Email management and provision

QUESTION:

It’s really good to hear that the University will be adopting “One Drive for Business.” I’d now like to ask an associated question regarding the management of email. We are, undoubtedly, very reliant on email for a range of communication. I understand that staff have limited email storage quota on the Exchange Server. The consequence of this is that individuals need to create their own offline email storage provision. This, in our case at the University, typically comprises the creation of ‘.PST’ files which are stored on local hard drives on laptops. These email files are thus subject to the same risks associated with any other file stored on local drives/laptops. Are there any plans to provide alternative forms of email management and thus mitigate/remove these risks? For example, will the “One Drive for Business” provision allow for unlimited cloud-based email storage and access? The current approach is (a) not conducive of supporting information access at times/locations where it might be needed; (b) limits access to email and associated information/knowledge therein; (c) places the burden of risk and responsibility with individual employees. With respect to (c) I’d like to make reference to the recent email sent by the Director of Finance & Infrastructure and Deputy Chief Executive which reminds staff of our legal obligations. That email states that ‘personal data should not be copied to local hard drives’ – however, this requirement is unlikely to be (and cannot be) realistically met given the current policy and practice that governs email management. The ‘exceptional circumstances’ referred to in that email are, in fact business as usual circumstances for many. Please note that this issue is not about how individuals manage their email – it is about corporate governance and how the institution is protecting its data, enabling its employees, and how it is embracing technology to support the needs of a modern workforce.

ANSWER:

All staff have recently been reminded regarding our legal obligations in terms of looking after and using personal data and how breaching the data protection rules has major legal and reputation implications for the University. Personal data must not be copied to local hard drives, USB keys etc. except in exceptional circumstances in which case additional security must be implemented.

The use of unencrypted e-mail storage mediums for personal or business sensitive data is not acceptable. Any member of staff who has a legitimate business requirement to send/receive emails containing personal details or business sensitive data must always undertake regular reviews and securely delete any email containing such data at appropriate points in time. Additionally, any staff who are experiencing issues regarding their storage provision, and have a legitimate business requirement to retain emails containing the types of data mentioned above, should contact Information Services for advice.

The majority of day-to-day emails do not contain personal data or business sensitive data and therefore the creation of ‘ .PST’ files stored on local hard drives would not be considered a security issue for these items.

Information Services are investigating our future email strategy to take full advantage of cloud offerings based around Microsoft Office 365.

Will staff network storage be increased?

QUESTION:

We recently received an email regarding Information Security and Data Protection. I understand that the University currently offers only 40MB (by default) of network storage on drive ‘H:’ for staff. By today’s standards this is extremely low and of no real use – especially given the fact that we work in the knowledge economy and that information, manifested in electronic form, is key to the function of a University. Are there any plans to increase this to realistic quota – enabling academic staff to fully embrace network storage, and thus better rely on the security and resilience afforded by the University’s technical infrastructure, rather than having to physically port data around on various devices – and therefore potentially increase the risks of data loss/compromise?

ANSWER:

The ‘H’ drive default quota for staff is currently 200MB, however any user, with a business case submitted to IS via their FMT/SMT, can be provided with an appropriate quota increase (subject to approval) up to a total of 500MB in exceptional circumstances.

The University has recently entered into an agreement with Microsoft for the provision of “OneDrive for Business” cloud storage facility for all staff which will provide each member of staff with 1Tb of secure storage; this new facility is expected to be launched during December. The agreement allows for the benefits of cloud storage to be provided while addressing the legal concerns regarding data storage, and retains ownership of university data by the University. This will become the recommended method for secure storage of files which cannot be accommodated on the University central file storage, further details will be circulated during the product launch via a range of communication channels including RSS in the near future.

To ensure the confidentiality, integrity and availability of University documents, it is recommended that staff use the University’s central file storage or (after its launch) “OneDrive for Business” storage.

Queries about the new Staff Directory…..

QUESTION 1:
I am sorry to say the New Staff Directory is terrible

It is very slow, when it does work.

Often I need to send contact information to tutors working outside the University; due to the way information is now displayed I can’t cut and paste the information into emails. (Thick grey line in-between).

What would have been really helpful would be to have the staff member’s university contact number on the first page of the search with their name.

 
QUESTION 2:
Re. the new staff directory pages – these are not as easy to use as they were.
Once you search for a name and click on it to find their email or phone number the search function above disappears meaning if the search brings up the wrong person you have to go back

It just appears altogether very weird. If it needed updating it needed updating to show the email and telephone number of the person you want not the division etc.

 

ANSWER:
Work was undertaken on the staff directory to bring the underlying technologies up to date and to allow integration with other systems. Without this work, in the future users would have had to keep contact details up to date in a different location, with the increased risk of inconsistent or out of date information. The system was designed with much of the style and functionality of the previous system to simplify adoption, but including some changes previously requested which could be easily included at this time.

Following introduction of the new directory an intermittent performance issue was reported to our service desks. Information Services staff assessed, identified and resolved the issue within 6 hours of the systems launch.

Since the launch Information Services have received a number of requests for additional features to be added to the staff directory including:

•The addition of the search box to the person details pages
In response to these requests the staff directory has been updated to include this functionality.

•To include email addresses on search results and browse pages.
The visibility of email addresses was considered during the design process, with some arguments that all email addresses should be removed due to the possibility of them being collected for spam purposes. The current approach was selected to continue to provide email addresses while reducing the risk of spam.

•To include telephone numbers on search results table.
This is a new request that poses some design issues regarding how this should be presented, with some users having 4 or more telephone numbers and others none. This is currently under review.

•To allow cut and paste of staff directory entries into outlook without formatting.
The latest versions of MS Office offer several format options when pasting, including to “keep text only” which we advise people with this requirement to use.

•To allow Google and other searches engines to return staff directory results.
This will require the search engines to re-read our sites which unfortunately we cannot control and could take several weeks.

•To include staff directory entries in the university web site search.
The university search engine has been configured to return results from the staff directory.

If you have experience any issues with the new staff directory or have recommendations for future enhancements then please contact Information Services support desks on extension 3800, or email 3800@staffs.ac.uk.

Can we increase email quota?

QUESTION:
Hello, can I ask if we can increase the quota which is allocated to students and staff for email. The current quotas were set a lot of years ago and with the increased use of this technology this is a constant battle with warnings saying you are over quota. Staff are increasingly receiving large attachments from students and from outside organisations which will need to be saved for future review. Also all of the email needs to be saved for future evidence if required with students saying they sent you one thing and actually sending you something entirely different. External email providers are now supporting into the gigabytes of storage per user. I notice that York university have gone down this route giving each member of staff and student 25 Gigabytes of storage. http://www.york.ac.uk/it-services/it/google/

 

ANSWER:
Email quotas are used as a mechanism to ensure the stability, availability and performance of the email system for all users. We aim to provide users with the largest possible default quotas within the constraints of the number of users and technology that we use. Currently the staff email server utilises 4TB of disk storage on a high performance disk system, and a further 90TB of backup archive to allow recovery in case of disaster. Information Services are investigating the use of newer technologies for staff email, including a new version of the Exchange email server, and alternate storage methods that will allow quotas to be reassessed moving forwards. Use of external email providers is not under consideration for staff, due to the requirements around the ability to provide evidence of communications that you have highlighted in your query, and which is lacking in external providers.

For student users, Information Services are actively evaluating the use of Microsoft Office 365 as an external email provider. It trials go well and this is adopted by the university then the benefits will include larger email quotas for students.

We would remind users that email is not always the best mechanism for distribution of large attachments as many organisations limit the size of messages. Information Services provide alternative methods such as our ZendTo Dropbox site that provide a simple secure mechanism for transferring these files outside of email.

Can we have an update on the HP partnership please?

QUESTION:
Can we have an update on the partnership with HP – since its announcement and initial workshops with some colleagues within the institution, everything seems to have gone quiet.

 

ANSWER:
The ICT Strategic Partnership project has been continuing over the last couple of months. This Partnership was formed with Hewlett Packard as part of our investment in our Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure where the need for development is becoming ever more important as our students and customers’ expectations increase. The aim of the partnership is to allow us to meet many of our aspirations regarding technological development and help IS to move to the forefront in several areas working closely with HP.

Within this project, Information Services and HP have held a series of workshops with stakeholders from IS and across the University to look at how our IT should be transformed in the short, medium and long term in areas such as Unified Communication, Mobility, and Portals. These workshops considered developments such as the replacement of the Student Portal and the introduction of Microsoft Lync, which is a desktop collaboration tool that facilitates instant messaging and online meetings and teaching.

Alongside this, a substantial review of our current Data Centres, which hold the infrastructure for our key Corporate Business Systems, has been undertaken. This has defined the fundamental foundation work required to update these Data Centres and to further develop our Server, Storage and Network infrastructure, to build an increasingly resilient and scalable foundation that will support the additional demands of the developments identified within the workshops. This is in line with the University’s requirements for ICT to be increasingly flexible and accessible, driven by University plans regarding internationalisation and distance learning.

The next step in the process is for Estates and IS to assess the options for moving forward. This will consider whether we should continue to invest in the current Data Centres or review alternatives. Alongside this, research will be undertaken into added value initiatives around the student portal.

The Joint degree development between Staffordshire University and HP continues to develop well, towards recruiting to the BSc Internet of Things (in partnership with Hewlett Packard) from September 2014. This innovative computing-based programme involves study links with the Chengdu University of Technology in China and HP China.

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Will software training be reviewed?

QUESTION:
Some time ago, at an all staff meeting, it was mentioned that software training was not part of the academic remit. However, on many awards, academics spend a large percentage of their student contact time in labs and studios, demonstrating and training on software and hardware while instructors remain under utilised.

This seems like a waste of resources on both counts. Does the University plan to take a closer look at these activities, and make changes that could benefit staff and students to improve the overall experience of studying and working at Staffs?

 

ANSWER:
The technical managers have a remit to work with academic staff to arrange for the relevant technical staff to be involved in technical demonstration and this is strongly encouraged. In order to find out more about how this works in particular faculties, the best people to contact are members of the Faculty Management Team (Dean, Associate Dean Learning and Teaching, Head of School) and the Faculty Technical Manager.

 

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When will administration staff get replacement computers that are up to the job?

QUESTION:
I would like to ask Executive when are administration staff going to get replacement computers that are up to the job.  At the moment, I am working on a machine that is due for replacement in June but have heard that there is the possibility that this is not going to be the case. 

My machine on a daily basis, and that is not an exaggeration, has major problems, i.e. so slow that it will take at least minutes not seconds to open up emails, Microsoft Office keeps getting getting error messages that involves a re-boot, blue screen freezing and I would like to ask how I am supposed to do my work efficiently if I do not have the correct equipment to do that.

I do after all work in the Faculty of Computing and find it absolutely appalling that we are still using XP Professional on our out-dated machines. IS jokingly say that I have them on call-back, but it is not a laughing matter.  Our machines are seriously slow and out of date and should have been replaced long before they got to the point of hindering us in carrying out our duties.

If you cut back on essential maintenance for staff we will be unable to provide what we are here for in the first place and that is to support students.

 

ANSWER:
The university replaces staff and student PC’s with a standard device on a cyclic basis as agreed by Executive.  The replacement cycle is normally 5 years for staff and 4 years for students.  Any exceptions to this rule (other than a few instances such as faulty or damaged devices) must be approved by a cross institutional group called the IT Resources Steering Group (ITRSG) and then by a submission from their department to the Investment Approval Panel (IAP).  PC’s are bulk ordered to obtain the best possible prices at 6 monthly intervals. If individuals do not feel that their PC meets the requirements of their duties they should discuss making a submission to ITRSG with their Technical Manager.

 

Why hasn’t the IS status page been updated recently?

QUESTION:
I’ve noticed that the University have an IS Status Page, showing the current status of University Systems. It’s a shame that the last time this was updated on 6 December 2011, especially since it would be easier to have a central page for all users to look at, before ringing 3800 and reporting a fault. Is there any reason why this hasn’t been updated for over one year?

 

ANSWER:
The IS status page was developed before the wide adoption of RSS as the main medium for communication of updates to staff and students. RSS has the advantages of being widely accessible and being a single focus for key communications regarding institutional matters, therefore the decision to replace the status page was taken. IS will now remove the page to avoid further confusion.

Why does the University not have an intranet?

QUESTION:
Dear Ask Executive,

In the HE sector, Staffordshire University is surely an isolated example when it comes to not having an intranet. Provision of internal information appears to be divided among various semi-official and unofficial channels, many of which are available to the outside world, thus exposing much of our internal content to the public, and making it very difficult to establish what is and isn’t out of date.

Given the IT resources at our disposal, why does the University not just have an intranet?

Thanks.

 
ANSWER:
The term Intranet covers a multitude of different technologies and approaches to communication and collaboration, Staffordshire University already provide many intranet features including a student facing portal and web 2.0 tools such as wikis for group working that do not expose content to the general public. Colleagues in Marketing also monitor and maintain the institutional presence on various social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter. The University is currently considering options to effectively enhance its services to staff and students in this area in order to better meet their needs in the increasingly mobile centric world.

We would encourage staff who notice content that is out of date, to report it to the page owner so that it can be updated.

 

Why is the airnet signal is so poor at Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre?

QUESTION:
Hi. Being a customer of the gym at Stanley Matthews Sports Centre, can I ask why the airnet signal is so poor/none existent?

 

ANSWER:
The AirNet wireless network is one of Information Services key services with over 2000 people using the system every day.

We have recently become aware that the AirNet wireless coverage in the gym area of the Stanley Mathews sports centre is not to the standard that it should be for the number of users in that area. Plans are in place to address this situation and further develop AirNet, working in partnership with Hewlett Packard, as part of Staffordshire University’s ICT transformation.