3. Technical Support Services Group

3.1. Network Systems Management Services (NSMS)

NSMS (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/nsms/) has continued to expand its work steadily over the last year with the help of two new staff members recruited earlier in 2003. Detailed planning has taken place to develop services based on the VMware ESX virtual machine environment running on an IBM Blade system to provide the basis for a utility computing environment, which provides ease of implementation of new services and very high resilience to failure.

NSMS has:-

  • 55% increase in income compared to the previous year;
  • 17 external organisations, including colleges and associated institutions, using the service;
  • 53 different University departments or sub-departments using the service;
  • operation of 22 University web sites;
  • operation of 6 firewalls;
  • operation of 52 servers (Netware, Windows, Linux, OSX).

3.2. Desktop Services

The Desktop Services Development Section (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/internal/strategy/tssg.xml?ID=body.1_div.1 - out of date) supports the desktop infrastructure (both PCs and Apple Macs) for a number of OUCS services, specifically: the IT Training Services, the Help Centre, the majority of internal OUCS Staff PCs, the WINS servers. They also provide anti-virus support and second level expert technical support for distributed and local IT support staff, for example via the PC Consultancy Service.

Four new servers were brought into service to support in an integrated way a total of nearly 300 desktop machines used by OUCS in its four lecture rooms, the Help Centre, and the staff offices. The new servers provide both Netware based filestore management facilities and an imaging facility based on a product called Altiris Deployment Server, for which a University-wide site licence has been obtained. Despite some initial problems due to its complexity, Altiris now provides very flexible facilities which greatly reduce the maintenance overhead of supporting our PC desktop systems in a reliable way.

14,000 CDs were produced and distributed to new and returning students at the start of Michaemas Term 2003 in order to deal with a serious Windows security problem that had arisen during the preceding summer. This greatly assisted the IT community in dealing with the problem and prevented what might otherwise have been a serious and disruptive compromise of the University's network.

3.3. Personal Computer Maintenance Service

The Personal Computer Maintenance Service (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/pcms/) continues to provide a valuable service to the University. OUCS monitors callouts and reports of unsatisfactory service, and for the most part service (offered by an external company) has been exemplary. There are over 5,600 items of equipment registered. This is a significant reduction from the previous year's 7,500 total, probably caused by the removal of the free service that was available to a number of departments.

3.4. PC Repair and Upgrade Service

In the last year, the PC Repair and Upgrade Service (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/maintenance/) dealt with a total of 171 machines: 137 repairs and 34 upgrades.

Repair requests were dominated by requests for data retrieval from hard drives.

3.5. Anti-Virus Service

Viruses (of all forms) continue to proliferate and increase in sophistication. Only constant vigilance can prevent massive outbreaks and damage. Consequently a significant effort is devoted to support. The service (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/viruses/) provided includes:

  • monitoring the latest information sources for new viruses;
  • involvement with beta-testing new products;
  • ensuring the latest protection tools are acquired and distributed;
  • keeping documentation and advice up to date;
  • constantly endeavouring to raise the level of awareness of the need for vigilance;
  • responding to outbreaks;
  • installing the latest virus detection and eradication tools in all OUCS computers and, on request, in departmental and college computer clusters;
  • recovering infected computers where necessary.

Staff involved with anti-virus support liaise closely with the OUCS Security Services to ensure effective management of virus outbreaks.

3.6. Computing Services Shop and Media Services

The Computing Services Shop (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/shop/) provides a wide range of IT-related sales services to all departments, colleges and associated institutions, and members of the University. These include:
  • A sales outlet for computers, printers and other peripherals, consumables, software and other products;
  • An over-the-counter service for accepting cash, cheques and credit card payments for any chargeable service;
  • An over-the-counter registration outlet for software licences;
  • A media copying service for shop stock and other purposes.

The Shop takes advantage of the special pricing negotiated as national deals for the HE sector. In addition, it has been possible to negotiate improvements on these deals from some suppliers. The Shop also provides the vehicle for making available all the site-licensed and bulk-purchased software, with most of it on CD-ROM (media copying, for the most part, is undertaken in-house by the Media Services section). Details of all items for sale through the Shop, together with price lists, are available on the department's web pages (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/shop/).

3.7. Software Licensing

OUCS undertakes a variety of activities to make the acquisition of software (primarily) for personal computers more straightforward and less costly. The various arrangements it has made save the University over £5m a year.

19,468 software licences were issued during the year, 6,548 for Microsoft products and 12,920 other products. A full list of software agreements is provided on the web page at http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sls/.

3.7.1. Microsoft Campus Agreement

The Microsoft Campus Agreement was renewed for the fifth year. The savings on the Campus agreement have been significant compared to the alternative Select agreement: if all copies that have been registered with OUCS were to be paid for at Select rates, the cost would be over 30% more. In addition, there is the saving in staff time administering the agreement and distributing the licences and media.

3.7.2. Site Licence Scheme

There have been a number of new or renewed software agreements taken out during the year under the Software Site Licence Scheme (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/sls/):

  • Lift for Dreamweaver: An agreement for Lift for Dreamweaver, web accessibility software, was signed under the EduServ Grants Programme;
  • NAG Genstat: The Department of Zoology signed up for the NAG Genstat agreement. The agreement and software distribution is administered by the Zoology department. NAG have subsequently sold Genstat to a third party and the current agreement will cease at the end of July 2005;
  • Opera: A Site License for the Opera web browser has been taken out, this allows for the "nag" screen to be removed from the product;
  • SPSS Text Analysis for Surveys Version 1: This product is now being distributed under the terms of the SPSS Agreement;
  • SAS: There were some delays in a formal renewal of the licence for this software so its licence was extended to July 2004 pending completion of negotiations;
  • Macromedia Fireworks & Flash: New agreement;
  • CopyCatch Gold — Plagiarism Software: We currently have a licence, ending in June 2005;
  • Adobe: Renewed;
  • Corel Licence for Learning: Renewed;
  • EndNote: Renewed;
  • ERDAS Imagine: Renewed;
  • MapInfo: Renewed.

The following agreements were not renewed:

  • SAS: SAS is no longer available for use on the Macintosh under our site license;
  • XMetal: XMetal Author is no longer available under the Corel Licence for Learning. A new version from Blast Radius Software, version 4.5, is now available from the Computing Services Shop;
  • F-Secure: The agreement funded by OUCS came to an end on 31st March 2004 as OUCS felt it could not justify the expense of renewing the agreement along with the existing Sophos Anti-Virus software agreement. The F-Secure agreement was subsequently renewed by the Engineering Science department.

3.8. Printing Services

A number of printing services continue to be available from OUCS (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/printing/):-
  • Self service A3 and A4 colour and black and white printing is available via the Help Centre;
  • HP DesignJet 5000: This device produces high quality A0 and A1 posters for display purposes;
  • Monotype Panther Pro Imagesetter(http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/typesetting/): This device supports a high precision phototypesetting/imagesetting service. It outputs on film and, as well as its traditional use for high quality typesetting, it is suitable for generating precision masks and circuit diagrams for physics and engineering applications;
  • OUCS also runs a high quality offset-litho printing service, including full colour printing, to OUCS and other departments. The printing jobs range from leaflets, forms and stationery up to books. A total of 718,000 impressions were made during the year.

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