During the next couple of months, Fort Benning active-duty military and Department of Defense civilian computer users will be part of an Armywide process that will be undergoing significant changes to computer systems.
“There’s going to be a lot of things happening over the next three to six months in the world of IT at Fort Benning,” said Paul Yates, director of the Network Enterprise Center.
The first transition will be changing from Windows Vista to Windows 7, and while the upgrade to the newer operating system occurs, Fort Benning will also be getting a new virtual private network. Although affecting only 500 people on Fort Benning, the new VPN will allow users who use laptops to get on Fort Benning’s VPN with only their common access card.
The move to the new VPN will occur over the next 90 days, but Yates said the changes on the user side won’t be too noticeable. Once users are on the new VPN, they will select from a dropdown box labeled “CAC VPN,” he said.
To load the VPN software update, users with laptops must bring their computers in to Fort Benning on July 30 or after, connect them to the Fort Benning network and leave them turned on, but logged off, for 24 hours. After the systems begin using the new VPN, users will be able to keep their laptops up-to-date by logging into the Fort Benning network using the VPN. Yates said this will make sure all of the military-specific patches and updates are up-to-date and working.
Users will gain more features with Windows 7, he said.
Newer features include touch and tap upgrades, jump lists, remote media streaming, improved battery life and performance improvements, according to the Microsoft website.
Although released in 2009, the DoD waited to migrate to Windows 7 to make sure the operating system met DoD standards before passing it on to users, Yates said.
He said new computers and software have to go through NEC because public domain computers and software is different than what is required for military use.
Yates said the NEC staff trained on Windows 7 for the past year and will be able to handle user issues. Users interested in learning how to operate the new system can do so through free guides on the Internet.
The other major IT change for users at Fort Benning is the migration of the Army email system to the Enterprise Email system.
The Army and DoD began migrating email addresses and calendars to the Defense Information Systems Agency servers in early 2011, which will manage the Microsoft Exchange 2010 service.
Not all issues will be handled by NEC locally, but in most instances, by DISA.
“If your computer is at Fort Benning and it has a problem connecting to the e-mail system, that’s my responsibility,” Yates said.
He said problems with the email system itself, will be handled by DISA. Also affected by the new enterprise email system are Blackberry phones. The email and calendar system for it will also be managed by DISA.
Benefits for users of the new email system include 4 GB of storage, archiving and the ability to email larger sized attachments. With archiving, users will no longer have to archive their own email — the system will do it for them.
Another benefit includes having individuals maintain one email address, no matter where they are, so long as they are in the military or connected to the DoD, Yates said. This means even if a Soldier is deployed, they will retain the same email address instead of acquiring a new one.
Those under the Enterprise Email system will eventually be able to access a global address list, which includes all branches of military across all installations.
According to the DISA website, the migration to Enterprise Email will include 1.4 million unclassified network users and 200,000 secret network users.