RallyNet: Ripon College enters the 21st century

by: Lauren Hince

This year Ripon College’s ITS department has made steps towards the new digital age. Since April of 2014, Ripon College has been planning and implementing a secure encrypted wireless network. A change this big doesn’t come without backlash. As the IT department works on progressing RallyNet, the student body struggles with the new network.

First, what exactly is RallyNet? Brian Disterhaft, Director of Network Operations, explains that RallyNet is nothing more than an improvement on the old wireless network, RC Wireless. The reason for this change stems from a need for data security. The previous network was open and unprotected.

“We wanted to provide a secure encrypted network for our campus users,” explains Disterhaft.

The ITS department noticed a heightened amount of users around the Carnegie Hall area. The department decided, based off the few amount of people working in Carnegie, that the community was using the campus’s wifi, making it easy to for an everyday person to hack into the school’s network.

Implementing this new wifi took some time. According to Tara LaChapell, Director of ITS, “[The IT department] had to start from scratch.” Each building had to be checked room by room, and every ethernet cable had to removed and recorded.

“People need to realize how long it takes to establish a campus network, adds LaChapell. “It is huge planning process to make sure it is configured correctly.”

Despite all this planning students still experienced issues with the network. Comments of slow connections to battery drains on cellphones can be heard around campus as well as other complaints.

Junior, Andy Paloumpis says, “Rallynet is inherently totalitarian because of it harsh limiting and regulation of students internet activity. Students are only allowed to connect registered devices to Rallynet, and that internet is extremely slow and unreliable. This system seeks control over the student body, and is only regulated by the government, i.e. the Ripon College Administration.”

As for these issues, both LaChapell and Disterhaft agree that students just need to come in.

“Let us help you,” says Disterhaft.

LaChapell echos this sentiment, “the students should see that coming down is not a burden on us. We are not annoyed when they come down. We are grateful because it helps us to achieve a greater end goal.”

Part of the problem stems Ripon College being a bring-your-own-device campus, meaning that there are myriad of devices that ITS sees on any given day. Disterhaft and LaChapell both agree that they can’t account for every device when installing the wireless, so the easiest thing is for the student to just bring in their device.

Disterhaft says there has only been one instance where they have been unable to configure the device, and that was a faculty’s windows phone. Other than that, Disterhaft says, “99 percent of the time we have been able to fix the issue.”

Nick Shoemaker, a student worker for the ITS department, applauds the progress the school has made, but adds that there are definitely some improvements that could be made.

One improvement I would suggest is a method that works for every device and OS,” says Shoemaker. “As the only thing going on in the background is security certificates being registered for a use and device it should be possible to have a simple script that does that. That is most likely what they are trying with the Xpressconnect tool but a simple python script or java executable might work better but would require a different technical approach than is currently being used.”

LaChapell believes that all in all, considering the difficulties in dealing an old campus infrastructure and multiple devices, everything went well. More importantly, this change helps bring Ripon College up to pace with similar colleges, if not ahead.

“Were we behind? Absolutely,” says Disterhaft. “Are we still behind? Absolutely not.” According to Disterhaft and LaChapell, many campuses, even if they already had campus-wide wifi, now have to start thinking about data security. Ripon has already done that.

Looking towards the future, Disterhaft wants to begin implementing wifi in green spaces such as outdoor sporting events. But, this is still a work in progress.