From the Desk: Dan Calarco says IU was put between a Box and a hard place

My colleagues at UITS and I recognize this is probably the worst possible time to change any technology. This is a time when everyone needs the tech to just work, and to work the same way it did before the coronavirus pandemic upended our lives in countless ways.

Dan CalarcoView print quality image
Dan Calarco. Photo courtesy of UITS

When Box came to us with a renewal that would end unlimited storage and result in a 1,000 percent price increase over three years, we were put between a rock and a hard place: undertake a very disruptive move or pay a price that would likely make Box the most expensive single piece of software at IU. It also meant that we would have to move fast to be able to get IU's massive amount of data out before we were hit with a huge financial penalty.

IU's contract with Box will expire next year, at which point we will need to have all data copied, or risk losing it. We were asked by faculty and the administration to try to move data this summer to avoid disrupting the academic mission of the university during the semester, and we take that charge very seriously. As a result, we in UITS are working to build and contract for the tools we need to move a massive amount of data with the least amount of downtime and disruption.

The coronavirus pandemic has complicated this move as well. As people have stopped physically commuting to offices, that car traffic that was once on the streets has now become data traffic, bytes moving over fiber to the cloud. Because of that increase in data traffic, the speeds to transfer information from Box to Microsoft OneDrive and Google Drive have slowed, so the move may take longer than we hoped. A longer migration means we need to start sooner to finish on time.

If it seems like we are rushing, it is because we are, and the situation neccesitates that we do. We are holding webinars, creating videos, developing FAQs and crafting Knowledge Base documents -- and doing much of this on the fly. IU is not alone in this journey as many of our major university peers are working to quickly achieve the same exit, and several are reusing plans and tools that we have shared.

Many have asked how this move fits into a bigger picture, and how we can avoid a situation like this in the future. In terms of bigger picture, UITS has long pursued a best-in-breed approach to software. As we face increased cost pressures, UITS will focus more on platforms rather than products. Microsoft and Google are both platforms that have multiple products that integrate better when used together, which should drive greater economies of scale. But it's also important to recognize this new normal: The move to the cloud means that vendors can change pricing at each new contract, and we are taking steps like negotiating longer contracts to have greater certainty for longer.

We appreciate your grace and understanding throughout this difficult transition. We are here; if you need help or have questions, please don't hesitate to review our documentation on storage.iu.edu, or contact our support centers at ithelp@iu.edu.

Dan Calarco is chief of staff for the IU Office of the Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer, and chair of the Box task force.