5. Review 2010-11
This section of the report details information about our services and the impact they have been making on behalf of the University and its IT needs. Wherever possible we have tried to also break down usage according to the academic divisions and other units within the University, in line with the implementation of the Type 123 funding model.
The backbone continues to operate reliably with traffic levels still rising and showing no sign of abating. At the current average growth rate of about 150% per annum there is sufficient bandwidth to cope with the projected traffic levels for the coming year.
Our JANET connection of 10 Gbps can continue to cope with the increased traffic levels demanded of the link at the current rate of growth for a number of years yet, barring some significant new development.
As has been fully documented (see firewall firefighting) we have had a number of failures as the Firewall became saturated, leading to, usually, brief disconnection from the Internet. We do regret this interruption of service and the team have been working very hard both to restore service and to understand the causes. However this has taken time as the vendor of the equipment has been slow to disclose all the pertinent facts.
Work to improve the resilience of our Internet connection, a completely separate project from the above item, has started and is progressing albeit slowly due to factors outside of our control. We have now managed to lay the requisite cables and JANET (our service provider, in effect) will be upgrading portions of its network to allow for us to connect the extra link soon.
This year saw the completion of the three year OWL Phase 2 project. We now have coverage in most of the public spaces using a total of over 670 wireless access points (WAP's). In addition many Colleges and Divisions have their own provision.
The OWL, Eduroam, and OWL Visitor Network services continue to be well used as wireless becomes a primary means of network access for new and existing members alike. The total number of connections (per month) is shown below. Despite the termly variation, clearly shown, the overall trend is strongly up (as the trendline indicates).
|Year||Daily Messages||Data Volume (GB)|
This year started with the completion of the move of the New Bodelian MDX room to the new MDX room in The Indian Institute. Approximately 60% of the voice and data for the Collegiate University passes through these duct routes and over 90 cables (both fibre and copper) were cut, appended and re-directed to the new room. Extra resilience was included in the Broad Street and Turl Street areas simplifying the existing network and enabling further resilient connections to be made in the future.
The second part of the year saw the near completion of the duct network ring around Oxford with additional ducts being laid by Scottish and Southern Electricity as part of the new electrical supply to the Science Area. This ring should finally be completed in 2012. We continue to add locked security covers to our network to protect the cables from theft.
OUCS provides a range of identity and access management (IAM) services to the University. WebAuth, Oak LDAP, Kerberos, and Shibboleth are available for general use by ITSS who wish to implement access control for their own resources and services, as well as being used for centrally hosted facilities.
In addition to delivering the services described below, OUCS has engaged in a variety of communication and development activities associated with IAM services. These have included an overview of IAM services and project, and representation at the 2010 MIT Kerberos Consortium. Development activities include a range of system and service upgrades, detailed under the relevant sections below, and projects.
- The Core User Directory Project
- The project began in earnest in January 2011 with the appointment of a Project Manager and Lead Developer. This project will initiate a production service offering a single authoritative source of identity information for Oxford University, with a very broad scope for data subjects.
- The Group Store Project
- This complements the CUD by providing a central repository for information about groups of identities. This can be used to share groups across multiple consumers (e.g. a centrally defined group of users can be used to create a mailing list, control access to a Nexus SharePoint resource, and appear in WebLearn), and will support groups whose membership is based on organisational structures / roles as well as ad hoc groups that can be controlled by individuals and applications.
- Project Janus
- This is a joint OUCS / Student Administration project, will shortly deliver a pilot implementation of a WebLearn site that requires multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA addresses some of the more common security problems such as user passwords being compromised, and provides sufficient assurance of the user’s identity that it can be used to secure access to sensitive resources - the pilot will use MFA to protect University examination papers during their preparation.
- Project Maddox
- This is a short-term project (c. 4 months) aimed at evaluating possibilities for central Active Directory support. This will clarify the technical scenarios in which Microsoft Windows-based network services can support use of the Oxford SSO username and password. Furthermore, it is intended that a central Active Directory service will be initiated if this is found to ease the integration of Microsoft Windows systems with central SSO.
WebAuth is a web single sign-on (Web SSO) system enabling authentication and identification of web visitors, who identify themselves using their Oxford SSO credentials. Subsequent visits to other (Oxford) WebAuth sites do not require further login. The Oxford WebAuth service is based on the Stanford WebAuth system, but includes additional facilities for account activation, and password change/reset.
WebAuth is used extensively within the University, and take up continues steadily with around 40 services adopting WebAuth each year. Additionally, analysis of authentication log data suggests that there is a “saved login” count of approximately 49%, saving the user from needing to authenticate more than once while browsing websites and services that implement WebAuth. The following chart shows the increased take-up of the WebAuth service by the wider University ITSS community.
Oak LDAP provides a convenient directory of person-based information that can be used as the basis for authorisation decisions, mapping between multiple identifiers for a person, and the retrieval of naming and contact data. In addition to underpinning several OUCS services (including WebLearn and Shibboleth), the service is used by departments and colleges throughout the Collegiate University, some of which run multiple Oak LDAP-enabled services, as shown in the following chart.
A key development in 2010/11 was the development of an integration path for the Bradford Campus Manager (BCM) appliance with central access management services. OUCS worked with St Hugh’s College, developers from Bradford, and technical staff from Khipu who distribute Bradford appliances in the UK, to identify and document an out-of-the-box solution enabling BCM to authenticate users via their remote access account, and authorise them for network connection based on affiliation and status data provided by Oak LDAP. This removes the need for a separate authentication server, which was a problematic overhead in several Oxford colleges.
The Kerberos service is the fundamental means by which users (and systems) can authenticate. It implements the Kerberos protocol which supports single sign-on by design, and offers a high degree of network security by eliminating the transmission of passwords or password-derivatives over the network. Kerberos is the preferred method of authentication in Microsoft Active Directory environments, and is the authentication infrastructure behind WebAuth.
Service providers can use Kerberos to provide a single sign-on experience for users. The number of non-OUCS 'Kerberised' services, above those integrated purely for WebAuth or Oak LDAP are as follows (figures based on the approximation that each issued service principal has been used to Kerberise one distinct service):
A special case is where the 'Kerberised' service is itself a provider of Kerberos authentication - for example a local Active Directory Domain Controller. In this situation an arrangement of cross-realm trust is established where user authentication against the central Kerberos service (using Oxford username and password) can be used to access local services without a further login. The number of service principals issued to support non-OUCS cross-realm trusts (including Active Directory integration) is shown in Table 5. Services using Kerberos and cross-realm trusts
Our Shibboleth service enables Oxford University to participate in federated access management. This enables Oxford University members to access resources provided by other organisations, including many of the bibliographic and other electronic resources that the University subscribes to. It also supports the possibility of making Oxford-hosted resources available to members of other registered organisations, such as other UK universities.
As described in last year’s report, a major upgrade to the infrastructure offering this service was completed earlier in the year. This has provided a range of enhancements to Oxford’s Shibboleth service, including the ability to support SAML2 profiles, configure per-SP session lifetimes, and integrate multi-factor authentication. Additionally it ensures that Oxford receives continued security updates and support from the software supplier.
The table below shows a count of the number of distinct users identified by our Shibboleth service - this approximates to the number of Oxford University members accessing Shibboleth-protected resources. We have continued to report a separate figure (in parentheses) that shows the result excluding access to the Oracle Student System which, as it is mandated for use by all students, could cause a significant increase in the number of distinct users authenticating via Shibboleth.
The number of services where Shibboleth is used to provide access for Oxford account holders ('service providers') has grown as shown in the chart below. The figures include only active service providers - as of 2011-07-31. There are in fact a further 9 registered Shibboleth service providers within Oxford University for which no activity has been recorded. It should be noted that growth in the number of Shibboleth service providers is a result of other (internal and external) parties' choice to use this technology and does not reflect directly on the work of OUCS.
Our mirror service provides up-to-date local copies of a number of internet sites holding primarily technical resources. The portfolio of mirrored sites include several Linux distributions and other open source projects such as CPAN and CTAN. It ensures that Oxford ITSS and other users have high-speed access to these resources whilst also reducing bandwidth utilisation on our JANET connection. Each mirror is accessible by HTTP, FTP, within the Oxford AFS cell, and rsync from Oxford networks (access via AFS or rsync is not considered in the figures below).
Mirror sites occasionally become obsolete or deprecated, at which point they may be removed from the mirror service, as happened this year. Below is a list of the top-level mirrored sites (some sites are sourced from multiple sub-sites and due to this fewer than the 26 mentioned above are listed below).
OUCS provides a general-purpose GNU/Linux computing environment for use by University members. A large selection of software is available for use, including several packages designed for specific academic purposes and some Oxford-specific features. A full GUI desktop is available in addition to command-line shells, with access to personal filestore and network printing from both.
The service also provides access to a users web filestore which can be published as a web site under http://users.ox.ac.uk/.
Collected accounting data suggests that the service is constantly in use, and in some cases with multiple concurrent sessions per user (leading to cases where a user appears to be logged in for more than 31 days per month). Records needed to generate year-on-year statistics relating to the use of the service have not been routinely collected, with only the previous months figures available as a matter of course; suitable records are now being kept to support presentation of figures in future reports.
A substantial overhaul of OUCS web hosting services is planned for 2012. Earlier this year we conducted a survey to assess demand for central web hosting, and to identify the key characteristics of such a service. This has confirmed that significant demand exists, but that meeting these requires a complete replacement of the current infrastructure and a radical change in the range of features available to web site managers.
The result of this work is expected to be a range of service offerings, designed to meet the needs of colleges and departments, research and project groups, clubs and societies, and individuals wishing to establish a personal online presence. Each of these will offer modern web publishing capabilities, whilst retaining key aspects of the current service (such as an .ox.ac.uk domain name and support from the OUCS Help Desk).
The Network News service provides reliable, high-speed access to a wide range of Usenet newsgroups, including a number of Oxford-specific groups that are only available through this service. Further Oxford-specific groups can be created on request.
The service is accessible by any computer connected to the University network (including through the VPN) using the NNTP protocol which is supported by several standard email clients (e.g. Thunderbird). Suitable clients are also available on linux.ox (the GNU/Linux service mentioned above), e.g. trn or slrn.
As a non-critical service, records needed to generate usage data beyond the previous month have not been routinely collected. Suitable records are now being collected to support presentation of figures in future reports.
OUCS provides a service enabling manual, and scheduled, Wake-On-Lan (WOL) for registered hosts. This enables IT Support Staff, end-users and the HFS Backup Service to switch computers on remotely. The service is accessed via the OUCS registration web pages using the University Single Sign-On (WebAuth) login. In turn, this capability allows for savings in utility power usage due to the fact that computers can be powered down when not in use, such as outside normal working hours, but remotely powered back up on schedule and ready for use the next day.
Project Vertigo, funded through PICT, is developing the infrastructure supporting this service to enable a much wider and more cost-effective roll-out across Oxford. In particular the revised systems can support multiple networks (including VLANs and IP subnets) from a single gateway, are much easier to install and use, and record / provide better information to ITSS who need to diagnose unexpected behaviour. The new system will be available from November.
OxFile, which was launched in May 2011, is a web service that supports the exchange of large files with people inside and outside of Oxford University. It is simple and fast to use, and any member of the University can setup a file exchange for immediate use.
The key features of the service are that it can accept large files (up to 25 GB) that are difficult to exchange, due to their size, by other means. It is easy to use, and self tidying as files are automatically removed after a user-selected period of up to 31 days. Additionally, notifications can be sent when files have been up / down loaded. The service also offers some assurance of security, in that file transfers can be encrypted, and users have a degree of access control over files they wish to share.
During the year 2010/11 Oxford Nexus consolidated its Exchange service and took SharePoint from a pilot to a service available to all University users. Major migrations were performed across University Administration Services and the Medical Sciences Division, bringing in users to Nexus from the old Lotus Notes and GroupWise services, respectively.
In July 2011, there were over 36,000 active users (those who had used the service within the previous 90 days) and over 47,000 mailboxes on Nexus. An average mailbox contained over 5,000 items with a size of 411MB (showing a growth of 70% from the previous year). The high rate of growth must be skewed by the migration in of accounts belonging to heavy email / calendar consumers.
The largest five thousand Nexus mailboxes directly consumed 8.8 TB of storage (without including data duplication required for data integrity purposes) whereas the remaining (42,228) mailboxes consumed 9.7 TB of storage. The average size for a 'top five thousand' mailbox was 1.8 GB, thus dwarfing the 0.2 GB for the 'others'. 1% of users currently consume 9.9% of the storage allocated to Nexus Exchange.
The table below gives a rough guide as to the most common mobile or hand held clients which were used to connect to Nexus over a 30 day period. The guide is rough as around 200 devices could not be identified and some misreporting goes on (e.g. HTC Desire phones often report as 'HTC Bravo'). For conciseness, only clients with a count of 50 or above are listed.
The Oxford Nexus SharePoint service moved beyond its pilot stage and went live to the University on 27 April 2011. The service is still primarily targeted towards Committees, Research activities, Clubs/Societies and My Sites. Publicity surrounding the new service has been modest in order to stimulate growth which can be supported in the early phase of the service.
The Hierarchical File Server (HFS) service provides large scale central backup amd archive services to the University community. The HFS runs IBM's Tivoli Storage Manager (TSM) software and supports a backup service for both desktops and departmental and college servers, a remote backup service over VPN and a long-term data repository service for the University's digital assets. It also provides the backup service to the University's Groupware service.
The constant challenge for the HFS is to meet and absorb the growth in the backup and archive requirements of an ever-increasing number and size of client machines around Oxford. The table below shows data growth across all four major HFS service areas:
|% Change||Desktop Backup||Server Backup||Groupware Backup||Archive|
|Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data||Nos Files||Data|
In line with previous years, the figures suggest that files are getting bigger, as growth in data exceeds growth in file numbers. The drop in desktop file numbers is a result of the continuation of policies to exclude operating system and non-restoreable files from the desktop backup. As can be seen, from this table and the graph below, total amount of data stored has risen, with Groupware backup data increasing by more than 60% to over 325 TB of backup data. Client numbers also continue upwards with a general increase of c, 10% across the entire service suite.
The total amount of data secured by the HFS (lighter line against right axis in graph below) has grown from around 900 TB to just over 1200 TB (1.2 PB) in the last year. The total number of files (darker line against left axis) has fluctuated between 1.5 and 1.8 billion and has, as a result of the aforementioned policies of excluding operating system files, dropped slightly. This is seen on the following graph where the files stored line shows an intial drop before rising throughout the rest of the year.
Major activities in the past year have followed on from the successful HFS bid to PICT to upgrade the service infrastructure in the Summer of 2010 (HFSManCap project). Phase 1 of this programme consisted of the following elements:
- A full migration of the server database to TSM V6 and a DB2 architecture.
- An upgrade of elements of the SAN infrastructure to 8Gb/sec speed
- An addition of a new host server and upgrades to two existing host servers to allow the full virtualisation of our service.
- A pilot study into the feasability of disk-only based on-line backups.
All four elements were completed successfully on-time and within budget. The major focus was on Task 1 as this involved the migration of several databases managing in total over 1 petabyte (PB) of data, to both new hardware and a new database technology (DB2). Tasks 2 and 3 were precursors to this and the whole migration was completed successfully over one weekend in October.
This was a major project that has brought great benefits to all areas of the HFS service: The DB2 database scales significantly larger to allow us to manage more data effectively. It also allows some database management tasks to be done concurrently and online where previously such work required a major service interruption. The move to a fully virtualised environment now allows us to manage our hardware resources independently of the servers providing the backup / archive service. Thus, for example, we are now able to move a backup server from one failing host machine to a functioning host machine with a pause of around only five minutes. In summary, this entire phase 1 of the infrastructure upgrade has been a major step forward in resilience and performance of the HFS service.
Other aspects of the service continue to grow and reach more users. The Wake-on-Lan service is now an integral component of ensuring desktop machines around the University are powered-up to run a scheduled backup only when needed. The 'Backup over VPN' facility has now successfully moved from its pilot phase into a fully-fledged service. It continues to attract users whose work takes them away from the University network, but whose data requires securing and retention within the University. As the University's Groupware service has grown, so has its backup requirement and earlier this year, the dedicated tape library was upgraded with 5th generation LTO tape drives and media to provide continued growth for this service's voracious backup requirements.
Away from the headline activities the team continues to develop and support the client backup software for a large number of client systems and to provide important support to clients when in their hour of need when they need to recover lost work and data.
Earlier this year, OUCS put together a bid towards increasing resilience of its core services through utilising the Shared Data Centre (SDC) as a second site. As part of this bid, the HFS is currently planning a schedule of work that will allow it to locate some of its hardware infrastructure in the SDC and to essentially 'straddle' this site and the OUCS machine room. Utilising a stretched-SAN architecture in combination with the full virtualisation of our service should mean that, just as we now can move services seamlessly across different hardware within a single site (the OUCS machine room), we should be able to do this across different hardware at different sites. This should allow our services to be more resilient in the event of local disaster or, in a planned scenario where, for example, major building work at one site is planned.
It is also our intention to pursue phase 2 of the HFS Infrastructure upgrade program in the coming few months. This focuses on the replacement of the HFS Tape Library Robot – now 15 years old – and which has underpinned the entire range of HFS services. The current robot has fully proved its investment many times over but is now long since out of production and increasingly difficult to maintain. It is also close to its physical capacity. Replacement is no small undertaking, but a modern robot would once again allow the service to scale to meet the inexorable demand for backup and archive storage from the University. Modern generations of tape drive and media offer speed and capacity improvements in multiples of 2.5 and 5 respectively, over current equipment and with definite upgrade paths in the future that will build on these improvements.
The service is also keen to explore the possibilities of increasing system limits on the daily amounts of backup sent to the service by any one client and also to raise the absolute limits of backup storage for any one account. These aspirations are, however, heavily contingent on the above phase 2 upgrade being in place.
We have begun investigating how a dedicated IBM TSM backup client can be employed to protect virtual machines by offloading backup workloads to a centralised server and enabling near-instant recovery. We are also involved in designing a backup solution for the Exchange 2010 servers that the University Mail and Groupware service is migrating to in the near future. Finally, we will aim to continue to offer first class support to our ever increasing number of users throughout the next year.
IT security has continued to feature in many news stories over the past year, with much publicity of Wikileaks, the actions of the "Anonymous" and "Lulzsec" groups, and major compromises at Sony and RSA. While the University has been subjected to many of the same types of attack, our incidents have thankfully remained lower-profile, although the actions of past members of the team back in 2006 eventually resulted in the conviction of one of the attacks in November 2010, reported in the national press (Computer expert jailed hacking webcams - Guardian).
The team have dealt with nearly 1400 incidents over the past year. This appears to be a decrease from the previous year, but in terms of our own workload has been a significant increase, as many incidents have been significantly more complex and taken longer to resolve. The distribution of incidents over time is shown in the following figure.
The major increase observed has been in terms of attacks against webservers, in particular SQL injection attacks, in which incorrect handling of user input can result in unauthorised database access. Unfortunately the worst cases have resulted in the loss of some personal data. We are keen to stress the obligation to report the data breach as soon as they are discovered - the Information Commissioner may now impose significant financial penalties when dealing with cases of negligence or failure to follow proper procedure.
Information-stealing malware such as ZeuS and SpyEye remain major threats to University systems and data, and are commonly propagated through exploitation of software vulnerabilities, especially in common applications such as web browsers and plugins such as Java and Flash, Adobe Acrobat/Reader, and Microsoft Office. The team's series of security bulletins inform of the latest threats of specific interest to the University; almost 200 were posted during the past year.
The other major category of incidents of concern is the battle against password "phishing" attacks. Despite all attempts at user education, far too many users continue to fall for what, to us at least, appear unconvincing attempts to trick users into supplying their passwords. Commonly, accounts compromised in this way are used for spamming, which may have effects on the University's reputation and ability to conduct legitimate business by email.
In October 2010, a fourth team member joined OxCERT, the post funded from the Information Security Best Practice project. Despite the increase in staff resources, the increase in incident workload has meant that we have not progressed as far as we had hoped with some of our other work. In particular work on our Malware Analysis Laboratory project has suffered owing to other priorities.
The team have attended FIRST conferences in Barcelona and Vienna, and have worked with various groups in the UK, including a project to define standard incident categories with the aim of comparing meaningful incident statistics with other universities. In addition to the monthly reports, the team have recently started a OxCERT security blog in order to distribute information more widely and in a more timely manner.
It has been a year of increases in work for all the Help Centre services. The Hardware Repair Service has fixed more machines than ever before, the online shop has processed 25% more orders and the help desk has answered 284 more emails than during the previous record year.
After the huge boost in emailed enquiries to the help desk the during 2009-10, the level has remained high and even increased moderately. With no change to the staffing level of the Help Centre, nor any additional resources going into supporting the increased work load on the help desk, service improvements have remained frozen for another year.
A side effect of the introduction of pre-arrival account creation last year is that OUCS now has much better records of student's non-Oxford email addresses. Matching queries against these recorded non-Oxford addresses as well as the usual Oxford variants has allowed us to attribute a much higher percentage (60%) of emailed queries. Last year it was only 42%. It should, however, be borne in mind that the doubling of queries from undergraduates, postgraduates and leavers is largely due to our improved ability to attribute queries rather than a real increase.
Something which does not stand out very clearly in Table 17. Help Desk Usage, but is a little more obvious in Table 18. Usage of the Help Form by Division, is the amount of effort the Help Desk expends on helping University members OUCS is currently not funded to support. In this category are college staff, undergraduates and leavers. Although Table 17. Help Desk Usage lumps all staff together, the number of queries from college staff during the reporting year was actually 586, making the total number of unfunded enquiries 1,869 or 27% of all attributed enquiries.
With a total of 32, the number of appointments for complex operating system problems is so small that it is no longer worth analysing the data. This decline is partly due to the Help Desk's increased ability to deal with such problems directly and partly due to a loss of high level expertise in operating systems within OUCS. In depth knowledge of Windows is now predominantly found in the ICT Support Team and Mac OS expertise is within NSMS's remit. As a result the help desk can no longer offer Mac OS appointments, although Windows and Linux are still available.
This year saw only 43% of queries submitted via our electronic form compared to last year's 50%, but a slightly higher overall percentage than last year, 40%, was usable for analysis. The barcode information we have from the forms allows us to attribute queries to academic divisions via primary affiliations. As in previous years the colleges and divisions hold the top 5 ranks in number of queries, accounting for 87% of the total. The colleges, who do not currently contribute to the funding of OUCS, are topping the table for the first time since 2006-07 and their 22% of help form queries does roughly tally with the 27% apparent from analysing email addresses.
The types of queries the Help Desk handles show a similar distribution to last year. There are some notable differences in that percentage-wise the queries about email and accounts have both fallen slightly while the software and malware queries have increased. As malware enquiries tend to be quite time consuming, with the requirement to run scans and check results, the extra staff time spent is probably higher than the increase in query numbers would indicate.
Last reporting year, 9,904 licenses were acquired from the Online Shop across the University for use on personally owned or departmentally owned machines. This reporting year, 15,714 licenses have been acquired, a 63% increase from last year.
Across the divisions, the Medical Sciences bought and/or acquired the most licenses (41% of the total). This is a 9% increase in Medical Sciences' share compared to last year. Maths, Physical and Life Sciences and the Colleges were joint second place each obtaining 15% of the total licenses.
The Online Shop was upgraded from version 3 to version 4. Changes include the ability to display product variants which allowed for greater functionality and ease of use for customers, more comprehensive reporting and statistics tracking, and the option to add Google Analytics.
Examining data from January 2011 to 1st August 2011 (when Google Analytics became available) there have been over 15,000 visits, 98% coming from the UK. Given that the OUCS Online Shop is only accessible through the University network this is not surprising.
Further, the most popular days for accessing the Online Shop are weekdays, with around 2,000 visits per day, while weekend visits are dramatically lower, again possibly due to the fact that the OUCS online shop is only available via the University network and only a minority of people have access to the network at the weekend. Interestingly, the number of transactions per day is around 200 per week day, suggesting that for every 10 visits, only one transaction occurs.
Finally, the University licensing team managed to negotiate a deal with QSR International so that the University could provide the statistical package, Nvivo Version 9 to both staff and students free of charge, saving students £110 and staff £360 each. The software has proven popular with members of the University, with 115 personal licenses and 116 licenses for Departmentally owned computers being registered with the online shop between its launch (4th April) and the end of the reporting year (31st July).
The hardware service is led by Darren Rochford (Hardware Services Manager). Darren has recently added to his Apple and CompTia qualifications by completing an Open University ICT degree. Mark Simmonds assists part time with administration and also co-ordinates the work we send to our repair partners Equinox. The trial with Equinox as our second hardware engineer has proved useful during the current climate of job cut backs within the University. It is hoped that one day a second engineer on site would become possible as this would without doubt be the best option for the service in the longer term and to significantly reduce the turn-around times.
A recent visit to the new premises of Equinox was beneficial to both parties in understanding the way we currently work together and how we can continue to do so in the future. The Hardware Manager has attended useful events where he has made contact with a number of suppliers and industry leaders. This keeps us up to date with current and future technologies and helps us to plan how we can best support the University and its member's Hardware needs.
The Apple warranty provider status continues to be highly sought after and valued by the collegiate University. A new server system has been put in place which communicates directly with Apple. This speeds up testing and helps to ensure that correct tests are performed in conjunction with emerging issues from Apple on an individual machine basis.
This year the service handled 337 machines which is an increase of 22 machines when compared to last year. This is despite the service having to be closed completely on one occasion due to staff holidays and medical requirements unavoidably clashing.
Of the manufacturers, Apple continues to be the largest in the numbers presented at approximately 178. Of these 91 were in warranty machines. The remaining 159 machines were PC based. A large number of these were sent to Equinox but some hard drive and memory upgrade work was carried out on the premises.
A breakdown of the nature of repairs is shown below. Often a particular machine is subject to more than one task. For example, a badly corrupted operating system may require data recovery prior to re-installing the system. Overheating, which is generally caused by ingress of dust, may also be accompanied by the requirement to replace the cooling fan. Laptops with fatally damaged system boards normally have their data retrieved unless the owner has been very conscientious in making frequent backups.
The service has continued to repair and upgrade a wide variety of laptops and desktops, and by adapting to the requirements of emerging technologies, we are able to approach the latest machines with confidence. Below is a breakdown of machines repaired by manufacturer.
The Hardware Service is looking forward the next 12 months of supporting both existing and emerging technologies for the collegiate University. It is hoped that the impending centralisation of ICT services will benefit the service by increasing demand and subsequently attracting funding to return all services in-house.
The Computer Hardware Breakdown Service offers a very economically priced breakdown service for personal computers and their peripherals such as printers. It is available to University institutions, colleges, and associated institutions. It is also available to University members, including students, on a personal basis for their privately owned equipment. In essence, for a modest fixed fee, the service provides for an engineer to visit on-site, anywhere in the mainland UK, by the next business day after a fault being reported; the fault should be fixed within a further 8 working hours, or an equivalent item of equipment will be offered as a loan until the repair is completed.
OUCS monitors call-outs and reports of unsatisfactory service, and the service (offered by an external company) has been extremely good. The number of items registered has fallen slightly (468 machines in total) compared to the previous year; we assume that this continues to be caused by a general trend in the industry of providing at least three-year warranties as standard coupled with machines being replaced once these warranties have expired and the current economic climate faced by higher educational institutions. The decrease has been mainly in departmental computers and printers.
It has again been a busy year for registration. The registration RT queue now only covers the specialized registration services e.g. name changes, project accounts, generic address creation - the majority of the general registration queries are now handled on the Help Centre queue. Specialised queries however, still remain high. Major changes in the services delivered have contributed to this. The continuing development of the Nexus service new types of accounts - mailbox only and resources accounts, delegation, setting vacation, quotas, several deparments and colleges moving from departmental/college servers to Nexus and high number of mail domain changes.
|Reporting Year||No of RT Tickets|
An SSO account gives access to many applications such as OxCORT tutorial reporting, GSS Graduate Student System, Student Records, library e-resources, etc as well as the OUCS services. Secondary accounts can be created for additional roles, e.g. administration. The 'mailbox only' accounts where access is granted by 'delegation' are proving very popular, especially for shared accounts, as a second password does not need to be managed.
|Year||Total||Percentage activated||Mailbox only accounts|
In the next table, a division is assigned to a user based on the department specified on their University Card. Undergraduates (in brackets) are listed under colleges, irrespective of who runs their course. The length of many student cards have been shortened this year (so fewer are current on 1 Aug).
|Year||Number of accounts|
- @oiprc for Oxford Intellectual Property Research
- @martin for Oxford Martin School
- @oxltd for Oxford Limited
- @spi for Social Policy and Intervention
- @phc for Primary Health Care Sciences
- @dph for Department of Public Health
- @oncology for Department of Oncology
- @kennedy for Kennedy Institute of Rheumatology
- @george for the George Centre for Healthcare Innovation
- @socres (formerly Applied Social Studies)
- @medonc (formerly Medical Oncology)
- @rob (formerly Radiation, Oncology and Biology
- @clpharm (formerly Clinical Pharmacology)
- @21school (formerly James Martin 21st Century School)
We also hold the mail addresses for people who belong to units for whom OUCS do not manage their mail, so those addresses are available to University processes 2,994 (2,912 in previous year). There are 8,441 (7,845 in previous year) generic unit address e.g. enquiries@
Student Information now do mailings to students on behalf of the Proctors. We still do occasional targeted mailings on behalf of other central services e.g. Personnel, and as a backup for the Vice-Chancellors mailing or Proctors, but the bulk are related to the management of OUCS services, e.g. wind down of @herald and Sophos updates.
Building on developments of previous years, new students starting 2011/12 were provisioned automatically as soon as they had returned their signed University Contract agreeing to abide by the Rules, and their University Card record created. This started from the 1st July when the Card Office started processing the forms. Details were emailed to the student's address held in OSS. Colleges were very helpful in letting Student Information know of any email address changes so that OSS has the best addresses possible. The accounts were created each night as the Card record became available and emailed to the student 2 days later - the gap being put in place to allow the username information to get both to the activation process and back to OSS. Because the students have signed the Contract, they are fully provisioned with SSO and email address at that time. Visiting and Recognized students are now included in the data feed from OSS and in the automated process.
- Create a 'resource' account directly, i.e. an account used to manage bookings for a 'resource' such as a room, projector, etc.
- Convert a 'mailbox only' account to one with a password
- Setting a vacation message for absent users at deptartment/college request
- Ensuring the sending address on a Nexus primary account is current and valid
- Ensuring the sending address on a Nexus secondary account matches the Oxmail-held target for that address ( i.e. monitoring 'split routing')
- Parallelizing the interaction with Nexus to improve throughput
- Setting the flag to stop auto-forwarding being set up when people from deptartments where OUCS do not maintain the address, want to use Nexus
- Regular meetings with the Nexus team
- Helped in preparing addresses for the Oxford-Man's migration to Nexus
Quota related development:
Working with other units and projects
- Establishing new email domains in collaboration with Planning and Resource Allocation
- Administering the approval process for new top-level www domains
- Liasing with the Sports Federation and Proctors Office over access to resources for Student Clubs and Societies; including improved handling of the process for non-Sports clubs.
- Liaison with Academic Administration, Conference of Colleges, and IT Support Staff on the Registration processes.
- Implementing Proctors' decisions on rusticated students' access to resources
- Migration of @comlab to @cs - although neither domain is managed by OUCS, significant effort had to be put in to switch the sending address on the Nexus accounts, and changing the address held for passing on to others, e.g. to VC's mailing list
- Working with the Card office giving them lists of discrepencies between the card and payroll
- Working with BSP on new data feeds from the new HR system- this involves being able to handle XML data.
- Working with the CUD project
InfoDev provides data solutions, web projects, and research support and advice to OUCS, to the University, and also to external clients. This covers a wide variety of activities including the creation, management, analysis, visualisation and publication of digital information of all sorts.
WDC has continued to provide web design advice and development support to the University. With the aid of the wider skill-base provided by the InfoDev team, we have consolidated our Content Management System (CMS) service, providing a full hosting and maintenance package for sites we develop in Drupal, our CMS of choice.
The RTS has continued to provide a range of services to assist staff in planning and carrying out research projects, and in maximizing the impact and sustainability of the digital outputs of research. The RTS activities, such as the Oxford Text Archive and the British National Corpus, have been merged into the InfoDev team but still cover: the provision of advice and consultative support on funding bids before a research project has been funded; assistance in setting up a project once funded; ongoing support during the lifetime of a project; and support for the dissemination and sustainability issues at the end of a project.
InfoDev runs the University's Google Search Appliance (GSA) which indexes well over 800,000 public web documents and web databases from ca. 1000 web sites on the University network. New content on web sites is re-indexed daily to ensure search results are current (in contrast to the much less frequent indexing by public search engines). Very active web sites can be re-indexed more frequently, and busy servers can be checked less frequently, on request.
The GSA powers the search form that appears on the University's home web page, and on the web pages of many colleges and departments. The table below summarises the format of documents indexed by the GSA in July 2011.
During the reporting year 2010-11, the GSA received approximately 3.6 million search requests for which it successfully returned results. The latency between query receipt and returning results was typically less than 0.2 seconds. The number of concurrent queries peaked in Michaelmas term at ca. 6 per second.
- OxFile – provided input on design, usability and accessibility of interface.
- OUCS Blogs - developed Wordpress templates for OUCS blogs
- OUCS website – provided input into ongoing revision of OUCS homepage design
- Course Booking system – InfoDev develops and maintains the course booking system. Further development is currently on hold while OUCS evaluates the new HRIS system as a possible replacement.
- Computer Hardware Breakdown Service - implemented system for sending machine registrations directly to the Equinox database.
- Hardware Repair Service - developing interface that by-passes the online shop and provides the Help Centre with improved control of the service.
- Google Search Appliance (GSA) - maintaining the GSA to provide custom search results for many units across the University. Worked on the provision of new collections on the search engine and assistance with tailoring the results to integrate with websites.
- Status - InfoDev provides maintenance and development on status.ox.ac.uk adding new services to be monitored when feasible. The team is currently investigating the possibility of entirely rewriting this service to enable greater future development.
- OxItems - continued to provide development support , bug fixes, and security patches for this service. The team is investigating the possibility of developing a replacement for this service.
- OxPoints - ongoing maintenance and development has taken place for OxPoints, our geolinking server that is increasingly used as a canonical source of information about physical aspects of the University. In addition to updating of information this year has seen the development of a web-based editor for OxPoints data made available to ITSS.
- data.ox - the InfoDev team has been responsible for the creation, implementation, and ongoing development of the University's linked open data repository: http://data.ox.ac.uk/. Although a great deal of work has been undertaken on this repository the team will be further developing this and increasing the number of datasets of institutional available.
- OxGarage - initially developed as a tangential output to a funded EU research project, the OxGarage service provides multiple REST-enabled pipelined conversions of document formats and is made available as a demonstrator of the underlying technologies.
- OTA - the InfoDev team is responsible for the provision and maintenance of the Oxford Text Archive.
- Display Screen Equipment Self Assessment - the team has provided updates and security patches to the system it designed for self assessment of workstation health and safety.
- Template design – providing HTML/CSS mock-ups of a site or interface design for implementation into the clients system.
- Redesign of existing sites – providing design and or interface development input on an existing site to improve appearance, usability, accessibility, etc.
- Development of small scale sites for small units or research projects
- CMS development – designing, developing and maintaining a site in the Drupal Content Management System (CMS)
- Bangor Pontifical Project
- British National Corpus
- Bodleian Dictionary of Slang
- Bodleian ePubs
- Cantigas de Santa Maria
- CLAROS & Metamorphoses
- Corsi Stones project
- DAISY Research Information Push
- Digital Medievalist
- Digital Temple (George Herbert poetry)
- Discovering Babel
- Electronic Database of Poetic Forms
- Gaiji Bank of non-Unicode Characters
- Holinshed's Chronicles Annotation Project
- Livingstone Online
- Mapping Knowledge Transmission
- Middle Dutch Phonology
- Online Egyptological Bibliography
- Oxford & Cambridge Islamic Manuscripts Catalogue Online: OCIMCO
- Oxford Text Archive
- Podcast ePubs
- Poetic Miscellanies
- Stationers' Register Online
- Text Encoding Initiative
- Thomas Wyatt's Sonnets
- Tibetan Text Project
- UWIC: MSWord-to-XCRI
- Verb Semantics and Argument Realization in Pre-Modern Japanese
- Wandering Jew's Chronicle
- William Godwin's Diary
Several of these projects are reported separately in the Infodev Projects section.
- Free advice - InfoDev have provided free consultancy advice to well over 50 different units or projects inside the university.
- External pro bono work - The InfoDev team also has provided a limited amount of pro bono advice and support to those outside the University (e.g. in supporting the OxGarage service, or TEI encoding for the Livingstone Online project).
- Usability/Accessibility consultancy - InfoDev has provided in-depth consultancy on projects (e.g. the DataFlow and CLAROS projects)
- Technical input on research bids - InfoDev supplied technical proofreading and best-practice advice for numerous research bids from all areas of the university.
- Summer School - InfoDev team members organized, ran, and taught at the Digital.Humanities@Oxford Summer School 2011, a week-long parallel stream digital humanities workshop mixing practical technology teaching with more abstract best practice discussions and invited plenary speakers.
- Workshops - InfoDev members taught various one-off workshops either for individual projects (e.g. TEI XML for the Electronic Database of Poetic Forms), on specific technologies (e.g. XSLT), or at the request of specific departments (e.g. a Corpus Linguistics course).
- The InfoDev team also provided digital humanities tutoring for students displaced by earthquakes in New Zealand.
The InfoWeb team continues to oversee and manage OUCS's web presence. The team focuses on keeping content well-managed and up to date as opposed to the work of the InfoDev team which undertakes development of innovative services, often on a chargeable basis.
One of the major tasks of the team is to assists service providers in editing their user documentation. During the last year this, in particular, has entailed considerable work with the Nexus team to help them produce SharePoint 2010 documentation for both users and site owners. Further infoweb also coordinates the collection of material, collates and produces the annual report for the department. Work also continues to promote usable and accessible documentation for our end users across all managed sites.
- OxITEMS (with support from InfoDev)
- Status.ox.ac.uk (with support from InfoDev)
- The information displays in OUCS reception and the user refreshment area
There are many statistics that can be shown for web services. The Nexus information pages were the most heavily used in the reporting period with 25% of all visits being to the Nexus email pages and 13% being to other Nexus pages. It is noteworthy that only 6% of page visits were to the OUCS home page, this could indicate either that people find OUCS web pages by searching rather than via the home page, or that people use much more than just the home page on the OUCS web site.
The majority of visits to the OUCS web site are from the UK and from Oxford in particular; the top three browser/operating system combinations are Internet Explorer/Windows, Firefox/Windows, Safari/Mac; mobile access to the OUCS web site is about 2% of total activity with the iPhone being the most popular and Android running a close second. This is a significant change from last year when the iPhone was the most popular by a factor of five.
[The WebLearn Poll session via Mobile Oxford was] "much better than normal CAL as this can be a waste of time, would be better to have a poll quiz like this every week during CAL time."
1st year Undergraduate Medicine student, May 2011
We were impressed at how enthusiastic those students with internet enabled mobiles were for the Mobile Oxford interface and observed that students were clearly engaged actively in the session.
Helen Christian, teacher of 1st year Undergraduate Medicine, May 2011
"I have been pleased with the [Surveys tool] trial we did using WebLearn for lecture feedback last term. It saved me a great deal of time in processing the results for presenting to the tutors, as we carry out feedback requests to undergraduates for each lecturer each term. The different formats of report was also useful."
Elaine Sherrott, Earth Sciences
2009-10 saw the introduction of the new WebLearn service — this service is based on a piece of open source software called Sakai. This new service is due to run in parallel with the old service ('Old WebLearn') for 2 years until September 2011.
Most of the WebLearn training courses have been very well attended (the exception being 'Migrating your Content' which has been cancelled three times this year due to lack of interest). We introduced one new course during the reporting period and the beginner's course continues to be held once per month during term time.
A number of areas of new WebLearn have been actively developed over the last year with a small number of new tools introduced. The main enhancements have been the formal introduction of the very popular Surveys tool, the institutionally funded Student Enrolment System (see later), the integration of reading lists with SOLO, the addition of an interface within Mobile Oxford (as part of the Erewhon project), improvements to the end of year site copying process and integration with Oxford Podcasts (as part of the Listening For Impact project).
Prior to last year, this report has concentrated on the old WebLearn service, however, just as we did last year (because it is difficult to relate statistics between the two systems), we will mainly present statistics about the new service.
There is now a total of 2,589 sites (29 Colleges, 13 Humanities departments, 10 from MPLS, 15 from Social Sciences, 18 from UAS and 4 from ASUC; virtually all Medical Sciences Departmental sites are administered by the division so cannot be counted). This means 106 sites were created this year.
We have traditionally presented the number of unique logins during the first week of Trinity term, however, with users being spread over two systems and with some logging in to just one and others logging into both it is now not possible to present combined figures.
There has been a larger increase in bandwidth this year than in the previous two years, there has also been an increase in page hits. The figures for page hits are slightly misleading because each page served in new WebLearn contains more hits than for old WebLearn – this is probably due to the larger number of graphical elements on a new WebLearn page.
|Type of user||Distinct users|
|Division||Number of sites|
A small number of new guides were produced for the new WebLearn service. These included a series of Case Studies and 'How To' guides in addition to the 'Step-by-Step' and 'Least You Need To Know' series.
All material is accessible via the WebLearn Guidance site: http://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info.
The WebLearn team have produced a total of 44 video screencast tutorials demonstrating the use of some of the most important tools in WebLearn, this is an increase of 26 since last year. These videos are available on the WebLearn Guidance site listed as 'Video tutorials' under the 'Guides and tutorials' section and provide users with short 'just-in-time' visual demonstrations of particular tools. The topics have been subdivided into short sections covering two or three tasks within a particular tool, and lasting only two or three minutes.
The WebLearn User Group (WLUG) which takes place once a term is still proving to be very popular. The event always includes cream tea and scones meaning that booking is essential, see: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/itlp/courses/detail/TOVD . Details also appear in the WebLearn area of the OUCS website: http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/weblearn/.
The User Group enables interested parties to come together to share ideas and practices and to hear about recent and future developments. Guest speakers are invited to come and give a short informal presentation about how WebLearn works for them.
Guest speakers over the last year included Rachel Woodruff and Victoria Brown from the Department of the History of Art talking about their use of WebLearn, Daniel Wilkes from the Manor Road Web Team talking about Politics' move from old WebLearn and Andy Cotgreve showing how he used the Tableau visualisation package to add value to WebLearn 'Site Stats' data.
The three meetings of the WLUG in the 2010-11 academic year were attended by about 35 different staff members, each meeting had about 25 attendees. For more information visit the 'WebLearn User Group' site: https://weblearn.ox.ac.uk/info/eas
The WebLearn blog is still proving popular: 90 posts were made over the course of the year and all were about WebLearn or Sakai (the software underpinning WebLearn). It is an invaluable resource for all WebLearn site owners.
A new blog called Sakai in UK Higher Education was set up last year to try to promote the adoption of Sakai in this country.
The OUCS Advisory Service is now the primary point of contact for WebLearn queries. Nevertheless the WebLearn team still answered 482 'RT' email queries in addition to a large number of private email and phone queries.
Members of the WebLearn team have presented at Oxford's ICTF and UAS conferences as well as at ALT-C and the Sakai 2011 conference in Los Angeles. Regular round-ups and induction seminars are given via the ITS3 network.
- New 'Survey Beta' tool added – this tool was previously called 'Evaluations' – over 60 bugs have been fixed over the last year but there are still a few issues with this tool hence its Beta status
- Users can now become members of 'Joinable' sites by simply visiting the site – previously one had to join via the 'Memberships' tool in 'My Workspace'
- Introduction of the Student Enrolment System – this tool has been updated since its introduction in September 2010 with every new WebLearn release
- WebLearn available via Mobile Oxford
- New version of Tutorial Signup tool
- Public voting via a mobile phone – this allows WebLearn to be used by the general public in place of 'clickers' (also known as Voting Pods)
- New tool called 'Oxford Podcasts' now available, this includes a wizard for browsing and selecting Oxford podcasts for inclusion on a site
- Integration of the Reading List tool (within Resources) with the Bodleian Library's SOLO search interface. Real-time availability information of books and journals are available within a reading list, however, the introduction of Aleph in July has affected the display of book availability.
- IMS Basic Learning Tools Interoperability (LTI) support has been added.
- When sites are copied, references are now automatically updated to point to the equivalent documents in the new site.
It is difficult to estimate how many people have moved their material. As far as we can tell (looking at page requests and bandwidth above), the vast majority of users have moved. Old WebLearn will be made read only on 27 September 2011.
There is an ITLP course and a variety of guides available on migration via the WebLearn Guidance Site.
Around 3,400 people attended our courses this year. On average each person takes 3 courses, with one dedicated individual coming along to 65 different sessions! In addition, 2,500 people turned up to our special events and inductions.
The IT Learning Programme (ITLP) is part of the Learning Technologies Group (LTG). Its aim is to enable all members of the University to integrate good ICT practice into their work, and in doing so we take account of the diversity of learning styles, expectations and previous skill levels that exist. The small team of experienced teachers, event organisers and administrators have the following responsibilities:
- Delivering an open programme of IT related courses that benefit all members of the University.
- Providing closed courses for specific University groups.
- Organising courses delivered by external experts, both as part of our open programme and as closed courses.
- Supporting services offered by OUCS to the rest of the University by way of short, specially developed courses.
- Promoting the use of technology in teaching and learning by dissemination of best practice.
- Providing post-course support to course participants.
- Sharing our experience of teaching room design and provisioning with other departments around the University.
- Organising and hosting learning events in our fully equipped training rooms for local, national and international audiences.
During the course of the year we presented 509 open sessions (1487.5 teaching hours, 2727 distinct individuals) covering 199 topics, and 63 closed sessions (238.5 teaching hours, 732 distinct individuals) covering 47 topics.
Human. = Humanities; MPLS = Math, Physics and Life Sciences; Med. Sci. = Medical Science; Soc. Sci. = Social Science; Acad. Services = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services; Ext. = External.
Human. = Humanities; MPLS = Math, Physics and Life Sciences; Med. Sci. = Medical Science; Soc. Sci. = Social Science; Acad. Services = Academic Services; Cont. Edu. = Continuing Education; UAS = University Administration and Services; Ext. = External.
This year we have focused on strategies for reducing the number of attendees booking a course, but failing to turn up. We often have waiting lists and non-attendance deprives others of the learning opportunity. As a baseline figure for this year, the percentage of non-attendees (the difference between bookings and attendances) was 12% for closed courses and 28% for open courses. The higher value hides significant variations between different types of open courses.
- Digital images: Sourcing, adapting and safe keeping
- Multimedia: Presenting and interviewing for podcasts and video demand
- Multimedia: Screen and audio capture for teaching
- Multimedia: Screen capture – assessing student learning
- Nexus: Essential features for email and calendars
- Nexus: SharePoint – An overview
- Nexus: SharePoint – A guide for site owners
- On-line Presence: A workshop
- Researcher services at OUCS
- Research information management: Organising humanities material
- Research information management: Tools for humanities
- Secrets of: Controlling Windows start up applications
- Secrets of: Firefox extensions
- Secrets of: Word – mail merge
- Secrets of: Word – shortcuts, templates and defaults
- Understanding user centred design
- WebEx Meeting Center - basic
- Relaunch of a number of programming courses
- New WebLearn courses
- Adobe Creative Suite workshops
- Skills Toolkit (see below)
- Digital Media Users Group (See below)
In collaboration with Andy Cotgreave of Administration Services we helped host two lunch time talks by internationally renowned communicators, each attended by in excess of 200 members of the University:
- The facility to 'express an interest in a course'.
- Automated notifications about course availability.
- Integration with the OxPoints geolinking information service to display maps of training venues.
- Linking the online course catalogue with the ITLP Portfolio in WebLearn.
The ITLP Portfolio has become an integral part of the IT Learning Programme. It supports the range of ITLP taught courses by offering downloadable course handbooks, student exercise files and additional information such as 'how-to' videos. Over this year there were 2700 visits by 1194 distinct individuals, of whom 126 made four or more visits. A breakdown of visitors by Division/Unit is given below:
Our web-based participant feedback system, Indicate by Ostrakon, continues to allow us to maintain the highest level of teaching excellence. We routinely achieve a reply rate of 60% or more to our requests to participants for feedback, helping us to ensure quality, consistency and relevance in our programme.
Workshops in Information Skills and Electronic Resources (WISER) are short sessions hosted at OUCS with the help of ITLP and owned and presented by specialist librarians from the Bodleian Libraries. These aim to equip postgraduate researchers and others with the skills to make effective use of electronic and other library resources. These sessions remain popular with nearly 1,000 bookings this year.
make: is a series of lunchtime sessions were members of the University are invited to showcase their creative use of technology in teaching and learning. This year we hosted 11 sessions, with an additional 2 from other academic institutions. The topics included the use of iPads by academics, the implementation of an internationally acclaimed online exhibition, and an award-winning student prospectus in the form of a newspaper.
The 'Research Skills Toolkit' project is a collaboration between the Bodleian Libraries and the IT Learning Programme at OUCS. It offers postgraduate and post-doc researchers a range of transferable IT and Library Information skills and tools, that will support their research while at Oxford and in their future careers. This year we ran 15 subject-specific Toolkit workshops, tailored to the subject needs of 12 participating departments, and we substantially developed the Skills Toolkit website.
The distinctive feature of a Skills Toolkit workshop is that students learn by doing: they are given a range of hands-on computer tasks to carry out, which give them a view of how each tool or technique could support their research work. Expert staff are on hand at each task to offer guidance, and to suggest further resources.
Each session quickly developed a busy atmosphere, which encouraged discussion among students and with supervising staff. Students and staff commented that the Toolkit workshops provided good opportunities for students to meet their subject librarians and key IT staff. 77% of students found the event 'useful' or 'very useful' for their research, and 97% rated at least one task 'useful' or 'very useful'.
The Skills Toolkit website contains a substantial supporting resource with links to 'how-to' videos, taught courses and online information. It has proved popular with students - over 800 distinct individuals have visited the site this year.
In the fourth week of each term, we invite new staff for a short introduction to the services offered to the University by OUCS. It is an opportunity to meet members of the ITLP teaching staff and others in OUCS, and to discuss the different ways that we can help use IT.
With the help of other OUCS staff, the ITLP team provide a series of short talks to interested departments and groups at the start of each academic year. These talks are primarily to postgraduate students, and some undergraduates, and focus on how best to make use of the IT services provided by OUCS. The programme of inductions has grown steadily over the years and now reaches about 2,750 students.
All four modules (Databases, Spreadsheets, Word Processing, Presentations) of the Advanced European Computer Driving Licence certification are available at OUCS. Word processing and spreadsheets are the most popular with 73% of the total bookings. The pass rate across all modules is 73%.
- Area Studies
- Bodleian Libraries
- Central Admin (Finance, Personnel, Student Admin)
- Centre for Evidence Based Medicine
- Earth Sciences
- Human Sciences
- Oriel College
- Oxford Internet Institute
- Physiology, Anatomy and Genetics
- Public and Primary Health
- Regents Park College
- Safety Office
- St Peter's College
- University College
- Wellcome Trust Centre for Human Genetics
- Wycliffe Hall
Our Apple Teaching room has continued to be very popular, offering a wide variety of digital media courses. We have maintained our AATCe status, focusing on delivering Apple Approved training in the media industry's dominant video editing software: Final Cut Pro.
- Byte-size and demonstration sessions providing overviews of Nexus and SharePoint
- Focussed courses showing how to set up meetings, manage calendars and mailing lists using Nexus
- Focussed sessions showing how to manage SharePoint sites
- One-to-one help at our weekly Computer8 sessions
In addition to our open schedule, ITLP also worked closely with IMSU to provide a tailored programme of courses for its staff migrating from Groupwise to Nexus. Between Sept 2010 and May 2011, ITLP delivered 12 sessions at the JR and Old Road Campus to 138 members of staff.
The Digital Media User Group (DMUG) was setup in November 2010 and has held two termly meetings showcasing some of the projects that Oxford can be proud of. The purpose of the group is to allow practitioners in digital media an opportunity to network and learn what is happening in this area across the University. The production of media will become more efficient as people become aware of the different skillsets in the University. The group has been steadily growing and now has 93 members.
Learning Technology Group (LTG) Services provides the backbone to many LTG activities, offering advice on and expertise in the use of technology for learning and teaching to departments around the University. We have particular expertise in audio-video multimedia and we operate the University podcasting service. We also have expertise in learning design, systems interoperability, open education and gathering user requirements. The team is involved in many training sessions and outreach activities around media, content licensing and copyright. In 2010-11,externally funded projects included work around releasing Open Educational Resources (OER) at Oxford and researching the impact of this area. LTGS Services work regularly with departmental contacts on embedding technology in teaching and learning, including using the tools available in the institutional VLE software.
During this reporting period the team entered the third year of running the very successful Oxford on iTunesU service and a parallel web media portal - http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk. The podcasting service supports all departments to publish their public facing lectures, talks and conferences in a standardised way allowing material to be seen and downloaded by a global audience.
The iTunesU channel impact since launch in 2008 is impressive, with 350 different lecture sets containing around 3,000 items. These media channels attract a global audience, with over 120,000 podcasts being downloaded each week, and many popular Oxford talks appear regularly in the global top 10 iTunesU downloads.
- 12 million downloads from iTunesU
- 3,000 podcast items processed
- 2,700 academic speakers and contributors
The usage statistics from the iTunes U portal showed a significant growth in usage in 2010. Podcasts have been downloaded 12 million times by July 2011, up from 4 million downloads the previous July. This steep rise in audience was due to an Apple iTunes upgrade in August 2010 that released iTunesU to a wider audience with full support for mobile platforms such as the iphone and ipad. In October 2010, Oxford on iTunesU was upgraded to support the delivery of ebooks in the epub format and a series of complimentary text resources were released including the entire first folio of Shakespeare's plays.
The section has continued to improve and expand the help, support and resources offered - including regular briefing sessions run fortnightly on the technical and legal issues of audio and video recording. Many more departments are now using the service to disseminate their public lectures and to engage with the public. Oxford's content was viewed by millions of people in an Apple iPad TV advert, which aired in winter 2010 across all major networks.
To make sure all users can access the material, there is also a parallel website, http://podcasts.ox.ac.uk which meets the needs of those learners restricted to web only access. The main URL continues to be http://itunes.ox.ac.uk.
- Open Spires: Releasing high-quality Open Educational Resources for educational reuse
- Ripple: Developing a model to support other institutions to investigate OER release
- Triton: Making subject-specific OER more discoverable for the Politics subject community
- Listening for Impact: An analysis of the impact of the public Oxford Podcast collection
The team also continued the Learning Design Support Environment for Lecturers (LDSE) project, which is developing an interactive learning design tool to support teachers who are moving to blended learning. The LDSE project (http://www.oucs.ox.ac.uk/ltg/projects/) is led by the Institute of Education, London and is funded by ESRC/EPSRC. These LTGS projects are discussed more fully later in this report.
LTG Services also plays a role in disseminating best practice in learning and teaching. Activities include: running IT and VLE training; occasional workshops such as copyright for teaching and learning; the annual 'Show and Tell' OxTALENT awards event; and a regular series on communication techniques for podcasting and iTunesU.
OUCS administers a large number of software agreements for commonly requested software packages for personal computers. The University is thus able to make considerable savings against the individual purchase cost. A large proportion of centrally-licensed software is now hosted on the OUCS downloads site so IT Support Staff across the University can access it easily and provide it for their users as an alternative to purchasing media from the OUCS shop.
A Microsoft Campus agreement enables us to rent the most popular Microsoft products, e.g. Windows upgrades and Office Professional (both for Windows and Mac). Work-at-home rights are also included in this agreement. This year the cost for the Microsoft Campus rental was £346,019.
A Microsoft Select agreement, operated via the Computing Services Shop, allows for the purchase of other Microsoft products including servers and non-campus Client Access Licences. An Adobe agreement, again operated via the Computing Services Shop, allows for the purchase of the most popular Adobe products at educational prices.
The budget for site-licensed software used throughout the University currently stands at £101,295. Products include SPSS, EndNote, Exceed, MapInfo and Sophos (for which the following licences were added this year).
OUCS also administers various software contracts on behalf of groups of departments to assist in gaining more favourable pricing; this year software to the value of £59,155 was purchased and subsequently paid for by contributing departments and this represented a significant saving against purchasing the software separately.
The most significant event in the year was the acquisition of a new site licence for the NVivo software at a cost of £11,124. This had been in demand for some time and 215 licences for it were issued in the reporting period, representing a saving already of just over £80k compared to individual purchases or just under £60k had the licences been bought in packs of 15. So far, therefore, the cost of providing NVivo for each user is around £51 as compared to the standard £360+VAT unit price.This figure will decrease as more licenses are issued.
The OUCS Data Centre Operations Team manages the day to day running of the Data Centre located at 13 Banbury Road. The team monitors power distribution, temperature, humidity and all other environmental factors, as well as advising groups using the Centre on positioning of equipment and services.
The air conditioning continues to cause concern. The air conditioning units are obsolete and obtaining spares becomes more difficult. The units are becoming more and more unreliable (being 10-15 years old).
The reconfiguration of the air flow in the centre last year has resulted in overall temperatures falling. Environment monitoring is able to store up to 2 years of history via a network NAS (network-attached storage) drive so the team can quickly browse current environmental trends and past trends within the Centre.
A feasibility study was carried out earlier in 2011 to look at the possibility of refurbishing the live data centre. This study concluded that refurbishment would be very difficult as there are 20 years' worth of cables in the floor plenum. The study recommended building a new data centre in space located on the other side of the building, decanting equipment from the existing data centre and the decommissioning of the current data centre and converting it back to office space. This is due to take place subject to funding and senior management approval, during 2012.
The new University Shared Data Centre is now operational bar a few snagging issues which continue to be ironed out.
The Operations poster printing service continues to be popular. 800 A0 posters have been printed so far in 2011. An updated printer (an Epson 9800) has recently been installed and a 64-bit version of the raster image processing (RIP) software has been installed to take advantage of the extended memory addressing within Windows 7 64-bit.
During the past year the Network Systems Management Services (NSMS) team have successfully completed several projects that have enhanced or augmented the IT services that the collegiate University relies upon. To support the ever increasing portfolio of services offered by the NSMS group we have taken on an additional member of staff bringing our staff complement to twelve. We are intending to recruit two new staff over the next 3 months. Group turnover has grown to £779k.
- Established a ResNet (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ResNet) for Graduate Accommodation.
- Designed and developed a resilient private Cloud (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cloud_computing) based in the University's new Data Centre underpinned by VMware's latest vSphere software.
- Formed a strategic partnership with Vmware on their Activate project. This provided the University with valuable consultancy on how to establish and configure the private Cloud.
- Created a 'Database as a service' (ViDaaS) service running on virtualisation hardware in the new Data Centre.
- Built upon the ViDaaS project to provide an infrastructure-as-a-service (IaaS) offering from the new USDC to complement the co-location facilities. Examined the feasibility of moving the NSMS VM4Rent service into this new cloud infrastructure. Looked at cost models for the IaaS service.
- Undertook a pilot project to evaluate the optimal configuration of OUCS's MIT kerberos authentication infrastructure with college and Departmental Active Directories. This project assessed the viability of a central Active Directory for Oxford.
- Established a fully-managed IT support service for the Oxford University Students' Union and Oxford University Botanic Gardens Apple Macs.
- Took on an advisory and support role for the Blavatnik School of Government.
Since its creation in 2009, Mobile Oxford has grown in popularity and capability to be regarded as one of the world's leading HE mobile services. Integrating data and resources from a multitude of sources both internal and external to the University, it provides a range of interfaces that are available on any mobile device capable of browsing the web. This includes everything from location sensitive library searching, full access to Oxford's award winning podcast library and even real time bus andtrain information for the city.
Over the past year, the software that the Mobile Oxford team built to deliver Mobile Oxford has been developed considerably under the open source 'Molly Project'. Mobile Oxford has had thirteen new releases bringing in a range of new features such as train timetables, tutorial bookings, slippy maps and much more. The Molly Project has also expanded to include to new Universities - Bangor University and St George's Medical College, University of London.
In addition, the Mobile Oxford team has been involved in a number of other mobile/location sensitive projects including a time-use research project commissioned by the University's sociology department. This involved developing a system to deploy and monitor automatically reporting GPS devices and produce reports automatically on how and where volunteers spent their survey days.
WebEx is a web conferencing service that gives participants the tools to seamlessly collaborate and share information. With WebEx, you can share presentations, applications and your entire desktop with colleagues from around the world.
WebEx initially ran as a trial until July 2009, it then moved to be a cost-recovered service. There are currently over 40 WebEx accounts in operation. Promotion is on-going to attract more users to the service and to educate about how to use it.
ITS3 was not at full-strength during the reporting period. One member of staff was working full time, and one half-time. The vacancy for Support Officer (50% FTE) was carried for 9 months as a cost-saving exercise. The Head of ITS3 continues to devote about 40% of his time to ITS3.
ITS3 continues to be the principal channel of emergency communication between OUCS and IT Support Staff (ITSS). ITS3 holds 187 alternative email addresses for ITSS and 199 mobile numbers that it can use to send emergency SMS messages.
ITS3 continues to act as a broker for the Janet SSL server certificate service in conjunction with Comodo. Around 500 certificates have been have been issued in the reporting period saving Oxford in the several tens of thousands of pounds at average prices.
ITS3 continues to handle copyright infringement notices on behalf of the University with OxCERT and remains extremely grateful for the help provided by ITSS in dealing these promptly thus greatly reducing the risk to the University of litigation. 231 incidents were dealt with during the reporting period, representing a significant increase of over 80%.
Chargeable courses included VMWare vSphere, ISEB Certificate in Information Security, ITIL v3 Foundation, Mac OS 10.6 Support Essentials and a new partnership with JANET to deliver Computers, Privacy and the Law. Lunch and learn events were organised in partnership with Insight, Altman, Cisco and Aerohive.
The largest events organised during the year were the IT Suppliers' Exhibition in December 2010 and the 2011 ICT Forum conference in July. The conference was again held at The Kassam Football Stadium. 330 Oxford IT Staff and around 20 IT Support Staff from The University of Cambridge attended.
Social events have continued to be an important part of ITSS life in Oxford. Many of these are arranged by ITSS outside of OUCS. They include regular lunchtime and evening gatherings and are invaluable in terms of fostering skill and knowledge-sharing among ITSS. The last summer BBQ in September 2010 was well-attended as was an unofficial ITSS event to mark several of them entering their fifth decade in 2011.
Organisationally, there have been big changes for the OUCS Marketing section with the disbanding of the Marketing and Communications Group and changes to reporting structure. The Marketing Manager now presents reports for discussion to the User Services Team. Their minutes are widely disseminated and feed into Senior Management Meetings. An annual round of meetings with senior managers to discuss their section's marketing requirements and aspirations for the year has been established. Internal marketing web pages providing information, ideas and resources to OUCS staff has been considerably revamped.
The Welcome to IT website has been extensively developed and updated again and incorporates a major section on online security and privacy. Although integrated in the Welcome to IT web site, this is still accessible via the http://unwelcometoit.ox.ac.uk URL.
Results from the annual Freshers Survey were analysed to a new level of detail this year which proved very illuminating, was well received by a number of University committees and will be continued. The Freshers Survey has been a feature of Freshers Fair for six years and provides an excellent resource to guide the aims and aspirations of the department.
Leaflets, posters, web pages, Blueprint adverts, newsfeeds and banners continue to be important publicity tools and have been used within OUCS, at specific events and around the wider University. Newsfeeds are linked to the OUCS Facebook page and Twitter feed which have both seen a rising number of users. A podcast about OUCS has been developed and used successfully at Freshers Fair, the IT Suppliers Exhibition and other events.
To show some of the range of things OUCS do, we have also promoted ArtWeeks at OUCS and INGOTEC, a not for profit organisation offering IT services to charities and run by OUCS staff in their spare time.
OUCS regularly provides reports to University committees and groups, such as the ICT Forum. OUCS News continues to be produced once a term and distributed to all colleges and departments. Its distribution list continues to expand as more people become aware of it and want to ensure they receive a copy on a regular basis.
OUCS is very grateful for the continuing support, co-operation, and high level of expertise provided by distributed IT Support Staff in their dealings with users, their take up of OUCS-offered training and in disseminating information about OUCS services to their users as appropriate.
During the past year OUCS recruited 11 new members of staff and we had 21 leavers or retirees with a total of 249 years service between them. We also saw another successful batch of interns over the summer period, the introduction of a media apprentice and we hosted three work experience students.
During the year we saw the introduction of the new HRIS Core system for on line recruitment. OUCS became one of the last departments in the University to start using the system. It is evolving and HR are learning all the time eventually it will result in best practice for recruitment processes.
HR came to grips with new government legislation including new stringent requirements from the border agency when obtaining work permits for employees. Other legislation that came into force was the new Additional Parental Leave and the Equality Act. The new Parental Leave legislation allows parents to share maternity/paternity leave arrangements and pay. Whilst the Equality Act, harmonised and replaced some of the existing equality and discrimination legislation.
Oxford University and OUCS are taking a stronger line when it comes to monitoring staff absences from work. With this in mind SMG and HR have formulised sickness absence monitoring, managers are now encouraged to arrange back to work interviews for staff who have been absent.
Each year OUCS reports on staff contributions to various open source initiatives. Before any code is released, however, these are all approved by OUCS senior managers. In the course of 2010-2011 the following contributions were made: