to stress test it all! I hope to find time to continue to tell our story in future posts. Cape and underpants at the ready!

Darren Smith, August 2020.