Community College of Rhode Island

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IT News

February 2013

Interruption in Banner and Related Tools Service

Test patternOn March 10 --the Sunday before the spring break, IT and its database partner Ellucian, will be performing a required update of the Oracle database enabling other projects to proceed. Though this interruption in service is scheduled for eight hours, it is not likely that it will take that long. As soon as Banner and its accompanying systems are available, they will be brought online.

Having system interruptions is never something that is desirable but as quickly as technology changes, bug fixes are supplied and problems with systems are encountered, the department of Information Technology has to take action. In many cases, issues are interrelated and so a single system might have a problem affecting several others or the links between systems are at risk. The ease in which some systems are usable is a measure of the dependencies they have upon each other.

IT promises to continue to work with students, faculty and staff to discover times where interruptions in service are least painful while also working diligently on ways to avoid downtime altogether. As we speak, redundancy and continuity efforts are being made daily to have systems built and managed in multiple locations to enhance our ability to upgrade systems while maintaining the connection for everyone. This is not always possible but it is a goal that we are trying to achieve.

Finally, we are pushing ourselves to find ways to alert everyone with plenty of warning when situations arise when we have no alternative but to shutdown services. It is our intention to keep improving our communications channels regardless of the problem.

Security Awareness

Computer SecurityFor the last several months the Institutional Technology Advisory Committee, the Academic Technology Advisory Committee and the Information Systems Advisory Committee, the three primary groups for directing IT-related projects, have been reviewing the SANS Institute Security Awareness Training modules. The goal was for the teams to decide whether an annual security awareness training program should be offered for all faculty and staff and which modules from the online training suite would be suggested as possibilities.

IT purchased thee modules in conjunction with URI to ensure that the population of technology users here at the college had an opportunity to provide themselves with enough information to avoid the pitfalls evident in cyberspace. Ten modules were particularly nominated to be in the initial program and they are:

  • Password
  • Wi-Fi Security
  • Protecting Your Computer
  • Email & IM
  • Social Networking
  • Mobile Devices
  • Browsing
  • FERPA
  • Ethics
  • Data Protection

Each of the online presentations is brief; no more than 2 or 3 minutes in most cases. However, the content and style of each is comfortable and not overly technical in nature. Easily utilized, the videos are web-based and so will work with any browser. Additional modules exist and will be offered as part of the program for those who want more specific information on topics not covered in this list.

The security awareness program will be vetted through the President’s Council for approval and adoption and then offered in late summer and early fall. The SANS Institute modules will be updated every year to include new and changing content surround security.

Sleep Mode on Inactive Computers

Kitten asleep on keyboardAnother important topic that involves security and was a feature of the advisory group meetings was the concept of “sleep” mode on each CCRI computer. When someone steps away from their computer for thirty minutes, resulting in inactivity on the keyboard or mouse, the machine will be configured to go into a sleep mode. This will happen at every faculty and staff computer located in an office or suite area. What does sleep mode mean?

The computer sensing inactivity after thirty minutes, automatically logs itself off. The person returning to the machine needs to hit any key and will be prompted to type in their password once again. Once logged back in, the files, applications and features being used on the computer when it went to sleep will return to exactly the spot where the machine was left. Nothing gets lost, no files get closed and no interruption is caused in what was being done. So why would we institute sleep mode?

The greatest security risk that anyone has at their desk is if they leave their computer on, walk away and someone sits down at that machine and creates mayhem. Deleting files is simple enough and in a rapid fashion. Sending emails through an open account can be done. Just simply turning the machine off could result in lost data or corrupted files. All this could occur in a blink of an eye if no one is watching. So sleep mode ends up being a small price to pay for a large level of protection.

Once again this is going to go to the President’s council for vetting and approval. Once that approval is given, a group policy will be delivered to each machine as an update to institute the sleep mode.

Service Desk! We Need Your Help!

Help buttonThe Department of Information Technology has a limited number of staff resources to dedicate to support of the various campuses throughout CCRI. We are constantly re-evaluating the manner in which we use those resources and where we might have areas needing supplemental support or indeed, not as much support. A key indicator for us to evaluate that is through the “trouble ticketing” system and what workload is attached to the number of tickets at each campus.

IT needs your help to ensure that we provide the best service we can to each CCRI student, faculty and staff member. Every time you have a problem, we ask that you send an email message to itsd@ccri.edu as well as cc’ing your favorite IT person. That way we have a record of each issue encountered, who had the problem and how it was resolved. This method makes us better than we are today. How?

When IT as a group knows about the incident it is a good thing. Other campuses could experience the same problem and once solved, that solution would be shared. With this data available the knowledge base surrounding issues gets populated helping IT folks improve their overall skill level. The problem does not occur again and again and we work to solve it once. Having that central point to collect the trouble tickets is vital to make us more efficient and effective with the limited number of people we have.

So the next time you get ready to call your favorite IT person, please consider sending an email to the Service Desk instead. In this way, everyone in IT knows about problems and if a solution is prolonged, we can devote even more resources to its solution. When it gets solved, everyone knows what that solution was and it can be applied repeatedly. Additionally it gives credit to the person whom you would have contacted directly for a job well done and the workload that they are maintaining.

While the Service Desk at CCRI has gotten a bad name, I am convinced that the email delivery of ticket requests does work. I’ve seen it. I hope you can help. Emailing the Service Desk does not add to the numerous phone calls we get every day and it gets your message through quickly and efficiently. Thanks for your consideration in this extremely helpful act.

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Last Updated: 11/7/14