Infrastructure, Operations and Communications Technology at UNC by the Numbers

As part of your life or work on campus, consider the amount of email you send and receive each day and all the digital devices you use. You’re texting and emailing from the time you wake until your head finally finds the pillow again at the end of the day. During the course of the day, you’re shifting from your phone, laptop, desktop, tablet, game device and any number of electronics and so is everyone around you.

What infrastructure does the University provide, support and secure to enable all that electronic communication, entertainment and information sharing? And just how many messages are we on campus creating and receiving and how many devices are we accessing here at UNC-Chapel Hill?

Each day at the University, we’re collectively using some 50,000 wired devices and some 60,000 wireless devices on the network, according to ITS Communication Technologies.

Those numbers are comparable to last year, said Jim Gogan, Networking Systems Director for ITS Communication Technologies. He estimates the number may have been in the 80,000 range about five years ago. “The primary growth has been in the wireless devices on campus, he said.

What kind of devices are we talking about? Anything and everything. That includes servers, desktop computers, laptops, tablets, smartphones, printers, cameras, copy machines, VoIP telephones, One Card readers, vending machines, energy management systems, chilled water meters, facilities devices, laundry machines, ticket scanners and scientific equipment.

Meanwhile, the University has about 110,000 Web pages on www, 7,588 pages on web.unc.edu and 134 on sites.unc.edu.

As for email, 96.8 percent of email coming to University email addresses in the last six months was junk, spam and other undesired messages, said Tim McGuire, Director, Campus Infrastructure Services. There are 12.2 million junk mail messages every day coming to Carolina email addresses compared to only 400,000 valid email messages a day, on average.

How can the University secure all those devices and messages? “You really can’t lock down all those individual devices while still enabling the freedom and creativity required in an academic and research environment,” Gogan said. “You have to rely on informed and appropriate user behavior.” For example, don’t click on a “postcard from an admirer.”

“You also have to rely on well written vendor operating systems and applications, which is always a challenge,” he said.

“What’s required and what the University deploys is a layered security approach,” Gogan said. UNC-Chapel Hill deploys:

  • Security appliances at the border of the network that block known intrusions
  • Security appliances in front of servers and devices that deal with sensitive information to limit access to only appropriate sources,
  • Mechanisms such as network access controls that check for updated software and quickly isolate identified risks.

As for Carolina’s defense for bad email, the University uses vendor products that either scan the entire content of an email for signs of trouble, called content filtering, or filters email based on the specific IP addresses, based on the site’s reputation, called reputation filtering.

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