TORRINGTON – The current system that stores vital information at Eastern Wyoming College is aging and needs to be replaced.
EWC Chief Information Officer Tyler Vasko approached the Board of Trustees during its regular meeting Tuesday, requesting funding to make the necessary upgrades. The current infrastructure – which stores everything the college does electronically, from payroll and student records to class schedules and more – is well past its expected life span, Vasko said. That places all of the college’s electronic data at risk.
“We’re in our eighth year with the same equipment,” Vasko told Trustees. “Best practices generally say don’t run (equipment) for more than five years. We’re coming to the end of the life of our server and storage array and the equipment is no longer supported” by the manufacturers.
Repair parts for the current system are becoming difficult if not impossible to obtain, Vasko said, and no one will give the college any type of maintenance or service agreements.
“Hard disk drives are failing and we’re having trouble finding parts,” he said. “It’s kind of scary. It’s very fragile right now.”
Vasko presented estimates to fully replace the aging Information Technology infrastructure. In his report to the board, accompanying the request, he said the files involved are “critical for the day-to-day operation of EWC.” He presented several estimates from ConvergeOne, headquartered in Bloomington, Minn., totaling about $124,000.
That would replace the aging hardware and includes a service agreement, Vasko said, which includes annual maintenance and replacement of the main storage processor – the “brains” of the system, he said – on a three-year schedule.
“That could mean we wouldn’t have to replace the new system before 10 years,” for example, Vasko said. “We’d be getting new parts every three years before the parts wear out.”
Dr. Leslie Travers, EWC president, said the condition of the aging IT equipment has been a concern for at least 18 months.
“We’d be crazy not to do it,” she told trustees. “We’ve anticipated the expense, but we didn’t have any idea of the cost.”
Kwin Wilkes, vice president of administrative services for EWC, addressed the financial side of the issue. There are two accounts the college could draw on to cover the projected cost – an account specifically earmarked for computer upgrades and IT costs and the college’s general institutional fund account. With almost $400,000 between the two dedicated accounts, the college could potentially absorb the cost, he said.
“Obviously, that’s a big chunk of change,” Wilkes said. “We could split the cost between the two accounts, but that means, toward the end of the fiscal year, those budgets would be low. We would probably have to dip into some carryover funds.”
Responding to a question from Board President John Patrick, Wilkes said the “high side” estimate on use of carry-over funds could be in the $50,000 to $75,000 range. Replacement of the server systems wasn’t directly budgeted into the accounts, which are typically used to fund as many as 60 individual computer purchases annually as part of the college’s regular technology upgrades, Vasko said.
Trustees unanimously approved the funding request. Vasko said he would continue to seek bids on the project, attempting to find a better price.
In a related agenda item, the board unanimously approved hiring Cody McGrew of Scottsbluff, Neb., to be Network Systems Administrator for the college, beginning Oct. 21.
In other business, Trustees:
• approved on first reading a new policy banning smoking on campus except in certain areas. The policy includes a prohibition on electronic cigarettes;
• approved on first reading revisions to the college purchasing and vehicle use policies;
• approved on final reading revisions to college policies governing complaints and formal grievances; definitions on the position of the Dean of Faculty for Student Services; the college budget and annual budget process, and; the use of college-issued procurement cards, essentially credit cards for use by employees to pay for authorized expenses.