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With researchers working on continents around the globe, the University of Notre Dame needs a sophisticated data transmission system to communicate with its faculty members, staff and students.

It has that and more with Metronet, which allows on-campus researchers to hold real-time video conferences with their counterparts in far-flung locations such as Antarctica or even multi-site meetings with scientists working in Africa.

Officials at Notre Dame say Metronet has been a boon to research and teaching efforts at the university, which supported Metronet's creation. Metronet allows the university to transmit an average of roughly five terabytes of data a day - the equivalent of about 7,406 CDs.

"Like many universities, our research and staff are in locations well beyond the footprint of our campus in South Bend," says Dewitt Latimer, Notre Dame's chief technology officer and deputy chief information officer. He said Metronet helps faculty and staff share huge amounts of data for research projects.

"We maintain several gig links to connect with our national and international peers," he says. "We also have disaster recovery and hot sites at three data centers spread throughout South Bend and we maintain redundant links to all those facilities." By using Metronet instead of a commercial carrier, Latimer says the savings to Notre Dame have been "substantial."

"As you go through any initiative and start costing things out, it seems like high-speed networking is always one of those (financial) deal breakers," he says.

"Disaster recovery is a good example."

"There are lots of schools that would love to have a secondary data center, disconnected from their campus. But the second you throw in the networking component, it becomes very problematic and very expensive so a lot of schools just don't do it."

"By not being burdened with those expensive networking services, it allows us a lot of freedom to execute and do things we might not otherwise be able to do," he says. At St. Mary's, a women's college, which is just across the street from Notre Dame, Metronet has saved the school a significant amount of money.

Doug McKeown, St. Mary's systems and network administrator, says the college uses Metronet "as a pipe to get downtown to get to another provider. We couldn't have done that without Metronet."

"They allowed us to increase our Internet connection speed for a lot less money than rolling our own," he says. St. Mary's became a subscriber to Metronet last fall. "It's been very worthwhile."

"Next, we will be moving into disaster recovery and business continuity," he says, noting that St. Mary's recently bought space in Indianapolis so the school's data will be safe in case a natural disaster strikes.

McKeown says St. Mary's also uses Metronet to connect with I-Light 2, an Indiana fiber optic network that will allow the college to move "much more data to our business continuity and disaster recovery site."