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.

OOPS! – Working from Home

There is a cracking article in a recent edition of “The Economist”, which is available online and in which Yahoo’s new Chief Executive, Marissa Mayer, appears to be driving Yahoo employees to come in to the office unless they have a very good reason to work from home. The memo from the Human Resources Manager is addressed to “Yahoos”. If you are cringing already, read the article!

This is contrary to the direction that most enlightened organisations are travelling in – the ability to work from home or anywhere else off Campus for that matter is increasingly one aspect of a more flexible approach to working life. Of course, there are occasions where face to face contact and participation cannot be easily replaced, but equally there are many activities which can be easily carried out anywhere.  An important aspect of our IT Strategy is to ensure that access to our core IT services can be provided easily to any location, on any device, whilst maintaining security of information and access. A key part of that is the MyApps service, which I have mentioned before and which gives  you access to your University IT resources from anywhere – at work, at home, on the move, on a Pc, on an iPad – even on your phone if you can cope with the small screen size.

The great thing about MyApps is that information and data never leaves the University servers. This is important if you are working from home and relieves you of many responsibilities. Did you know that if you use your personal e-mail account for work then these e-mails are covered by the Freedom of Information Act? Likewise, if you store University documents on your home computer, or take paper documents home, you could be personally liable for any breaches under the data protection act? There are a few things to think about if you are working from home – have a look at the page on the Staff Portal if you want a very comprehensive guide:

We’ve also published an interactive guide to data security for mobile devices under the banner of “OOPS” – “Out Of Protected Spaces” and if you are a member of staff you will already have received that guide in hard copy as well as interactively. We’ve had really good feedback from that – with many people making positive suggestions and asking very relevant questions about particular situations and also requests for additional copies. We did have one person who returned the printed cards with an anonymous note saying “waste of money”. That’s a real disappointment and completely out of step with all the other feedback we have received. Given the amount of press coverage of authorities being fined 6 figure sums of money for data protection breaches, and given the fact that this whole issue is important enough to grab the attention of the University’s Audit Committee, I hope that person has a change of heart on further reflection.

Here is the “OOPS” guide:


Chopped Pork and Ham

. . otherwise of course known as SPAM. I was wondering today how SPAM came to be coined as a term for junk e-mail. As I suspected, it seems to go back to a Monty Python sketch from the 1970’s – have a look at this article.

I guess that’s lost on the younger elements of our staff and student population but I remember singing the SPAM song. . .

What’s certainly not lost is junk e-mail. We all get the unwelcome e-mails in our inbox – many are offering a whole range of services and products, the nastier ones pretend to be a bank or other authority and are trying to persuade you to part with your PIN number and/or password. All this SPAM is at best a huge nuisance, and at worst a real security threat. What are we doing about this?

Fighting SPAM successfully is a constant battle. People who send SPAM are constantly changing their approach, and as one route gets shut down they find another. A bit like the malaria parasite – as soon as your body defences recognise it and attack it, it simply changes its coat. The trick is to prevent all the undesirable e-mail getting through, but making sure you don’t actually prevent legitimate email.

We use an external company for this – all our incoming mail goes through their service. There’s a good reason for that – an external company managing this for lots of organisations is better placed to spot bulk e-mail messages going to lots of organisations and block it.

It may interest you to know that in a typical month we receive 3.3 million e-mails into our University every month. 2.6 million of these are identified as SPAM and you never see them – that’s nearly 80% of all our e-mail. There are some that get through, but rest assured – they are a tiny fraction of the ones that are blocked.

Finally – just a reminder. If you receive any e-mail, from anyone, asking you for your PIN number, or password, or any other security details, NEVER reply. Just bin it. If it looks like it came from IT Services, it didn’t. If they offer a link to some web site where you can allegedly check or change your security details, DON’T CLICK.