Interview: How MGT Cyber helped HBCU Tuskegee University

CASE STUDIES

In a recent interview with a few of our cyber security leaders, we got candid about cyber security system upgrade costs, benefits, and challenges. We talked with IT professionals on the ground at Tuskegee University, ranked #4 by U.S. News and World Report in its Best Historically Black College and Universities (HBCU) 2022 listing.    


Who was the client and what was the goal for this project? 

Ashok Pilla (MGT Cyber Security NOC Manager): Our client is Tuskegee University in Alabama. The goal was to refresh their network gear across their entire campus. They wanted to update their network infrastructure. We replaced all their old comms switches with new CISCO switches. Our contract officially started February 22nd, 2021, and ended September 23rd, 2021, about 160 days later.  


What was the cost of this project and how did it benefit the client? 

The cost of this project was in the millions of dollars.   

We increased infrastructure speeds to 10 gigabytes. We also identified other areas the client should enhance. We documented this so that they can enhance their systems in the future. In all of the engagements, we aim to provide as much value and subject matter expertise taking the role of trusted advisor.  

Our team improved overall network performance through new CISCO gear, further reducing required maintenance costs by setting up systems to monitor client-owned devices remotely. This allows us to identify any issues before they turn into a disaster.  

Our proactive approach to threat monitoring means reduced maintenance cost, network latency, and downtime. By replacing Tuskegee’s security systems, we improved their resilience towards hacking.  

Our new infrastructure gave them POE (power on ethernet) capabilities as well as industry-regulation level security. We made the WI-FI 9x faster through our switches implementation. Today, Tuskegee has the ability to produce an enhanced experience for its entire community through better security and WI-FI connectivity. It has been a great honor for us to work with them and improve the experience for everyone.   


Did you face any challenges or unique situations during this project? 

Absolutely. We faced many challenges, but in terms of unique challenges, we faced only a handful. We found gaps in Tuskegee’s IT systems documentation, so it required our team to spend more time learning about what was in the client’s IT environment before the first switch deployment (of 290) switches was activated.  

Also, our team had to delicately navigate several inter-university departments with different timelines and IT objectives. We focused on communication and transparency to find solutions that worked for all stakeholders.  

As an HBCU, some of the more historic buildings’ network infrastructure was difficult to access.  

Vishal Maheshwaram (Network Engineer): The client’s systems were constantly surprising us every time we performed testing or analyses. I enjoyed the challenge of coming up with solutions on the fly and with creativity.  

Halley Chiluvuri (Network Security Engineer): Ultimately, we were able to complete everything on time, which makes this a great success story.  

The challenges are part of the fun, and Ash says, “It has been a great honor for us to work with them and improve the experience for their staff and students. The significance of what Tuskegee represents wasn’t lost on our team either, and it was a pleasure to enhance and further protect this great institution that was established before the Civil Rights Act of 1964. ”