U. at Albany Will Share Technology Services With Community College

The State University of New York’s University at Albany and nearby Hudson Valley Community College have agreed to take the first steps in what officials envision as a long-term, multifaceted sharing of information-technology services and facilities.

They are the first institutions in the 64-campus SUNY system to share information-technology resources, and the arrangement could become a model for other colleges, officials say. Each institution will house secondary backup servers for the other, and the campuses will be linked via a dedicated fiber cable that is to be installed by December.

“The benefit we see in doing this is really reducing the level of risk associated with having everything on one campus on the same network,” says Christine E. Haile, chief information officer at the university.

The two campuses are about 10 miles apart in upstate New York, and they have a close, longstanding relationship. The idea of sharing information-technology services came up in December 2012, during conversations between Ms. Haile and her counterpart at Hudson Valley, Steve Chen.

Ms. Haile had spent three years looking for an off-site location to which she could move the university’s backup servers so they would be safer in case of a fire or other disaster. The on-campus facility that now houses the backup servers is in poor condition, and she was facing costs of $50,000 to $100,000 to upgrade it, she says.

“Many SUNY campuses and non-SUNY campuses have been in this position of having secondary equipment on campus and on the campus network,” Ms. Haile says. ”We have all been doing that for years. But it does present some risk.”

Ms. Haile found that commercial storage options were too expensive. With the encouragement of their respective bosses, Ms. Haile and Mr. Chen began exploring a possible sharing arrangement. The university’s president, Robert J. Jones, and the community college’s, Andrew J. Matonak, signed the agreement last month.

The university will relocate its backup servers to the Hudson Valley campus by the end of the calendar year. The community college, in turn, will move its backup servers to the university when it opens its new primary data center, in 2014.

“In my case, I am going to avoid what would have been a pretty big expense that would have been required to bring our secondary facility up to even basic standards,” Ms. Haile says. ”It has a lot of problems right now.”

In the future, the two institutions could serve as each other’s backups for Internet services if one or the other’s Internet-service provider were to experience problems, Ms. Haile says. She also sees opportunities for active storage replication, among other shared services.

The arrangement at the upstate campuses is part of a larger push. Under Chancellor Nancy L. Zimpher, SUNY launched a shared-services initiative in August 2011 that is meant to streamline operations, reduce redundancy, and cut costs across the state.

Projects have included STAR-NY, an online-tutoring program that connects students on multiple campuses with tutors, a collaboration to reduce reliance on external printing vendors, and the expansion of the SUNY Wellness Challenge, an employee health-and-wellness program. Shared services have generated a net savings of $20-million, according to SUNY officials.

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