A fresh start… a fresh semester

turn-it-off-and-back-on-again-2If you follow the @RGU_Helpdesk on Twitter you will have seen their big welcome back this week to students new and old.

A new semester is an opportunity to make a fresh start; reorient yourself with your course, and the campus. Having been through the stress of exams and assessments, it’s time to re-establish a routine through your studies and get some welcome stability back to your life.

The IT department are pretty grateful for some stability this week too having dealt with some unwelcome and significant network issues last week and a campus power cut.

As part of our fresh semester start we’re trying to focus a bit more on communicating information to you through all the channels we have available, and hopefully learn a bit about how we can best engage with staff and students, but also to raise a general awareness of our services and the value we add to ensure stability and a high degree of availability. This week the IT Helpdesk are featuring in the winter edition of RGU Nexus magazine, and in particular you’ll meet the helpdesk and learn a bit about the sheer scale of support they are involved in.

It’s a standing joke that technical helpdesks will ask you “switch it off and back on again” to fix the problem or, as cynics would suggest, make you(r problem) go away. The TV series the IT Crowd took it to new levels with their repeated “have you tried turning it off and on again” turning it into a catchphrase…

It’s not just a standing joke though, there is some science behind this approach. We really aren’t trying to make you go away with the least effort on our part. A large percentage of errors are quite genuinely resolved by rebooting computers, and if not then it can generate errors that are more meaningful to technicians to help with diagnosis, or eliminate causes.

When a PC restarts it’s really just making a fresh start. It clears out any old data or processes and makes fresh connections to its resources and its network, restarts essential background processes and does it in a set logical sequence to ensure optimum performance.

Most importantly for a helpdesk call, if there are any hung processes these will be stopped and started a fresh too, and your PC will more than likely be running better with any “glitch” you had encountered, more than likely have gone.

So like all of us, a reboot is sometimes the best course of action. With the start of a new semester and a relatively new year, you’d do no harm trying a wee reboot from time to time, for your health and that of your electronics.

If it doesn’t work, then you can always call the Helpdesk but unless it’s a technology induced headache, don’t expect them to fix your health troubles too…. … they’re good, but not that good!

ITHelpdesk

email: ithelpdesk@rgu.ac.uk

telephone: +44 1224 26 2777

 

 

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A Sound Investment

Some of you may have noticed some inclement weather in the North East of Scotland these past few weeks leading to flooding, blocked roads and power cuts. A lot of this peaked on December 30th in the Garthdee area of Aberdeen, where the RGU Campus is. We didn’t get flooded, but there was quite a big power cut across the Campus.

Over the past few years we have moved all our core IT infrastructure into two new datacentres – sharing with the University of Aberdeen and North East Scotland College. One of them is on the RGU Campus so this power cut was a good test. Both datacentres are well equipped with battery backup, plus generator backup – but of course as much as you can test these components in controlled circumstances, there is nothing like the real thing.

In the event, when it became clear that there had been a power cut, I received an anxious phone call from the duty manager asking me if the data centre and our IT systems would be OK? By the time I received the call, the automatic alerts had already notified technical staff in IT Services and the Head of IT Operations and Support, Richard Lynch, was on his way to the Garthdee Campus. There he found that both the battery backup and generator had kicked in automatically as they are designed to when the power was cut. All our IT services continued without interruption and when power was restored the generator powered itself down again and everything settled back to normal.

Many if not most of the major incidents I have encountered in IT have been down to a loss of cooling and/or power in the datacentre. Incidents such as these demonstrate the value of investing properly in datacentre resilience. What ended up being a non-event could otherwise have been a a much more protracted IT recovery operation.