Paper

This is an update on the proposed arrangements for staff and student printing across the Campus from August. Some time ago, I wrote a post to outline our new strategy, and another one about the suggested choice of paper.

As a reminder, over the past couple of years we have been moving towards a new print strategy based around using the Canon multi function devices (MFD’s) across the Campus, and the “print@RGU” facility. By the end of August, we will also have moved all student printing across to Canon so that for the first time all staff and students are using the same print fleet.

As part of this move, we have been looking at the type of paper being used. Since staff and students are sharing the same print fleet and can print from any printer, we need to standardise on a single grade of paper to be used across the Campus to avoid confusion and additional costs. A recycled grade of paper has been trialled for a while and is currently in use by staff across a number of Schools and Departments. However, feedback from students was that for various (good) reasons they wished to have a grade of paper that was white and it is not therefore possible to use the current choice of recycled grade as standard grade of paper across the institution.

The Print Strategy Steering Group has considered this at length and has concluded that the best choice of paper in the first instance is not a recycled grade but a grade of “everyday” white paper which is sourced from sustainable forests. This still ensures that we are taking into account environmental considerations with regard to our paper choice, but will allow us to move to a shared fleet of staff and student printers without the added complications of trying to finalise a choice of recycled paper at the same time. It is also a grade of paper which can be used by the Gatehouse (our central printing department) and therefore means that all standard printing across the University will be using the same grade of paper.

Once the operation of the new print fleet has settled down, it will still be our intention to revisit the paper choice and evaluate in a more measured way the potential to use a recycled grade of paper as our core standard across the University.

A user group has been set up to look at the operation of the new print fleet, and arrangements for replenishment of toner and paper, and any updated guidance / procedures will be advised to staff as soon as they are finalised.

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Update on “Riverside East” IT

I’ve written a couple of posts {here and here} about the work involved in providing the IT facilities in the new Riverside East building and this is just by way of an update.

As I mentioned previously, the main priority is to ensure that the supporting IT network cabling and equipment is ready in time for each move into the building. There has been other final construction and snagging work taking place in the building at the same time, but IT staff have been able to work with this and get the IT desktop kit, networks and phones ready in time for the Library, School of Pharmacy and Life Sciences, School of Engineering, and the “IDEAS” (Innovation, Design And Sustainability) Research Institute all of whom have now moved in to the building. The next School to move will be the School of Computing at the end of the week.

There is a core group of IT staff involved in these activities, and we have to schedule their work over the next two months to meet both the occupancy schedule of new / refurbished buildings and other important IT priorities elsewhere in the University. Their overall priorities over July/August are as follows:

1) Moving the School of Computing into Riverside East.
2) The datacentre move. Over the next two weeks, many of the same IT staff will be busy with the datacentre move which we have to give priority to so that it is complete ahead of resits and the start of Semester.
3) Completing all the network resilience in Riverside East.
4) Commissioning the WiFi system in Riverside East.
5) Working with suppliers to complete the Audio Visual fitout of all the teaching spaces in Riverside East.
6) Commissioning the IT networks and AV facilities which are part of the refurbishment of Aberdeen Business School.

I know that many of you are keen to see the WiFi system operational in the new building, and IT staff will fit that in as soon as they can, but they have to focus on some of the other work first to allow others to meet key deadlines, and to protect the overall Campus IT infrastructure. Will keep you posted!

Student Email is moving to Office 365

The student e-mail service at RGU is provided by Microsoft, to date under their “Live@Edu” platform – many other Universities also use this platform – it gives students a high capacity e-mail account, and access to additional features such as the “SkyDrive” and associated web versions of Microsoft Office. As part of Microsoft’s global product and service upgrades they are migrating this service onto the Office 365 platform. We’ve agreed the migration date with Microsoft and the migration itself starts tomorrow. If you are a student, hopefully you will have seen the information notices, but if not you will find more information here.

Please check this and make sure you follow any revised instructions to access the new service. Note that passwords for the e-mail part of the service are now going to be managed separately from the passwords for Skydrive!

You’ll see that the look and feel of the web mail service will change. The first part of the migration will bring all students across to Office 365 on to the “Office 2010” web version. Once they have all been migrated to this, they will be moved by Microsoft to the “Office 2013” version.

The first part of the migration starts tomorrow, but students will be moved over a period of 5 days. This is the standard approach from Microsoft because of the volume of users, so please read the instructions so that you know how to access the new service once your account has been migrated.

Moving Datacentre – next two weeks

There have been a couple of postings about moving our servers into a new datacentre (Green ICT, How to Move 160 Servers). Well, now the time has come! As a reminder, we plan to move all of our servers out of the Faculty of Health and Social Care Server room into a refurbished datacentre shared with the University of Aberdeen and Aberdeen College. Over the past few months IT Services staff have been preparing the ground, making sure that the network connections are all working and that the services being moved are ready. Some of this work is highly specialised – one of the essential components to link the network had not been properly configured and had to be returned to Japan for further work, a round trip of 3 weeks. IT Services did also find that the configuration of some services had to be changed to allow them to operate in the new datacentre, and you will have seen a few small outages to allow these services to be updated.

The moves are going to happen over the next 2 weeks. ITS are not moving everything in one go, but will carry out the move in 2 or 3 stages. Some of the services ITS will be able to move without any downtime at all, some will require some downtime which is unavoidable.

The first batch are going to move this week, but the main move is planned to be the weekend of 27th July. That weekend in particular will be a substantial move and there is likely to be some downtime over the weekend, so do keep an eye on the information notices which will be issued and plan your work and studies around this.

Once this is complete, we will have removed a significant risk from our IT infrastructure by being able to decommission the old server room (see When Things Get Hot). We will also greatly improve our environmental credentials. One key measure for datacentres is “Power Usage Effectiveness”, or PUE. This is a measure of the total amount of power used by the datacentre, divided by the raw power used just by the servers – and the reason this figure is important is that older datacentres use a lot of extra power just to keep the servers cool. So, for example, if you have servers consuming 100kW of power, and if you need another 100kW of air conditioning to keep them cool, then the datacentre is using 200kW of power in total. The PUE is 200/100 = 2. We want a figure which is as close to 1 as possible – the lower the better.

In the shared datacentre we’re aiming for an average PUE of 1.2 or less, and have already reached figures as low as 1.08 at times which means we are using much less additional power to cool the servers. That sort of figure is close to Facebook’s big new datacentre in Sweden  and we anticipate we will reduce our carbon output by around 230,000 Kg per annum.

RGU Web – Inside and Outside

Go back 12 years or so, and RGU’s web presence was pretty much a static web site, with some core information on there but many parts of the University largely unrepresented. Around 2002, a major web redesign project created a simple content editor, a relatively straight forward overall design and the ability of a wide cross section of the University community to create and populate web pages within the overall web site. I remember clearly that our biggest concern at the time was how to galvanise the effort across the University to create the level of web presence that we were looking for. I needn’t have worried – we had made the process of putting information on the web so easy that everybody jumped on very quickly and we actually ended up with the opposite problem. We had too much information, it was not all co-ordinated across departments, there was some duplication and much content was not being kept up to date following the initial enthusiasm. If I remember correctly we had over 12,000 pages on our web site, of which probably 11,500 were rarely accessed.

Anyway, we set about a major redesign of our web site back in 2007/8, put a web content team in place and control of content and over a continuous process since then created the web site that you see today for RGU. That web site is deliberately focussed on the external world – prospective students, parents, business partners, the community and so on. Whilst creating it, we moved across / redesigned content on the old web site. However, a great deal of the content on the old web site had been created with our internal University community in mind and this remained on the old web site which was now affectionately called “www4” as it had been renamed to distinguish it from the main web site.

The next stage in our journey was to create a staff and student portal which would, amongst other things, be the new home for the internal content marooned on www4. I wrote about that portal previously.

We’ve made good progress in moving that content across – if you are a member of staff or a student, go and have a look {web link to RGyoU}. Now we are undertaking the final push to get all the remaining content areas removed from www4 and replaced with something on the Portal. After that, www4 will be turned off in the next 2 to 3 months – and that will be the end of an era.

Once www4 has been turned off, we will have externally facing web content on our main web site, and internally facing web content accessed through the Portal via your RGU username and password. We also have web based content on Moodle, but that is information that is primarily associated with our teaching and learning programmes. It’s important to avoid confusion that the right information is in the right environment (web site, Portal, Moodle), and I will be working with colleagues to make sure we have effective arrangements to oversee this.

If you want a nostalgic look at one of our www4 pages – here (ironically) is the old web page for the web redevelopment project.  But be quick – it will disappear soon!

 

Seven IT Related “Themes” for RGU

RGU has just finished the main stages of its annual University planning process. The major activity in this process is that all Schools and Departments lay out their forward action areas in the context of the overall University strategic aims and priorities. This year’s context includes a revision to the University strategy and an incremental update to the IT Strategy which I’ll share soon.

I then reviewed all the School and Departmental plans for anything that related to the use of IT and after discussion with IT Managers and colleagues on SPARG  we’ve all agreed to approach these IT requirements under seven overall major themes. These are key to delivering the IT Strategy, support the individual school and departmental plans, but do so in the context of a longer term approach which will bring greater consolidation and integration across key parts of the University’s IT estate.

At this stage we have not finalised how these will be led across the University but we have agreed that most of them should be led as key institutional change projects, with significant technology enablement support from IT, but not as “IT” projects per se. As we start to firm up on how these themes will be taken forward, I’ll provide ongoing updates and also  go into more detail in relation to each theme.

Here are the 7 themes:

Engagement Life Cycle – Student, Staff and other stakeholders.

  • Optimising key administrative processes across the University to create the best stakeholder experience
  • Ensuring that collated information about all interaction with each stakeholder can be brought together and effectively used to enhance the stakeholder experience

Technology in Teaching and Learning

  • Ensuring that the deployment and use of technology across the Campus effectively supports enhancement to teaching learning and assessment

Information and Knowledge

  • A coherent approach to where information is located and presented across web based information environments
  • Research data management
  • Document management
  • Provision of management information

Communication

  • How the range of technology supported communication can support the overall communication strategy of the University, both internally and externally

Identity Management

  • As the University activities and user community becomes increasingly diverse, an identity management solution is key to ensuring that we are able to effectively provide each person with access to the resources to which they are entitled and can manage their relationship with the University as it changes and evolves.

Use of University Services

  • This theme will expand the use of technology to make it easier for users to access to a whole range of University services using, for example, smart cards online and mobile solutions as appropriate.

Infrastructure

  • Underpinning all the above themes, there is a substantial programme of work taking place to upgrade many aspects of the underlying IT intrastructure. This will include ongoing server upgrades, network fitout of the new buildings, new wireless network, and moving into new datacentres.

 

First Move

First Move

Well, it’s the 30th May 2013, and the Library staff and books have moved into the new Library Tower in Riverside East, and this is the first day that they’ve opened to staff and students.

In a recent post I explained what was involved in preparing the IT infrastructure behind the scenes, so this post is by way of an update and also a huge thanks. Many IT staff from IT Services and from the Faculty IT&AV team, have worked immensely hard over the last 2-3 weeks on fitting out all the IT facilities and I am grateful to their commitment in getting everything to this stage. Thanks also to staff from the Library, Estates and various contractors for their assistance.

With some final construction work still ongoing in the building, and furniture and book moves happening at the same time, it’s been a challenge to schedule everything and work around issues and snags that have been arising on a daily basis. But over the past few weeks the IT teams have commissioned the network infrastructure required to service the Library and front desk and deployed around 400 workstations into the Library ready for use. There are some last minute issues with power connections at the moment which are preventing the workstations from being powered on today but hopefully that will be resolved quickly and everything is then ready to go.

Now that the IT in the Library is finished, the IT teams will turn their attention to the rest of the building. There is a schedule over the summer for staff moving from the three Schools into the building and the IT teams will be working ahead of these moves to prepare the network and install workstations. Priority will be given to this, and the installation of IT equipment into the various teaching spaces in the building will fit around preparation for these staff moves. The IT network will also be required to support other functions in the building, such as the building management system which is used to manage a range of building services and that will be scheduled too.

Finally, the WiFi system also has to be installed in the building. The system has already been procured and delivered and IT Services will start to deploy this once all the significant remaining building work is complete and the priority areas of the main IT Network are ready.

It’s hard to convey the scale of all this work to a non specialist. When talking to colleagues in the Library, I was interested to hear them refer to “kilometres” as a measure of how many books they were moving. That’s a great measure and something that you can visualise. I wonder what the IT equivalent is – kilometres of networking cabling? Or alternatively who can suggest how many kilometres there are in a terabyte?