Tuesday, 30 August 2016 20:29

Internet speed, capacity increases

A new partnership with content delivery network Akamai has increased internet speed and capacity for UAB, improving the potential for innovation and productivity for researchers, students, faculty and staff.

Akamai, a global leader in content delivery services, works as a caching server, storing content locally on the university network — clearing space for other traffic. Bandwidth should now increase 20 to 60 percent. For example, streaming Netflix content would be cached and delivered on campus, so users will see faster, higher quality video.

And because users across campus are not competing as much for internet bandwidth, capacity increases for researchers uploading their findings or staff members sharing documents. 

"We're changing from a scarcity mentality to an abundance mentality," said Chief Technology Officer Shawn Ellis, noting that in addition to increasing internet capacity, UAB IT has introduced unlimited email and unlimited storage through UABbox. "When you have abundance, innovation and productivity can happen."

UAB is the first university and the second institution in the state to sign on with the company. The city of Montgomery, with others, is also engaging in a partnership with Akamai.

UAB IT’s planned move to 100 GB connections is what made the university attractive to Akamai.
Monday, 29 August 2016 13:00

Research Computing Day set for Sept. 14

UAB IT's Research Computing division will host a Research Computing Day on Sept. 14, giving faculty, students and staff an opportunity to find out what research work is being done using the resources supported by UAB IT.

The Research Computing Day will also highlight trends in research cyberinfrastructure, with industry leaders participating in the discussion.

"UAB researchers will be able to share how they are using campus cyberinfrastructure to enhance their research, gain new insights from peers and industry experts and contribute towards the growth of research infrastructure at UAB," said Dr. Puri Bangalore, interim director of research computing at UAB and assistant director of the UAB Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research.

Research Computing Day will be held from 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sept. 14 at the Hill Student Center, ballrooms C and D. 

The event is open to all UAB faculty, staff and students. There is no registration fee; however, seating is limited and registration is required. Complete registration here.

Mobile phones, tablets, and laptops continue to provide us with the opportunity to work "on the go," but this added convenience could also mean more risk. These personal devices are making it easier to store and access information, but they are also easy to steal or misplace. Do you know CyberSecurityTip Iconwhat to do if your device is lost or stolen?

  • Secure your devices. Use a passphrase, password, or fingerprint to secure your device from casual intrusion.
  • Turn on location tracking. If your device has a "Find Me" feature (such as Apple's iCloud service to "Find My iPhone") make sure it is enabled. Or investigate third-party software to help you recover your devices.
  • Encrypt and backup information. Determine if your device encrypts your data at rest. That way if it's stolen, you just lose the device and don't open yourself to identity theft. If your device doesn't use encryption by default, enable it or install encryption software. Don't forget to backup information on all of your mobile devices too.
  • Write it down! Record the manufacturer, model, and serial numbers of your mobile devices and store the info in a safe place.
  • Notify providers. Keep important phone numbers such as your cell phone provider or IT support department handy so you can quickly report the device as lost or stolen. In some cases the cell provider or your support desk may be able to deactivate and wipe the device for you remotely.
  • File a report. If your device is stolen, file a police report immediately.

TechConnect now offers a variety of service and repair options at its store at the Hill Student Center.

Virus removal; cell phone glass replacement; computer backup; and software, hard drive, and memory installation are just some of the services offered. Services are competitively priced.

TechConnect, located on the first floor of the Hill Student Center, offers students, staff and faculty discounts on technology needs such as laptops, tablets, software and accessories.

TechConnect staff can also help you troubleshoot problems with your device.
Students WiFi

Students asked, and UAB IT listened.

In response to an undergraduate Student Government Association request, UAB IT has made a number of improvements to its WiFi coverage across campus, with new outdoor WiFi hotspots installed over the past several months.

The SGA last spring requested improved WiFi coverage in a top ten list of technology needs presented to UAB IT leadership.

New hotspots are located at the baseball and softball fields; Sterne Library, the Education Building mini-park; and the tennis courts, along with Lister Hill Library, the School of Optometry, the Campus Green, Hill Student Center, Unity Park and the soccer field. Improvements have also been ongoing at the Administration Building.

Students — and others on campus — should remember to use the UABSecure network for the more secure, strongest WiFi signal. Instructions on how to connect, and how to allow your devices to "forget" the less secure UABStartHere network, are located here.
Student Success

Students are a central focus for UAB IT, and as fall classes begin, there are a number of technology enhancements designed to help students.

"We want our work to ensure that students have the technology they need to succeed on campus," said Dr. Curt Carver, vice president and chief information officer.

  • A $2.5 million investment in a stronger network will improve performance and create a competitive advantage for students, faculty and researchers. Learn more here.
  • The new TechConnect store brings on-campus tech support, as well as discounts on technology purchases. The new TechConnect Notebook program allows students to purchase a laptop and get it bundled with on-campus service. 
  • WiFi improvements have brought greater coverage across campus, with new outdoor hotspots installed over the past several months in response to student requests. Learn more here.
  • UAB IT is planning significant changes for its help desk to improve service to students, faculty and staff. Learn more here

UAB IT has also worked with partners across campus to improve student recruitment and retention, through technology tweaks that include a shorter process to request a campus visit and automated communication between instructors and students in BlazerNET.

UAB IT will continue to keep students at the forefront in its future plans, detailed in the IT Strategic Plan, which was co-authored by students, faculty and staff. 

"At UAB's soul, we change the world," Carver said. "We inspire and educate the next generation of leaders. It starts with our students."

For quick hits on what you need to know about technology on campus, download our student TechList.

As students move back to campus and fall classes begin, we have some common answers to tech needs — and the places to go when you need help.

Every student has access to a free 50 GB e-mail account through Office 365. Students UAB email address (BlazerID@uab.edu).  They can access this through login to BlazerNet and select the email icon or go directly to the Office 365 website and login (outlook.office365.com). Through Office 365, all students get Microsoft Office software for free.  Log in to your email, select “Office365,” and the next screen will show the available office products.

  • UABStarthere – Use this WiFi network first to connect and run the software install. Once you are connected, switch to the UABSecure network and “forget” UABStartHere; click here details on how to forget the network on each device.
  • UABSecure – This is the network to which you should connect to so you have a secure connection and faster speeds.
  • Dorm Wifi – If you live in a dorm, contact Apogee 866.578.8865 for assistance with dorm WiFi.
UAB Mobile App: We recommend you download the free UAB mobile app, which provides access to class schedules, Blazer Express schedules, maps, campus directory, news and athletics and Canvas Mobile.  Works with iPhone and Android mobile devices.
Rave Guardian: One of the best ways to improve your personal safety and protect your friends by building your own private safety network. This free app provides instant communications with friends, family, co-workers, UAB Police, and even 911 in the event of an emergency.  For information and access visit: uab.edu/emergency/rave-guardian.
Scams: UAB will never ask for your password via email or phone call. If you suspect you have received a phishing email, you should contact AskIT. If you suspect you have received a scam phone call, you should contact UAB Police.
Passwords: All students can get a free Keeper account to safeguard  passwords, including BlazerID passwords. Learn more from the UAB IT web page.

TechConnect is your on-campus tech store, located in the Hill Student Center, first floor room 135 (directly in front of the food court).  Visit the store for assistance with your computer, mobile device, or email access, or to purchase a new laptop and other essential computer items.  Access the TechConnect website uab.edu/techconnect to receive educational pricing on computers, laptops, tablets, accessories and more.
Contact AskIT to report problems or get help.

Download the full TechList here.
A faster, more convenient method for UAB faculty and staff to access software for UAB business purposes will debut Sept. 6.

The new solution will allow users to immediately install no-cost software and will quickly redirect users to the fee-based software purchase request.

More detailed instructions on how to use the new software download system will be available in mid-September. UAB IT will offer a software distribution process demonstration on Wednesday, Sept. 7, from 10 to 11 a.m. in Hill Student Center room 203. The demonstration is open to all UAB faculty and staff.

IT professionals across campus have worked with UAB IT to co-design the new solution for institutional software downloads.

The new solution uses Microsoft System Center Configuration Manager (SCCM), which is installed on most UAB-owned computers. If you have questions about SCCM, contact your department’s IT professionals.

When the new download solution debuts next month, the current software download site will remain live as UAB transitions to the new system for UAB-owned computers.

For software downloads for their personal home computers, students, faculty and staff can go to On the Hub.
The UAB network will experience one, and possibly three, 2-4 minute outages between 6 and 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 20, as UAB IT performs annual network upgrades.

UAB IT has scheduled the outage while classes are out of session to lessen the impact on campus.

The UAB Hospital network will not be affected by the outage.
If you call AskIT in the near future, you might receive help from Vice President and CIO Dr. Curt Carver.

Department leadership will be taking an active role in assessing how AskIT can improve how UAB IT serves campus — in some cases by answering calls and helping customers.

Curt HelpDeskCIO Dr. Curt Carver takes calls at the AskIT Help Desk.“This is one of our top priorities. I’m personally going to work to get this fixed,” Carver said. “We want you to experience quick, reliable service that enables you to get back to doing great work that helps change the world.”

Developing a responsive, proficient and courteous help desk is among the objectives in the IT Strategic Plan. Help desk improvements are part of an overall plan to create a world-class IT organization that builds trust with its customers and offers reliable services to exceed their needs and expectations.

In recent, weeks, a team from HDI, an association of technical support professionals, has been auditing AskIT to make recommendations on improving service. The goal is to improve AskIT’s maturity as a help desk to a 3-plus rating, on a scale of 0 to 4, in 24 to 30 months.

Over the next year, UAB IT will take several steps to making those improvements, including:

  • Updating equipment for technicians
  • Offering standardized training and customer service classes to AskIT staff
  • Hiring an associate director to focus on increasing customer service
  • Supplementing the current staff with additional technicians with customer service experience

UAB IT will also assess customers’ calls to help answer their questions and solve their problems more accurately and quickly.

“We’ll be looking at the top 10 reasons customers call us,” said Scott Sorenson, assistant vice president for process and quality management. “We’ll look at ways we can automate processes so we can answer customers’ questions faster.”

As customer service maturity improves, UAB IT will analyze the results to ensure continuous improvement.