IT open meeting Feb 2023 | Your questions answered

A summary of questions and answers from the open meeting with the IT Executive Leadership Team held in February 2023.

You can also view the recording of the open meeting.

When the Windows Refresh project is complete, how will PCs that reach the end of their five year warranty be replaced, and will IT be coordinating it?  

Although there will be an end to the project, our plan is to continue refreshing devices on an ongoing basis outside of a project, as business as usual. This is a very important area for us and we know how important it is that people have the right equipment.  

Our aim is to move to using a third-party supplier to deliver this as a service for us, so you can choose what device you want (within certain templates) and it would be delivered direct to you and set itself up when you first log in. The technology behind this is called Autopilot and Intune, and we are implementing it now. Our aim is that you will be able to order standard equipment and have it delivered within a couple of days. 

We will keep a small stock of laptops at the IT Service Desk, so if your computer breaks and you need a replacement urgently, we’ll be able to do this for you.  

When a member of staff goes to the IT Service Desk in person, with a critical issue that needs resolving immediately, for example if they are about to give a lecture, should they have to wait in line behind students or is there anything we can do to provide more support for staff?   

It is a little harder to prioritise face-to-face support than through the web form, but if you make us aware that there is a critical, time-sensitive issue, we will see you as quickly as possible. At the moment, it is probably best if you phone the Service Desk first, but if you do walk to Service Desk, please let one of the Service Desk staff know when you arrive that you have an urgent issue.  

In the near future (April/May), we will be introducing live chat, so if Falco (our chatbot) can’t answer your question, you will be through to an agent when they are available, in the same way as phoning the Service Desk. If you need to be seen ahead of any students, the Service Desk staff will explain why it is necessary.  

What infrastructure is being put in place to support teaching and research activities with XR (extended reality) technologies? 

There is a project called the Digital Learning Accelerator (DLA), which has a number of different work streams, and they are looking at a virtual reality (VR) space. They have some sample VR headsets and are setting up a testing environment. IT are actively supporting this.  

IT also has a role to play in wider support, as well as Digital Education Services (DES) who provide technology support in this area. We will work with you and our colleagues in DES to explore what your requirements are and how we can best support you.  

Is there an update on the Teams Voice project, particularly around phones for people who share a number? 

The Teams Voice project is making good progress moving everyone from standard telephones to using Teams Voice. It is in three phases. Phase one was the straightforward scenarios, and we have moved around 4,500 people in this category. We have then looked at the slightly more complex ones to map out the types of telephone used, and we are now on to the complex cases, which people who share a number fall into. We expect the migration for these users to happen in the next three to six months. We are also aware that there are some cases where phones will need to be retained, for example, in some clinical or research settings and we are identifying these cases at the moment.  

Is there an update on the Mailman migration?  

Our current version of Mailman (mailing list software) is very old, insecure and has several known bugs and is therefore a risk to the University. Recently we have made a number of changes so that internet email is no longer routed via campus systems, instead going directly to/from Microsoft Office 365. This improves security and frees up valuable IT resources to focus on higher-value work. Moving away from Mailman to Microsoft distribution groups for standard email groups and JISC Mail ( ) for mailing lists is part of the work to make email more secure. Most lists have already been migrated and the team are working to migrate the remainder soon.  

An email was sent out recently from the Secretariat about quarantining files from the M and N drives which fall outside the University's data retention policies, and the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR). How will this work and how will you ensure that documents are not accidentally quarantined because for example, they contain research grant numbers which might look like a password?  

You can find out more information about the quarantining process on the IT website and in the FAQs. Files won’t get picked up just because they have alphanumeric strings in them. The software does search for randomised alphanumeric strings, but it looks for additional criteria as well, for example, the word ‘password’ or something similar.  

If files are quarantined, you can submit a request to restore them. This will be processed by the Secretariat in four working days and restored in a further working day, so five working days in total. If it was particularly urgent this could be done in two or three working days.  

There seem to be quite a lot of out of date policies on the IT knowledge base. Are these being updated? 

We review all our knowledgebase articles on a regular basis. On occasion, items can slip through the net. Please let Service Desk or the Business Relationship Managers know if you have any specific examples we need to look at.   

We have a need for certain specification computers. However, as part of the Windows Refresh project we were told they would be replaced with standard machines and the graphics card could be installed from the old machines. Has it been agreed this is not acceptable?  

The Windows Refresh project has had to move at pace because support for Windows 7 ended in January, meaning computers running Windows 7 are no longer protected from cyber security threats. On this occasion, we have deliberately prioritised pace above quality because of the cyber security risk. As part of this project, we agreed to replace computers on a like-for-like basis. We are not expecting older graphics cards to be installed into newer equipment. We will use your feedback to help us improve in the future. Following the Windows Refresh project we will have better information about the devices on campus and be in a position to update things in a more automated way, which will have less impact on you as it will happen in the background. 

Is there any update on how quickly the backlog of tickets in the IT Service Desk will be resolved?  

Following the pandemic, we are experiencing an unprecedented demand for IT support, as people adopt hybrid working and we all catch up for the time that we lost. Equipment requisition has been a particular challenge for us, as the demand for laptop computers has increased significantly. Most of the backlog are either requests, or tickets where the work has been done but the ticket has not been updated, which we know needs addressing. We are getting through incidents quite quickly.  

We are also moving to new systems, which will let you do more yourself. For example, moving the M and N drives to OneDrive and SharePoint will allow you to manage the administration and access yourself. We are also hiring a significant number of support staff that will help with this in the future. 

Technology is changing all the time and IT do not seem to provide a lot of training, for example on SharePoint. Is that being addressed?  

Previously training has been decentralised within IT, with training delivered by various IT teams. We are looking at how best to bring it together and modernise this, offering remote, e-learning and on-campus training to suit your needs. We will also be promoting the use of LinkedIn Learning and other online systems such as Microsoft Learn.  

SharePoint was raised as an example in the Q&A – here are some example training resources:  

As part of the M&N drive project, we will also look at providing training to help people feel confident collaborating with Microsoft software.  

We will also look at whether we can curate a selection of online courses when our new website is launched in March.  

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