As Montevallo students may recall, an email of a cryptic nature was sent out on March 1, that let students know that alterations would be coming to our beloved FalconNet. This email was met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation as it alluded to both a new seamless movement between building without multiple sign-ins, as well as a possibly complicated enrollment process. Craig Gray, Chief Information Officer, of the Information Services and Technology department, shed some light on these upcoming adjustments to the Wi-Fi.
Alabamian staff: What specific changes can we expect to see with the new updates to FalconNet?
Gray: The changes ultimately will be very minor—we are changing from the current process to a secured certificate process which brings a few benefits for the students and for the managing of the network. This has more to do with security and mobility than wholesale changes.
Alabamian staff: From a student perspective, how might Wi-Fi use change throughout the day?
Gray: Probably the first most specific change will be when students move from zone to zone, for example, from their residence hall to Farmer or other places FalconNet is available, they will no longer be prompted to login. The secure certificate keeps them connected to the WiFi and knows how to reconnect when it comes in proximity to other access points, as long as the mobile device WiFi is turned on.
Alabamian staff: What has spurred these changes to occur?
Gray: Three things really:
- It was always our intention to have this in place when we upgraded to the state of the art network a couple of years ago, but when we turned it on there were some glitches that we felt were creating unnecessary challenges. Those have since been worked out, and we are ready to roll with it.
- The communication with the SGA about wireless and having to login over and over we took to heart and bumped up the project priority. We also want students to be able to have a seamless experience when connecting to and using the wireless network.
- The downtown WiFI project, the necessity to secure UMNet, which is currently wide open, and the need to for higher security overall. UMNet currently has no login procedure and is open for anyone, which makes it very difficult to manage. We are required to have certain measures in place for regulatory reasons, and the same process that will secure FalconNet will also secure UMNet. Also, we are in the process of bringing FalconNet to downtown Montevallo. This process will allow students to stay connected pretty much all over from campus to the downtown area.
Alabamian staff: What does the “one-time enrollment process” entail?
Gray: It is pretty simple, very similar to when you log on to other networks like say at Starbucks or other public venue—except that it will require a small download and the credentials of the user to be connected to the wireless network. Instructions can be found at https://www.montevallo.edu/about-um/administration/ist/falconnet/.
IS&T’s Solution Center will be open Easter Sunday in the afternoon to assist students returning from Spring Break, and will setup a supplemental help center at Farmer Hall starting on Monday.
Alabamian staff: What does it mean for the network to be encrypted?
Gray: So the network is already encrypted in that it takes the traffic and scrambles it so it is unreadable to all but the most sophisticated ‘sniffing’ devices. What the new network will do is create an encryption key that is unique to each device, but that is readable by the central management server. This raises security to a whole new level, while simultaneously allowing for easier migration around the network without continually logging in. This is because the central management device recognizes the distinct signature of each mobile device. It’s like speaking the same language—once your mobile device is registered it identifies itself on the network as a trusted part of the family, and can migrate throughout the house so to speak.
After Spring Break, students will surely see a difference in their internet usage and benefit greatly from these upgrades!