The Business Challenge
Digital campuses are becoming the new normal for universities, and for
Universities compete globally for students, faculty and staff, and those that
adapt quickly to the digital world have a big advantage.
Students and faculty have very high digital expectations. Students are more
tech-savvy and better connected than any generation before them. They
bring a bevy of mobile devices to campus and expect internet access to be
ubiquitous. If their digital expectations are not met, they make it known on
Faculty and staff have discerning digital tastes too. They scrutinize and evaluate
a university’s technology before accepting a position. Their teaching methods,
research and tenure depend on it.
Many universities are implementing digital strategies to recruit students,
faculty and staff, and Northeastern Illinois University (NEIU) is one of them.
NEIU’s strategies include an esports incubator, artificial intelligence (AI) and
The university’s challenge was modernizing its IT infrastructure to create
a flexible environment conducive to these technologies and future ones. Sam
Kann, CIO at NEIU, said that meant getting out of the data center business.
“We’re a university, not a data center,” Kann said. “We need to focus on
transforming technology and delivering advanced IT services, leaving the data
center business to the experts.”
For NEIU, the experts are at ServerCentral, a managed IT solutions provider.
ServerCentral helped NEIU modernize its IT infrastructure from the ground
up — literally. The solution includes dark fiber in the ground and a hybrid
There was one more challenge. NEIU’s on-premise IT infrastructure (100 virtual
machines and 90 TBs) had to be migrated to ServerCentral’s cloud within
30 days. That’s when the university’s backup solution expired, and Kann
didn’t want to renew it.
“It was a backup solution, not a cloud data management solution,” he said.
“We were about to lay the foundation for esports, AI and machine learning.
Why bother unless these technologies are always available?”
The Veeam Solution
ServerCentral gave NEIU a modern, hybrid-cloud infrastructure featuring Veeam
Backup & Replication so new and emerging technologies are always available.
Cloud Data Management™, a feature of Veeam, empowers universities with
a solution that drives rapid digital transformation.
“Veeam and ServerCentral enabled us to move forward with our digital strategies,
giving us the tech credibility to attract the best and brightest students, faculty
and staff,” Kann said.
One of NEIU’s digital strategies is creating an esports incubator to offer
students more than a just a cool place to play video games. Most commonly,
esports involves multiplayer video game competitions that can draw millions
of viewers worldwide. NEIU is turning gaming into a learning experience.
By partnering with software companies, NEIU will offer experiential learning
through gaming technology. Students will have the opportunity to create
their own games and learn how to commercialize their ideas with help from
students in the business school.
“Esports is more than gaming; it’s also about business,” Kann said. “Students
will be marketable when they graduate, and some may get gaming patents
before they leave.”
NEIU is also partnering with universities, including Oral Roberts University, so
students can tap into AI and machine learning. They’ll develop interactive kiosks
that sync with smart devices to provide self-service technology. The kiosks
could act as printing stations for class assignments or navigational assistants
for someone trying to find a building on campus. Kiosks can also automate
the check-in process at the student health center and financial aid office.
“Our sole focus is student experience and convenience,” Kann said. “With
these technologies, our university will stand tall among others, putting us in
an excellent position to increase enrollment and retention.”
Enrollment and retention aren’t the only things that will increase. As NEIU
continues its digital transformation, ServerCentral’s cloud will host additional
technologies, and Veeam Cloud Data Management will make sure they’re
“Our data will grow exponentially,” Kann said. “Keeping that data available is
critical to our existence and our advancement.”
NEIU’s new hybrid cloud saves time and money too. Migrating the university’s
IT infrastructure was completed within the tight 30-day window with Veeam
replication, and ServerCentral met the university’s fixed budgetary requirements
by converting several capital expenses (CapEx) into operating expenses (OpEx).
NEIU is paying 48% less each month in IT costs.
“We have the tech credibility required to attract and retain students and
faculty — and for nearly half of what we spent when we managed our own
data center,” Kann said.
- Gives NEIU the tech credibility to recruit and retain students, faculty and staff
Digital technology is remaking higher education, requiring universities to
stay digitally relevant in order to compete for students, faculty and staff.
ServerCentral’s cloud is hosting new and emerging technology for NEIU,
and cloud data management from Veeam helps make the technology
- Supports the creation of an esports incubator for learning through gaming
NEIU’s esports incubator will connect students with experienced
professionals offering advice about creating new technology, obtaining
funding and securing patents.
- Converts a CapEx into an OpEx and saves 48% each month in IT costs
So much of IT in higher education involves working within fixed budgets.
NEIU’s new infrastructure not only meets budgetary restrictions, it also costs
nearly half as much.
ServerCentral is a managed IT infrastructure solutions provider. Since 2000,
leading technology, finance, health care and e-commerce firms have chosen
ServerCentral to design and manage their IT infrastructures in data centers
across North America, Europe and Asia. Whether it’s colocation, managed
services or a cloud, ServerCentral designs the optimal solution for each client.