Draft Internet Working Plan for 2002

March 8, 2002

Report to the National Committee

Introduction: The revolution will be networked. The Party’s political reach extends only as far as our ability to communicate and collaborate with each other, our allies and the general public. This is a plan to consolidate and reinforce our computing platform/infrastructure to support increased productivity and broader political impact.

Goals for political content of our Internet work:
* Offer web sites to district, national & related bodies
* Expand our presence in the national news cycle
* Enable secure file & database sharing across the Internet
* Implement an enterprise-quality database system

A four-Part technology focus to solidify our computer infrastructure:

1. World Wide Web (WWW)
2. Real Audio Media (RAM)

3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

4. Structured Query Language Databases (SQL)
(Don’t worry. These are explained below)

1. World Wide Web (WWW) objectives: We have the infrastructure to host all our various web sites and we plan to develop…
* Online daily for www.pww.org
* New www.yclusa.org & www.political affairs.net

* Sub-sites of www.cpusa.org for districts & commissions
* Internal web site for collaboration & productivity

* Web site promotion with e-mails & listservs

2. Real Audio Media (RAM) objectives: We have the infrastructure to broadcast audio programs on the web and we plan to deliver…
* Frequent postings of audio interviews to the web sites
* Special events live audio streaming on the web

* A new weekly show: ‘Changing America: the web radio show of the People’s Weekly World newspaper’

3. Virtual Private Network (VPN) Objectives: Our current data security extends only to the computers inside our National Office. Once any data crosses to the public internet it is no longer private. Yet our political/organizational work involves our trusted orga nizers using dozens of computers outside the office. By implementing a VPN, these regional organizers can access necessary data as if they were located at headquarters. With a VPN, we plan to…
* Centralize key documents & backup on central server
* Make central files & databases accessible from remote offices and authorized users via secure encrypted connection
* Enable national telecommuting

4. SQL Database objectives: We have a database infrastructure that is not robust enough to handle our needs. Maintaining double lists (locally and nationally) leads to wasted efforts, inaccuracy, delays and missed opportunities. SQL is the database standard for institutions that handle large amounts of inter-related information. It is the industrial-strength database infrastructure which will enable us to create…

* Centralized secure database (lists of supporters, contacts, VIPs, mass media, etc.)

* Central customer-relations management for subscribers, donors, consumers

* Central image & literature archive accessible for local use

* Access for organizers to reach our databases securely via the web

To help judge the realism of this plan, here is a description of…

Internet/Tech Deptartment Scope of Work:

* Facilitate Internet presence for all Party-related institutions

* Organize collective web content production and promotion

* Develop and maintain technical infrastructure for:

– Local Area Network with 35+ computers

– 20+ core software applications in 3+ operating systems

– 4 Linux servers (firewall, web, e-mail & testing)

– 12+ Internet Domains

– Phone system of 12+ trunks & 40+ phones

– Audio/visual equipment (acquisition, editing & studio systems)

* Support and training for base of 40+ users

* Strategic planning

2001 Internet/Tech Milestones:

* High-speed/high-security internet connection at HQ

* In-house servers: web, e-mail, & testing

* New sites for www.cpusa.org & www.pww.org

* Regular production of new web content

* Web-streaming audio

* Credit Card processing via the web

2001 Internet/Tech Shortcomings:

* Website promotion lagging

* Languishing communist-party@yahoogroups.com
* Web Editorial Board not activated

* Technical support backlog

* Website application server is frequently sluggish

Expenditure Recommendations for 2002:

1. Upgrade web server and fileserver hardware

2. Implement Virtual Private Network

3. Outsource SQL database development project

4. Web radio outfit: a portable package for live web-casting, sound recording gear for key reporters

5. Expand technical staff to meet existing & new workload

Postscript: The report of this Draft Working Plan was adopted by the February NC.


Addendum to the Draft Internet/Tech Department 2002 Working Plan

Status Report (2/28/02)

Since the February NC Meeting, we have moved forward with the first two expenditure recommendations made in the above Draft Working Plan: 1. We have purchased equipment for the upgrade of the web server and fileserver 2. We have purchased equipment for the Virtual Private Network. We estimate completion of these upgrades by mid-March. Attached below is a detailed summary of these upgrades.

A search is underway for a consultancy for the SQL database project. We prefer not to outsource this project if the talent exists within the Party. If anyone has any leads on a member who could possibly do SQL database development work as a volunteer or as staff, please contact us. We will also consider any pro bono, volunteer, or non-profit SQL database developers that you may know about.

Since the Internet/Tech Department is just over a year old, we are still figuring out the best way to organize our work collectively and politically. Various comrades gave us feedback after the NC meeting, like asking for a more discussion about our online political work, questioning whether outsourcing the database development is wise, and whether we should provide an infrastructure to securely access our organizational databases from outside the national office.

Internally, our Department is working to sharpen the political focus of the web sites and move to a higher level of promotional work. Our technical staff has been hard-pressed to keep up with an expanding workload, so we are implementing a new system for more efficient job scheduling and follow up. But most critically, we are putting out a call for job applicants for our technical staff. If you know of anyone who might be interested in joining our tech team to help with carrying out and shaping the Internet/Tech plan, please let us know. We have even more exciting plans that are waiting in the wings for want of adequate staffing. Volunteers are welcome and we can utilize volunteers outside New York for many of our functions.


Expenditure Proposal for Network Infrastructure Upgrades By the Internet/Tech Department 2/13/02

As proposed in the Internet/Tech Department Plan of Work, network infrastructure upgrades are a key component of the technology strategy for the Party. The upgrades are in three areas: File Server, Web Server and VPN (Virtual Private Network). The upgrades form an inter-related technology base that will enable the organizational and communication advances described in the Plan of Work.

Summary of the Upgrades:

1. NAS (Network Attached Storage): The current file servers on the 23rd St LAN are aging and we can expect device failures at any time. Additionally, the data has outgrown the storage capacity of the existing servers. Finally, the existing servers use single-drive storage meaning that a drive failure results in catastrophic data loss.

The proposed solution is to purchase an NAS device, which would have 240 Gigabytes of redundant storage. The built-in disk redundancy provides for data safety even in the case of a drive failure. This will allow ample and secure file storage for all users on the LAN and all remote users (through the Virtual Private Network)

2. VPN (Virtual Private Network): Our current firewall protects the 23rd St LAN from the security threats of the public Internet. At the same time, it prevents our own trusted users from accessing our files from outside the firewall. This has not been a big problem in the past when the majority of Party computer work was done inside the building. But now a substantial portion of work is spread across non-residential Officers, NC members, National Commissions, etc., and the production of the PWW is more and more shared between the Chicago and New York facilities.

The general solution is to transform our LAN (Local Area Network) into a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN is like having a LAN that reaches across the public Internet. The VPN will allow our authorized trusted users to securely access the necessary data from computers located ANYWHERE on the Internet. Remote users will see the file servers as if they were sitting at a computer on our LAN. But behind the scenes, the data is encrypted and transported via the public Internet, safe from prying eyes.

Typically, a VPN gateway is added to each LAN joined together in the VPN. In our case, the specific recommendation is to add an enterprise-quality VPN gateway to the 23rd St LAN and a less-featured VPN gateway to the Chicago office LAN. The enterprise-quality VPN gateway adds bandwidth management for guaranteeing critical data streams such as streaming audio. It also adds an out-of band management feature for enhanced defense against Denial of Service (DOS) attacks. These features are not critically needed for the Chicago office LAN.

3. Web server upgrade: Since the decision to serve all of our institutional web sites from in-house, we have centralized the web sites cpusa.org, pww.org, yclusa.org, intpubnyc.org, political affairs, reference center, and soon the web sites of the districts and commissions. The combined traffic to these sites has resulted in frequent sluggishness and occasional outages of the single web server that hosts them all. The cpusa.org traffic equals the rest combined. Industry journals report that average users will not wait more than 10 seconds for a web page before they cancel or click away. We know that we are losing a substantial number of visitors to long wait times.

The proposed solution is to purchase two higher speed web servers to replace the single existing slower server. One web server would be dedicated to the cpusa.org site only and the other web server would handle the other sites. In the process, we will be able to implement a backup server for each (the current primary would become the cpusa.org backup and the current firewall would become the other backup). The net result would at least quadruple our traffic capacity and reduce wait times to normal levels.

Taken together, the upgrades amount to a $10,715 (before tax) and include the necessary hardware and maintenance contracts.


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