Sunday, August 30, 2009

In-house vs. Outsource: Which is Better for the University?

(Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USEP-IC forum - Assignment 8: As a student, you were invited by the Dean of the Institute of Computing to attend a seminar-workshop on information systems planning with some of the faculty members. In one of the sessions, a discussion of outsourcing came up. You have been asked to present your evaluation about outsourcing the information systems functions of the school. Required: You are to take a position- outsource or in-source and justify your position.)

This is similar to what we call as the ‘hottest’ topic every time we have sessions in our Management Information System module reporting. “…in the case of our university’s information systems, should we outsource?” This brought varying reactions from several individuals who expressed their thoughts about the matter. Before we mark our final word, we shall first weigh the factors involved.

So, what is really ‘outsourcing’? What is its difference from ‘in-house’ or ‘in-sourcing’? What are the factors involved regarding this matter? Let us first discuss these few explanations based on what I have researched.

In-housing or in-sourcing, is actually the administration of ancillary activity within a company. It is managing by using the resources within a company. Outsourcing on the other hand, is subcontracting. It is the purchase by a company of labor or parts from a source outside the company rather than using the company’s staff or plant.

Why is there a need to outsource, instead of keeping in in-sourcing? Let us take the example of making a website. Once a certain organization decides to make a company website, it will need the necessary manpower to keep in charge of it. In other words, it will need to decide who will undertake the project and maintain the web site over time. There are various skills required to carry out this project and these skills may be found in some existing staff working for the company. But there are also cases when the management has to decide whether to hire somebody who may have possessed those certain skills to be work part-time or full-time, or to contract services from an outside source. In this case, when the company decides to hire staff and/or services outside their company, outsourcing happens.

In-housing versus Outsourcing

If you opt to start a critical project, you have to weigh your current in-house capacity first. Will your staff be able to address the needs? Will your resources allow you to do the task(s) completely? If you think your skills and budget allow you to deal with the task without aid from outside source then you have to take advantage of your potential - use your own resources within the company. On the other hand, if you think that you will be working out with more than you could ever handle, then I guess you should consider the advantages and disadvantages of outsourcing.

When you choose in-house to hire in-house staff you can have these several benefits:
- Managerial control and ease of communication
Of course when you choose to have your own company staff working for your tasks, you can easily manage to look after them and how they do the job. It would be best for you if you will keep in touch with the updates of your projects being carried out by personnel working within your reach. In case of some sudden changes and modifications, you can easily tap them since they are your company’s workforce.

- Timeliness
If you have a task to be done, you can immediately call your staff’s attention for the urgent matter. The great thing here is you have greater control over your personnel on when your task has to be done or updated. For example, in a company’s website scenario, if you need a few changes for your site, your staff can immediately do it for you even in a few minutes compared to the vendor or outsourced personnel who may happen to have another client aside from you (tendency is you will be putting yourself in a queue especially if there are other customers being served by your outsourced provider).

- Quality of Results
Since you have greater control over your projects and resources, you have more chances of achieving desirable results. It is because you are there to guide them when the personnel are working on the projects along the way.

- New funding opportunities
If you have really skilled personnel, you could invest in developing your in-house capacity to do certain jobs. This will generate extra income for the company or to your staff, and perhaps you could even sell new products and services.

- Financial predictability
When we speak of costs, it is easier to estimate how much will you spend in your projects if workforce time is included in your resource budget.

- Security and confidentiality issues
Definitely, you have fewer worries about your company’s assets and information especially on matters of privacy.

Those are on the in-housing staff side. Now let us talk about more on outsourcing. I should say this is quite a broader topic to talk about. As business organizations grow larger across the years, there are pressures on business and companies to be more and more competitive in their fields. Thus, there is a need to increase their productivity. Some felt that in order to gain more efficiency, outsourcing the resources of the company is an easy way out. Well, does it really address the needs?

Some of the key reasons why an organization should consider outsourcing are: competitive response, loss of key staff, cost overruns and project time, new product designs don’t work, and problem with quality and yield.
(See also Wikipedia’s Reasons for Outsourcing…)

Now let us discuss some benefits regarding outsourcing:

One major advantage of outsourcing is less capital expenditure. Outsourcing is an effective way to extend your budget. In terms of personnel budget alone, you can save costs for wages and additional employee benefits (which may include trainings, tax payments, etc). When you outsource information technology requirements, you don’t have to pay for the expensive hardware and software needed.

Less management headache, in the sense that the management has less control on the personnel working for a particular project or task. Thus, time spent by the management on personnel will be lesser. For example, in IT maintenance, the company doesn’t have to take time hiring and/or training staff since you probably will have valuable technical expertise by your outsource vendor.

Focus on core competencies. When you outsource IT activities to outside companies, this will provide you greater time concentrating on your core activities and strengths of the company. This will also give way to increased production time. Since your outsource company will be focusing on a specific project rather than the numerous company business activities, actual production time will speed up giving your business a competitive advantage.

Outsourcing also gives company the flexibility to change third-party vendors. In other words, they are easy to fire. When you are not satisfied with the results of your projects and you are not happy with the services provided by your vendor, it is easier to change to a new outsource provider than it is to fire poorly-performing company staff. This is because outsource vendors and your company agree that services will be provided to a legally binding contract with financial penalties.
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So now that you have read about the advantages of outsourcing, you probably think that this is a best way to your company’s business. But we still have to think things over because the disadvantages are not yet specified. Before deciding to outsource your company’s business process, let discuss some drawbacks of outsourcing:

One major disadvantage is less managerial control. As I have stated in the above statements, this can be a benefit. But what makes it a weakness is that you actually are losing control over your outsourced project (or at least a part of it) since the vendor will take charge of the job. It may be harder to manage your outsourcing provider than it is to manage your staff especially that service providers usually stress their control over the projects they’re working out.

This is also associated with lack of communication. Most companies find it hard to have constant communication links with their outsource providers. Problems linked with this involve misunderstanding between company customers and outsourced customer service representative, difference in language and cultural problems (in cases of outsourcing to another country), and several inherent difficulties like having conversations in varying available schedule between you and the vendor (like having different time zones of work).

Undesirable results. For example, a company hires a vendor to mass produce a product and when the finished products don’t meet with the company’s standards, chances are the manufacturing process will then be repeated probably by a different vendor. Quality risks in outsourcing are driven by several factors and cases such as the following: most vendors try to accumulate as many projects as they can (granted that they have other clients aside from you, there could be more projects that the outsource vendor will accept even if the burden is more than they could bear. This may wreck your project schedule, if not the whole project.); some vendors advertise services and even accept projects with little or no expertise in the corresponding areas (of course they wanted to gain more so they would take out your project. Lack of supplier capabilities / resources / capacity becomes a problem.); outsourcing company might go out of business (in the event that your vendor goes bankrupt or out of business, you will have to change to a new provider to continue business or you may take the process back in-house.).

Outsourcing can be very costly. It may be more expensive for the company in the sense that the company is paying twice for the same job. Not only it is a waste of time and materials but there is also possibility that the company will lose sales during the same period due to unavailability of the product. Sometimes it is cheaper to keep a business process in-house as compared to outsourcing.

Another main problem by organizations that outsource is security and confidentiality issues. There are cases when you are outsourcing business processes to a vendor such as payroll, and if so, some confidential information like salary will be known to the outsourcing provider. Before outsourcing, the company is liable for the actions of their staff. When they outsource personnel, these workers are not anymore directly employed or connected to the organization. Chances are, this may cause legal, security, and compliance issues that are to be addressed by binding contract so to avoid frauds.

Loss of jobs can be one drawback of outsourcing. Granted that the company may outsource personnel from other organizations and/or other countries to save money in wages, they will have to reduce their company’s workforce at the expense of laying off their employees.

Those are several outsourcing disadvantages to look at. Will outsourcing or keeping in-house really profit your business? Well, it depends. There are still other issues yet to consider. Both parties should pay attention to contracts. In the case of outsourcing IT, there are more development of tools and databases, so you have to be aware of which outsource services will you have to pay or not. For example, your vendor happened to develop a special tool that can be considered as their intellectual property, you can’t take it with you when their contract of service ends and you choose another vendor. Sustainability is also an essential issue. In the company website scenario, your company has to be steady in gaining income so to pay salaries for a full-time maintenance staff.

Status of the University
Let us now discuss the overview of the university’s situation. Currently, the university has recently changed to in-house after hiring some outsource company for the campus’ information system. For the past years that I have been a part of the university, we, students, could really feel the consequences of the processes that our school involves especially regarding the enrolment system. Now the university has decided to try using the services by its own IT personnel who have also expertise in the field of systems development. Our current management information system (this includes the entire enrolment process – registrar, cashier, local offices involved) is being programmed mainly by two of our faculties. Surely, we had another type of enrolment process undergone just last summer (when the new system had just recently been simulated) and this semester. Well, it feels like we are actually having a series of different type of enrolment process every year! I know the university is actually finding and testing many sorts of system and that they are looking for the perfect match that would be implemented for the campus permanently, or at least for a longer period of time.

Regarding the issue, we in our Management Information System class are debating whether the university made the right decision to change from outsourcing the IS process to in-house. And as many as the key points I have mentioned, we were also having uncertainties as to which we should stand with. In-house or outsource? Which is better for the university?

Whatever the case is, it is still better to weigh things according to the situation and those involved with it. I have heard that the primary reason the school administration decided to cut the outsourcing service is cost. So the administration tapped the IT faculties inside the campus to save long-term costs. This posed an advantage both to the university and the staff as well. As stressed out by our class instructor (I agree with him), we have local personnel who are highly-skilled in the said field, so why not use them? That is also an additional income for them, and the university budget will not go outside the institution, but to its own workforce. Furthermore, it is of pride to realize that we actually have and are using a system developed by our own university family members. This surely makes us proud of our instructors who are not only proficient in sharing their field of expertise to class discussions but are actually applying their knowledge to a system we are currently using.

But as experts would say just choosing between outsourcing staff or in-housing does not necessarily mean straight success to the organization’s business. Until now we are analyzing which feels better – the previous system or the existing implementation?

My Stand
Having thought about the scenario of our university I am coming up to a position for which I think is better for the information system functions of the university. My evaluation is guided by these factors I have gathered from my research:

Cost
- In-house (or outsource) labor costs
- In-house (or outsource) equipment costs
- In-house (or outsource) ‘other’ costs
- In-house (or outsource) annual expenditure
Features and functionality
Efficiency of operations
Quality of service provided
Security of service provided
Reputation of vendor (in outsourcing) / staff (in-house)
Current technology

Cost
I don’t really know how big or small of the university budget will be sliced out to the labor cost of developing and/or maintaining the IS of the school. But I am sure that the major part incurred is the wages paid to the system developer. In the case of outsource service provider, the university doesn’t have to pay for benefit expenses, payroll taxes, and sick/leave/vacation allowances. But granted that the ones working for the system are present university staff, I think it is quite lesser than long-term expenses paid to outside company.

In terms of equipment, well, I should say that the university is not really that streamlined when we talk of hardware components. We have some computer units to use, some good ole servers and mainframe, but I don’t think it is more than enough. Anyway, the workmen’s computers are just those which they use in other transactions, the university did not invest in equipments needed to system development. (More about this on current technology issues) I’m just wondering if they thought of looking for some software and miscellaneous materials needed for it.

The ‘other’ expenses are perhaps in the form of monthly office rentals, employees’ training expense on software installed, fees paid to technical experts and maintenance operators, that is, on the side of outsource service provider. In the case of our university programmers, monthly office rental is not a problem, as well as training expense (our faculty and staff have experience and potential) and fees to maintenance operators (since we also have school operators assigned in computer maintenance).

The above factors can be summed up to total expenditures that we can calculate by long-term budget. Well, in this case, I cannot give you the exact amount to compare the costs of hiring the university personnel and outsourcing the service. Only the administration knows that. Hehe.

Features and functionality
The system’s performance level should be well taken care of in the sense that the personnel should keep an eye on the maintenance procedure of the ongoing processes. In the case of university’s in-source staff, they have timely access to the IS because they are existent workers of the campus. I guess this is better than outsourcing staff because our faculty have high priority on having immediate access to our school’s system. On this matter, they could easily check the functionalities of the current system and can easily modify its features if there be any urgency to do so.

Efficiency of operations
The reliability and efficiency of the system procedures are high on the organization’s list in that it requires effective communications. Having pointed out some outsource drawbacks regarding communication on both parties, and benefits of outsourcing more on the skills side, I can say that we could still maintain a good system even by in sourcing. Regarding the capability of staff we are not that behind, and communication gaps won’t be a problem since they are within reach.

Quality and security of service provided
We don’t need superb information system, we just need an efficient one adequate for the university’s needs. Well, that is, as for the moment. As soon as we address the needs of the university’s information system functions, there’s no reason in deterring the advancement of our IS be it in the interface or functionality side. In the long run, our IS staff will be able to maintain and improve further the quality of our IS. I should say that security will not be a major issue here since there is no need for confidential information to leak out of the university premise. Since service quality is essential and security is vital, the university has more control in in-house staff rather than outsourcing these services. Our developers are our own family. I’m pretty sure they can be trusted enough in their field.

Reputation of vendor/staff
This is something to be checked out especially when we give a critical task to the one who will do the project. When we outsource, we have to check the background of the outsource service provider, their skills and capabilities, relevant case studies and success stories, and the like. In the case of our in-house staff, their reputation is well-known in the university (and vice versa!). Like I’ve said, the personnel tapped by the administration are trained and have spent years in experience in their profession. We also have some co-faculties who could recommend them.

Current technology
Here, we are talking about the IS functions of the school in general and not only in the enrolment system development. I should say that the university should make investments in equipments necessary for the university’s business procedures. I have read that the relatively low rating of current technology factors results from two broad concepts: larger institutions have established technology standards and require new applications fit their standards, rather than considering new platforms for each new application; and, smaller institutions tend to make greater use of outsourcers, and therefore delegate the definition of the enabling technologies to those outsourcers. I must admit that the university is on its way to improving the technology we are using. I guess I should share these points in evaluating in-house or outsource decisions:
- Will a modern archive system architecture be easily integrated into an existing IT system?
- Will it sufficiently scale as the business grows?
- Does the IS solution sufficiently support the business policies of the institution?
- Does the technology assure long and reliable data life?

If I am to ask, I should say that we can keep in in-housing our IS staff as evident in the key points I have mentioned above. But I think we should consider outsourcing the equipments our university is using since initial costs as well as long-term maintenance operating cost is a primary factor of the university’s decision, and we can’t say that we could provide our necessary tools and equipments as soon as we urgently need it.

Regarding the question on whether in-housing or outsourcing services will really improve our university, it depends. But I’m quite sure that we have at least capable personnel potentials (the question now is the budget support of the university for the project) so we have less need to outsource staff services, yet we are fairly deficient in terms of material resources so outsourcing can be considered. The number of years that the equipment(s) will serve the company and its depreciation value will have to be added to the operational cost annually, and these should be included in evaluation.

References and resources which supported me in making this essay:
Advantages and Disadvantages of Outsourcing

Sustainable Development Communications Network: In-house staff vs. outsourcing

Medical Transcription Outsourcing Cost Benefits Louisiana:

Outsourcing IT Development: Advantages and Disadvantages by Basil Tesler

Outsourcing: The Advantages And Disadvantages Of Outsourcing

In-house or Outsourced Image Archive Services: Plotting Position and Course
Whitepaper by Dana Gould & Aaron McPherson October 2008

Wikipedia.com - Outsourcing
MS Encarta Dictionaries

Friday, August 28, 2009

Updates in Major Paper 3

Interview Proper: August 27, 2009 at the NCCC Davao ICT Department

Key People Involved: ICT Manager and Staff

Interviewers: 2 groups (Querubin's group and Hilado's group)

Time: about 2:30 pm

Remarks:
ICT key personnel answered the queries in assessing the Information System department of the company guided by the set of questions being submitted prior to the scheduled date. The group was able to take some pictures (as proofs) of the interview, and gathered facts about the IS.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Updates in Major Paper 2

Good news! My groupmate, Jethro Querubin managed to call our adopted company NCCC and brought home the bacon! I mean, the news! We are finally going to visit the company for an interview! Nice work, Jet! Lol.

And so we have to prepare for our guide questions for the assessment of the company's Information Systems Department. We have actually submitted a list of our queries to the office (mentioned in Updates 1) so I guess what we're going to ask more are clarifications and some 'add-ons'. Hehehe. Of course, we need to understand every detail of their system to make a clarified analysis of their situation.

I am looking forward for the success of this interview and hopefully we could gather 'meaty' reports from the office. I'm just crossing my fingers that this is not a 'once-and-for-all-don't-visit-again' interview. Lol.

Anyway, the first part of our major paper drafts (I guess!) will be submitted later because we are waiting for the details of our visit. But I am hoping we could make it and beat the deadline!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Suggestions to Improve the Internet Connectivity in the University

[Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USEP-IC forum - Assignment 6: If you were hired by the university president as an IT consultant, what would you suggest (technology, infrastructure, innovations, steps, processes, etc) in order for the internet connectivity be improved?]

Well, well, well… Here we go again. As much as I want take this easy and straight, I have to make this long enough (just enough to satisfy the needed number of words) and so I guess, I’m sorry to say this but I must streeeetch this quite loooong… hahaha.

Consider this question for our topic now – if you were hired by the university president as an IT consultant (wow, big deal!), what would you suggest (technology, infrastructure, innovations, steps, processes, etc) in order for the internet connectivity be improved?? Uh-huh… So this is quite a serious matter to talk about. Being hired as a consultant is really a bit serious but there is more for the institution that I belong to. So let me first talk about some things which are essential for this issue.

Internet and technology – what are they and what can they do?

Briefly, let us take some backward steps to some definitions of the terminologies. Internet, as what most computer savvy people would say, is a global network of networks. With its universal technology platform, any computer can communicate with any other computer. And through its World Wide Web applications and websites, the internet has gained popularity over millions of thousands people from all parts of the globe. As they say, “Internet is where you can find anything under the sun!”

Communication nowadays has been transformed into another form and ways – I have noticed it. And I suppose all grounds were broken from one foundation – the discovery of the chip that developed into the age of computers and eventually into applications of the technology that we are using today including the Internet connectivity.

So much about that I guess I am blabbing all my way out here about how the world transformed from the history when technology is in its lower level. Hahaha. Actually I was just imagining the time of my life when I was first introduced to the Internet. I did not know the ability of Internet connectivity at that time. But truly, I just can simply recall how technology is changing the way we acquire and share information in the present. In the past, we make great efforts to find every book in the library we could just to find a single topic. Now, we just face the computer, have a few clicks, and get connected to the online resource provider where we could get any information anytime, anywhere.

What can you do on the internet? One can communicate and collaborate through online connection to people and other areas – locally and across seas and mountains. I could still remember my professor who once told us about Thomas Freedman’s statement that “the world is flat.” By just moving a computer’s mouse and a few clicks, one can travel the globe in an hour! Internet lets us access information even from another computer miles away by networking. We can participate in discussions here and there through connecting to conferences and forums and blogs and still more groups online. Moreover, one can find entertainment brought by gaming, chatting, surfing, social networking and the like; exchange business transactions and moving through electronic commerce by enabling the digital market. File-sharing, downloading, instant messaging, and electronic mailing (e-mail) are also done through internet. That is the power brought by the technology we have in the world today.

Internet access in a computer is provided by what we call Internet Service Providers or ISP. ISPs offer internet access to customers usually on a monthly fee. The customers uses the ISP’s network to access the Internet. Actually, there are several kinds of internet connection depending on the type of access. The three (3) broad categories described by MS Encarta are: dedicated, dial-up, and wireless. With dedicated access, a subscriber’s computer remains directly connected to the Internet at all times through a permanent, physical connection. Most large businesses have high-capacity dedicated connections; small businesses or individuals that desire dedicated access choose technologies such as digital subscriber line (DSL) or cable modems, which both use existing wiring to lower cost. A DSL sends data across the same wires that telephone service uses, and cable modems use the same wiring that cable television uses. In each case, the electronic devices that are used to send data over the wires employ separate frequencies or channels that do not interfere with other signals on the wires. Thus, a DSL Internet connection can send data over a pair of wires at the same time the wires are being used for a telephone call, and cable modems can send data over a cable at the same time the cable is being used to receive television signals.

Another, less-popular option is satellite Internet access, in which a computer grabs an Internet signal from orbiting satellites via an outdoor satellite dish. The user usually pays a fixed monthly fee for a dedicated connection. In exchange, the company providing the connection agrees to relay data between the user’s computer and the Internet. I think this is what we commonly call as “wireless fidelity” of WiFi.

Dial-up is the least expensive access technology, but it is also the least convenient. To use dial-up access, a subscriber must have a telephone modem, a device that connects a computer to the telephone system and is capable of converting data into sounds and sounds back into data. The user’s ISP provides software that controls the modem. To access the Internet, the user opens the software application, which causes the dial-up modem to place a telephone call to the ISP. A modem at the ISP answers the call, and the two modems use audible tones to send data in both directions. When one of the modems is given data to send, the modem converts the data from the digital values used by computers—numbers stored as a sequence of 1s and 0s—into tones. The receiving side converts the tones back into digital values. Unlike dedicated access technologies, a dial-up modem does not use separate frequencies, so the telephone line cannot be used for regular telephone calls at the same time a dial-up modem is sending data. (Microsoft ® Encarta ® 2007. © 1993-2006 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.)

Benefits to Organizations and Universities

As soon as we are connected to the global link, we are part of the Internet. We can access and share information hence organizations can rely on it to be linked with their resources of data, business partners, and others to communicate. Those who are in the business sector know very well the advantages of network linkages (which are very useful for promotion of their businesses). Those who are in the service division and government gain benefits in the communication and collaboration to other agencies. And those in learning institutions (e.g. schools, universities, and colleges) need it in the classrooms, in the office, in the laboratory, and even in home and outside the campus.

Basically, the university members (faculty, students, and staff) and the university itself rely on the Internet to carry out the vital functions necessary to support the university’s teachings, research and outreach missions. In educational purposes alone, the Internet has a big role in helping the students and teachers alike to acquire, share, and gather facts and all kinds of information. As we have observed now, our libraries, resource centers, research areas, study halls and other places where we visit to see some archived information have Internet connections. Still others which have no direct Internet connectivity though, have networked link from one computer to the other.

I, for instance, am a living (and breathing!) example of how Internet technology can be a big help to students. Ever since I knew Internet (my idea about it is that, it is something where I could research for my assignments. That is why most of my allowance would go to the internet caf├ęs because I prefer to use computers than spend time browsing the pages of old and torn books in the library.), my study and research habits changed. Because of the wide (and still going wider!) availability and accessibility of the Internet to all users, students would prefer going to the internet shops after class (or even between classes!) to surf for some answers in the net. Of course, where I could find any resource else where I can have numerous results to my questions that fast? From simple archives of little answers by people to online posted questions to research papers, eBooks, forum discussions, online tutors and chatters willing to give opinions, I will not be surprised that someday, books in the libraries will no longer be used (or worse, exist!) instead all its contents will be posted in the net and accessed by students and teachers alike.

In my university, students log on to the internet to find information and entertainment. Still others while browsing for educational sites would open another window or tab to log in to their favorite networking site and chat with some friends. We do assignments online too, as we are also sharing course notes and lecture slides to our electronic groups and mails. Apart from that students are also requested to make, design, or maintain web sites blogs. And relating to our course, we do programs in the computers and sometimes connect to programming sites to find sample codes. In short, we do a LOT of things on the Internet.

Status of the University

As we all know, university employees, (whether faculty, staff or students) can make significant contributions to university business and its mission inside and outside normal hours and from in or off-campus locations. These tasks are dependent on reliable and high-speed Internet access.

But like any other institutions that have network links, issues about Internet connectivity and speed will never be left unnoticed. Users who spend more time using the Internet at school laboratories would definitely be the ones who could observe the variance in speed and ease of use of university computers and its programs / applications including the Internet. Having knowledge about the hardware and software (and people ware, too!) components of information systems, I guess, is a big help to understand it. And being able to understand the cycle of an information system could perhaps one major factor to help eliminate glitches by improving it.

Technically speaking, we do not have high-speed Internet connectivity in our university. Just a few years back, we wait for minutes just for a site to load. Thereby, decreasing our time and productivity to do some assignments and research. We pay enough for our laboratory fee (or Internet usage), yet we can not use it efficiently. (How sad.) True enough the primary problems that arise relating to internet connectivity are speed, or bandwidth, and telecommunications infrastructure needs.

As I have observed when we are using the computer laboratory at the Nodal Center (IC Lab 2), congestion occurs especially if most users access the internet. Internet traffic is increasing and thus speed is at stake. In the present the network administrators have found ways to improve it so now users can access the internet more quickly than before because the pages take lesser time to load. The problem that still needs to consider now is the traffic congestion that occurs when most computer units used are accessing through the internet at the same time. During selective times of the day, I notice that when most students are surfing all at once, the internet pages are also taking more time to load. And as the number of users is increasing so as the increasing traffic especially if the pages opened contain greater amounts of data (e.g. video, audio, photos, etc.).

I guess the administration shall find more ways to further improve the internet connectivity in the university. Not only will it help ease the use of the internet for educational purposes but it will also save much costs.

Some suggestions to improve the internet connectivity

I do not actually have much knowledge about the technicalities of the internet connection status in the university. But I have confidence that the system and network administrators working for it (proud to mention our co-college faculties and maintenance operators!) know the better ways to further develop the internet connectivity in the campus. That is, if the university would also be willing to cooperate and support what is best for it. Since the critical mass of IT resources is necessary to support the integration of information technology in the programs of study, the university shall uncover necessary resources to maximize the potential of IT so to transform higher education. Let me try some tips I have surfed through the net:

Planning. Any and all kinds of things would not work out successfully without having a ground plan from which all factors affecting the function of a certain object are being discussed carefully. This is actually where an organization begins towards project implementations. In the university case, I am sure that the ‘big people’ are on organizing ideas for a good scheme regarding the case. For this matter, the administration should know the strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities and analyze them to come up with a set of strategies. Needs and problems should be targeted and assessing the current status shall be assessed to achieve the vision of the university. I also suggest simulation to have actual testing, and students and faculties who are the most common users could participate into it. This shall also include determining the availability of internet service, the kind(s) of technology to be applied, the type(s) of infrastructure to put together, the manner of innovations to be used, and several steps and processes to be done.

In terms of bandwidth (the amount of data that a computer network can transfer in a certain amount of time, and is measured in kbps or mbps), I guess the university should tap an ISP which can provide a tolerable amount of bandwidth for the campus. (We should also check if the ISP is really committed in providing the exact amount of speed.) Of course we have come up with an assessment of the needs of the campus and pointed out the essential factors such as what type of usage do most internet users on the campus are doing. Are they surfing in the net for file-sharing only? Are they using much bandwidth for networking from one college or office to another? Does the research works of students and faculties focus more on plain texts and documents, or do we also have processes that involves greater amount of data such as audio-video streaming? By how much and how often? During what times of day do these tasks take place the most? Evaluating these with the help of operators and maintenance operators (since they know much about tracing the logs) could pinpoint the heaviest and ‘in-demand’ computer tasks that happens in the laboratories and offices and during which periods of the day will the network administrators shall control the amount of bandwidth supplied in the computer laboratories accessing the internet. Having oriented with the types of connection, we could also decide whether the ideal internet connection for the campus is DSL or Broadband, or shall we consider WiFi in some areas only or all throughout the campus. This is also to help maximize the use of internet and cut cost, that is, we all know the university is on tight budget. Since the access of net in various offices can be controlled, then we could apply some tweaks in the network connection so to optimize the network speed. There are some software programs available online that could boost internet connection speed.

I also liked the idea presented by some computer science experts at the University of Illinois about their so-called PERM (Practical End-host collaborative Residential Multihoming) which is a software framework allowing neighbors to pool their internet access and improve both performance and resilience. Although this idea is made for residential areas, I hope we could develop not necessarily the same framework but the same concept. For more about it, pls click this link http://news.illinois.edu/NEWS/06/0427internet.html
I could also imagine of applying the same thought to connecting the offices inside the campus or even other campuses or branches of the university.

Well, solving the inadequate supply of bandwidth is not enough if appropriate systems are not put in place to deal with issues of bandwidth optimization and management. Let us also take a look with the hardware and software infrastructure of the university. Are our computer systems in the campus robust enough to hold and process large amounts of data necessary for use? Because sometimes we have tendencies of getting the best and the fastest connection we could get while ignoring some matters regarding the right specifications of the computer units we have.

Do we have fault-tolerant computer systems which contain hardware, software, and power supply components to provide continuous service? Do we have high-availability computing or tools and technologies enabling system to recover quickly from crash? Why did I include disaster recovery plans of computer systems where in fact our main focus is internet connectivity? I think so because these system crash and failures that may happen could further affect the internet usage in the university, not only in terms of usage but also of financial matters. So in events of computer outage, we can run the university business. We have to improve our intranet structure in the campus, make it more reliable and robust, and support adequate services manned by faculties who can work at home checking the internet connection of the university from time to time so to keep an eye on it.

Firewalls could also help prevent unauthorized users from accessing the network. Having an Intrusion Detection System would aid in monitoring vulnerable points in network to detect and deter unauthorized users. I admit that there are various WiFi connections available in the campus offices. Some are security-enabled and few are open for access. Still we can find other private connections from other organizations outside the university. I must admit that restricting the use of these connections is good in the sense that whoever tries to connect to it will be asked for a password to be able to use it so to control internet traffic. There were times when we experience being connected but somehow after a few minutes somebody blocks the unit we are using so we could no longer share the same wireless connection. I guess this is being detected and done so to manage the amount of bandwidth. But what made us feel not good is that, there were also times when all of the available WiFi connections are not accessible by students who are using laptops hoping to catch some ‘leaks’ in the campus because all are secured. Our school being a center of education should also grant opportunities for students to use these kinds of technology. And if the university is just trying to control the internet traffic in the connection of the campus, I guess they do not have to prevent the students’ access because it is also our right to connect to the internet. I know other schools have campus-wide internet connection for every student, faculty, and staff to use. I guess we should start doing the same too.

I have also searched and found some tips in increasing broadband internet speed. Among these are: network latency can be reduced by increasing the request buffer size, altering the network task scheduler, and increasing the network transfer rate.

In general, the results of these tips would be best gained if there are also balanced planning, funding, and support not only by the people who man the systems but the university as a whole. Applying these concepts of better technology, infrastructure, and innovations does not necessarily mean we have to spend our budget for the newer resources. We just have to weigh and evaluate our needs and think some options that would match to our priorities.

References:

Encarta 2007
Encarta Dictionaries
Wikipedia
Laudon & Laudon Management Information Systems Chapter 1 Managing the Digital Firm Chapter 14 Information Systems Security and Control

Software allows neighbors to improve Internet access at no extra cost
http://news.illinois.edu/NEWS/06/0427internet.html

Quick guide to Internet connectivity issues in African universities
http://www.infodev.org/en/Publication.324.html

Best Ways to Improve Internet Speed
http://www.articleclick.com/Article/Best-Ways-to-Improve-Internet-Speed/942150

Network Speed Tweaks - Connection Speed
http://compnetworking.about.com/od/speedtweaks/Network_Speed_Tweaks_Connection_Speed.htm

How to Improve Your Broadband Connection over a LAN line
http://www.broadbandinfo.com/high-speed-internet/tweaks/how-to-improve-your-broadband-connection-over-a-lan-line.html

VicMan Software Best improve internet connection software
http://www.vicman.net/download/7841/

Making Connections
http://asumag.com/mag/university_making_connections_2/

Planning for Internet Connectivity: A Resource for Communities
http://www.communitydevelopment.uiuc.edu/toolbox/interCon.html

Information Technology Policy and Services
http://cio.osu.edu/policies/homeuse.html

Advantages Of Broadband Connection Washington
http://articles.directorym.com/Advantages_Of_Broadband_Connection_Washington-r974806-Washington.html

Transforming Higher Education Using Information Technology: First Steps
http://technologysource.org/article/transforming_higher_education_using_information_technology/

Global University System with Globally Collaborative Innovation Network
http://www.friends-partners.org/utsumi/Peace%20Gaming/Paper%20for%20TOJDE,%20Vol%206,%20No.%203%20copy/GUS+GCIN_D2_Abridged%20by%20Linda%20Israel_03-10-06%20copy/GUS+GCIN_D2_Abridged%20by%20L.I._v5.pdf

Updates in Major Paper 1

Adopted organization: NCCC

Updates:

Our group had chosen the said company from the profit-driven sector and had submitted company profile to the subject facilitator for the approval of the company from which we could conduct an industry analysis. The analysis is for partial requirements in the subject Management Information System I, which is to have an Information System (IS) Needs Assessment.

Eventually, the company was approved and the group was on its way to making the letter of permission from the said company.Fortunately, one of my group mates had an acquaintance with one of the employees in the company so we addressed the letter to our contact person. To make the story short, after several calls and texts (with hopeful hearts and crossing fingers), the company approved our letter (after days of waiting…). But our contact person requested that we just have to submit a list of questions for them to answer. I think, they just wanted to have an overview of what we shall be interviewing about (if there would be any interview… I just hope there would be) or what is our study all about. I had the same experience with our other company when I had a similar industry analysis in my previous subject. Yet it made me wonder is that all they would like to have? I do not think I would be satisfied. Constructing a major paper about an assessment of a certain company would not be that complete and substantial without ACTUAL visit. Whew. Well, I can not blame the company for that, too, since I already have the idea that most employees there would be very busy to entertain us. (But I hope they can find time for us! Tsk.) I just wish we could ask for a visit and observance some time.


And so, the group had just submitted a questionnaire for the company to respond. The questionnaire is made up of questions regarding the necessary information needed for the major paper to complete. This includes the company profile, assessment of the company’s strengths, weaknesses, threats, and opportunities in its major business operation… (I choose not to describe in detail. Hmm… )


On the first visit (for the data gathering), only one member was able to go at the office (since it was requested by the company contact person beforehand, that we just have to submit questions for them to answer) to submit the questions.


In the present, the group is making efforts to ask permission from the company to really conduct face-to-face interview and if possible, observe the operation of its MIS department. The group has also made rough drafts of the major paper's primary components which are the Introduction, Purpose, Scope, and Objectives of the Study, Background of the Company, and Methodology. Currently, we are waiting for further instructions from the company we adopted.


Until my next updates, fellas!


ICT related key areas in SONA 2009

[Note: This is a reply to Mr. G.'s thread in USEP-IC forum - Assignment 7: On the assumption that you heard/read the SONA of the President last month, (July 2000), identify at least 3 areas related to ICT and identify how these areas can improve our quality of life.]

I have read the full text of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s State of the Nation Address (SONA) which happened last July 27, 2009. Among the concerns of the Philippine government, I have noticed some points associated with information and communications technology (ICT) (which I think, should be one of my concerns, too, since I am a student of the same field), and here are some of them:

- creation of Department of ICT

- telecommunications issues (load)

- technology to anticipate natural calamities
- finance fully automated elections

I have taken note of these excerpts:

“Kung noong nakaraan, lumakas ang electronics, today we are creating wealth by developing the BPO and tourism sectors as additional engines of growth. Electronics and other manufactured exports rise and fall in accordance with the state of the world economy. But BPO remains resilient. With earnings of $6 billion and employment of 600,000, the BPO phenomenon speaks eloquently of our competitiveness and productivity. Let us have a Department of ICT.”

- Finally, the president made the urge to have a government sector that will take charge or concentrate on the country’s issues related to information and communications technology. In spite of the fact that we belong in third-world countries, we should not be limiting ourselves to reach the modernity and latest trends of technology that various countries around the world are using. If we could be competent in this field then it wouldn’t be hard on our part to use its benefits to our advantage. I am also glad that our nation’s economy is moving through business process outsourcing (BPO) which also helped many Filipinos acquire jobs here and abroad. This will aid unemployed people find jobs and eventually earn money to provide for their basic needs. In this case, BPO gives large opportunity especially for those new graduates who are venturing for some job vacancy. This means that we also have the skills and competitiveness that most foreign business companies are looking.


“Sa telecommunications naman, inatasan ko ang Telecommunications Commission na kumilos na tungkol sa mga sumbong na dropped calls at mga nawawalang load sa cellphone.”

- This is really one of the many things that greatly affect the mass of people especially in everyday life. Almost every Filipino, rich or poor, uses mobile phones as a means of communication. And almost everyone has (pretty sure!) experienced times when cellphone loads were stolen unexpectedly even it is not normally spent by the user. Most people say this is primarily due to cellphone promos or value-added services being offered by other companies. The telecommunication networks are most likely to be blamed since they are the ones which distribute cellphone loads. Fortunately, the government has found ways to prevent this further. Now the expiry dates of load amounts are being extended. And I’m pretty sure that most number of people will benefit from this. More and more users will have less worry on their load expiries and stolen load balance, thus making communication with their loved ones be it near or far, local or abroad, possible. That’s information traveled through communication devices.


“As a country in the path of typhoons and in the Pacific Rim of Fire, we must be prepared as the latest technology permits to anticipate natural calamities when that is possible…the mapping of flood- and landslide-prone areas is almost complete. Early warning, forecasting and monitoring systems have been improved, with weather tracking facilities in Subic, Tagaytay, Mactan, Mindanao, Pampanga.”

Definitely, the use of technology can be applied to forecast or monitor incoming typhoon signals, and the development of mapping systems in calamity-prone areas in the country. If we study the latest technology and its applications, we can surely benefit from it. I’m glad the government is now improving weather tracking facilities in some parts of the country. I hope in the near future, all cities will be able to have more improved and hi-tech weather tracking devices. As we can see, the Philippines is near the location where most intertropical convergence zone is created. Roughly speaking, if there are trade winds borne out of these zones, and may build up as typhoons, some areas have higher possibility of being hit by storms. Additionally, as what most seismologists would say that the technology that may be able to detect incoming earthquakes is not yet fully developed but is now being continually studied by experts. If and then we will be given the chance to have the latest technology for early warning devices, the top on the list who will benefit are those who live in calamity-prone areas including the local government units and also the experts who will study the changes of weather in the country and its possible aftershocks.


“As the seeds of fundamental political reform are planted, let us address the highest exercise of democracy, voting! In 2001, I said we would finance fully automated elections. We got it, thanks to Congress.”

-Finally, we will now have the chance of using technology to a mission-critical situation like elections. Not only we will use the benefits brought by its applications but it will also bridge the gap from those in the rural to urban areas. This would make a big step towards digital advancement. I am glad that it would finally take effect this coming 2010 elections (hopefully, for the first time in Philippine history). I just hope that the automation of the elections will not bring much fraud as what happens during our previous ones. (You can read more of my thoughts about election automation in http://charmainespeaksup.blogspot.com/2009/07/thoughts-about-automated-elections.html. Feel free to comment on it. Thanks anyway for the dudes who dropped their reactions to my post..)


For a country to be successful, it needs not only the good governance of the administration, but every cooperation and concern of its people.