At First Tee, an organisation focused on teaching kids lessons in leadership and integrity through golf, one would think the day is filled with thoughts of drivers, pitching wedges and putters. But the chief concern for IS director Raul Ramos is network security, redundancy and reliability.
First Tee, an arm of the PGA's World Golf Foundation, is at the World Golf Village, in St. Augustine, Florida. The village also houses golf's Hall of Fame, hotels and housing developments, all surrounded by lush golf courses.
Ramos landed at the World Golf Foundation as employee number 11 nine years ago, when the village was just taking shape. He helped build the network infrastructure for the Hall of Fame and other village facilities, leveraging 20 years of experience planning and implementing technology projects for the Air Force (including for NASA, on contract jobs that frequently brought him to Florida).
Four years ago, Ramos moved to First Tee to help get its IT infrastructure off the ground. Some common infrastructure - such as T1s for Internet access - are shared among village facilities, but Ramos has final say over most technology matters.
Ramos, who has a staff of three and is looking for a fourth, supports 45 employees in the main office, plus six regional managers around the country.
He's a jack-of-all-trades, overseeing development of a variety of efforts, including an automated backup and recovery system, an online database for tracking program participants in the organisation's 200-plus chapters and a Gigabit Ethernet-capable network.
An eye on the futureAlways looking forward, Ramos says he made First Tee wire its office for Gigabit Ethernet during construction even though it didn't have a Gigabit router or switch at the time.
"We did the wiring for it then, so that when the other technology [routers, switches, network interface cards] came down in price, we'd be able to upgrade without rewiring," he says.
Ramos also applied such foresight back when the village was under construction. With an eye on growth, he had his team bury a fibre ring around the lake at the complex's centre. To prevent having to dig up the ring, now under the Walk of Champions, he strategically placed fibre points of presence, which he blended in with the surrounding architecture.
Ramos recognised another advantage of fibre: It doesn't conduct electricity and so is not susceptible to lightning strikes. Worrying about the weather is as much a part of his job as managing the network.
For hurricane protection, Ramos built a backup system using Windows Server 2003 shadow copy and replication technology that stores everything - from laptop My Document folders to server data - on a 1 rack-unit high server with a terabyte of storage. As he found a couple of times in 2004, he can easily yank out the server and bring it to safer ground during evacuations.
Ramos is applying his prudence to a security project. He's rolling out laptops with fingerprint ID systems for added security on the road and giving each travelling First Tee user Sprint wireless broadband cards for Internet access.
He has not made WiFi available at First Tee headquarters, because of potential security risks and interference from village shops and offices.
Devoted to community
Ramos is nothing if not dedicated. In addition to building up the computer and network infrastructure of the fledgling organisation, he helped build the multimedia exhibits for the Hall of Fame and took classes on installing and maintaining the IMAX theatre there.
Such are the tasks a golfing enthusiast might relish - helping to preserve and promote the game - but not Ramos. Rather than golfing, even at the nearby TPC Sawgrass course with its famed 17th green, Ramos would rather be serving the community, he says.
That's why you'll find a patrol car parked at his house, a vehicle he needs as deputy sheriff for St. John's County (which includes St. Augustine). "A lot of people complain about the community, but do little," Ramos says. "Police work is my service to the community."
Ramos, a fully qualified police officer with first-responder training, doesn't just play sheriff when he feels like it. He works 75 to 100 hours per month, mostly on weekends and during states of emergency. "We can burn out or let technology drive us crazy," Ramos says. "Law enforcement is my break."
It also gives him some great stories. For instance, he likes to recount the time he came upon a rollover accident. The driver was still strapped in, trying to restart the vehicle as if nothing had happened.
First Tee, with its mission of teaching children life skills, clearly fits Ramos' community-service bent.
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