Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:50

IT Update for August 2015

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August 2015
A monthly report to UAB leadership and the IT community about technology projects
designed to enhance the work and lives of UAB staff, faculty and students.

IT transparency

Task teams, shared governance among new initiatives for UAB IT

UAB IT is taking steps to be more transparent with customers and constituents, soliciting input from across campus through the SPARK initiative; inviting campus IT professionals to Town Hall meetings; and encouraging campus IT involvement in task teams for the reThink Project, active directory and campus network.

Learn more about UAB IT's plans for shared governance.

ANTIVIRUS RECOMMENDATIONS: With Microsoft Forefront going end of life, UAB IT has new recommendations for antivirus software for home use for faculty, staff and students as well as campus use for those employees whose computers are not managed by Desktop Services. Learn more here.

UAB DROPBOX FILE SIZE: An idea on SPARK inspired UAB IT to double the size limit for files sent via the UAB Dropbox. File sizes can now be as large as 4Gb. Read more here.

CONTRACTS: The contracts page on UAB IT's web site has been updated to provide more information for departments submitting IT-related agreements. Items on the site include a routing checklist and copies of various addenda that can be provided to vendors in advance to help expedite the routing and review process. UAB IT and UAB Contracts are planning informational meetings for the university community to help explain why these provisions are needed and how to best ensure a smooth routing process for IT-related contracts and agreements.

SHAREPOINT 2013: The campus community is invited to attend the SharePoint Users Group meeting at 10:30 a.m. Aug. 17 in CEC 140. Topics will include a discussion about UAB IT's plan to migrate sites to SharePoint 2013. 
New service provides digital signs to campus departments
UAB IT now offers a digital signage service to the UAB community. Departments can order one or multiple digital signs for display, and UAB IT will handle the purchase and installation as well as host the content management platform. Learn more about the digital signage solution.

Annual Giving campaign boosted by small tech tweak
A quick technology fix for the UAB Office of Annual Giving dramatically improved the office's ability to solicit donations for the Annual Fund, which provides substantial support for UAB's schools, departments and libraries. Learn more about the assistance to the Office of Annual Giving.

Telecommunication changes allow greater flexibility
As part of an ongoing plan to upgrade campus telecommunications services, UAB IT is migrating its local, long distance, and toll-free dialing to a new carrier. As part of this change, 30,000 phone numbers in the 975-, 996-, and 934- exchanges will be moved, and the underlying trunking technology will be converted from PRI (primary rate interface) trunks to SIP (session initiation protocol). The project moves phone services to a network-based infrastructure, which will be more flexible for campus needs.

UAB network becoming more robust and agile 
An ongoing project to build a new fiber hub for the UAB campus will help protect network traffic with redundant fiber cable infrastructure. Learn more about the fiber hub project here.

UAB IT assisting with Hill University Center plans
UAB IT has begun to help assess the telecommunications needs of campus departments that will be moving into the new Hill University Center. UAB IT is also in the process of installing network accessibility in UAB's new freshman residence hall. While Apogee will provide ResNet service in the new dorm, UAB IT is assisting with infrastructure.

SPARK crowdsources more than 70 ideas
UAB IT's crowdsourcing platform, SPARK, has collected more than 70 new technology ideas and more than 1,700 comments in the past two months. Learn more about SPARK here.

reThink timeline revised to include input from Distributed IT 
UAB IT's reThink Project — which will implement standardized processes for IT services within the industry-leading ServiceNow tool — has finished the build and initial testing of the incident management portion of the project. In August, requirements gathering will begin for service request management, problem management and knowledge management. Learn more about the reThink Project and view the latest project newsletter.
OnCore clinical trial management system to be implemented
UAB IT is partnering with Research Administration's Clinic Trials Office to implement the OnCore Clinical Trial Management System across the enterprise. Once implemented, OnCore will provide all units conducting clinical trials with functionality to manage the trial from its inception to completion. 
UAB IT working with administration on ACA compliance
UAB's HR and Financial Affairs departments have partnered with UAB IT and the vendor Health efx to ensure that UAB is in compliance with the Affordable Healthcare Act. UAB IT is in the test phase of building interfaces between UAB and Health efx to ensure that all employees eligible to receive health benefits are identified.

Financial transparency prompts better grasp of IT costs 
When the first work stream of the IT Financial Transparency & Accountability Project wraps up this month, UAB IT leaders will have a better understanding of costs across the IT budget and dashboards to help them manage this data. An update will be presented to the steering committee in September, and the second work stream will kick off with an onsite meeting with Apptio, the company that is being used to convert UAB IT's financial operations to align with the technology business management (TBM) model. When the project is complete, customers will have better visibility into the cost of the IT services they consume. Learn more about Financial Transparency.

National search under way for key UAB IT leadership roles 
Search committees have been formed to fill three leadership positions in the UAB Information Technology organization: chief information security officer, chief technology officer and deputy CIO. Learn more about the searches for these key leadership roles.
UAB IT helps get incoming freshmen prepared for campus
Along with other UAB departments and campus organizations, representatives from UAB IT helped welcome incoming freshmen to campus this summer at the Goin' Green orientation sessions. UAB IT distributed handouts to incoming students and their parents with information about IT services and software. Students also received information about how to get their computers ready for campus.
UAB IT strengthens security posture with Microsoft SCCM
IT professionals from the School of Engineering shared their success with deployment of Microsoft SCCM at a kickoff meeting for the Cyber Security Initiative last month. The initiative makes SCCM available at no cost to all areas of campus as part of the effort to protect UAB's assets and inventory servers and workstations. The School of Engineering reported that it is able to more effectively manage patched and unpatched machines, and that remote control is effective when supporting their users. UAB IT has made available task and deployment guides and tutorials to assist campus IT professionals with implementation. Video of the kickoff meeting and the PowerPoint presentation is also available at the web site.

Exceptions required for Windows Server 2003 systems
UAB IT has been working since last fall to transition campus from using Microsoft Windows Server 2003, which reached end-of-life last month. Any departments still running Windows Server 2003 are urged to plan to upgrade to Windows Server 2012 as soon as possible. Systems using Windows Server 2003 no longer meet UAB's minimum security standards and will be denied access to the campus network. Application and system owners may request an exception by completing the Exception Request Form and submitting it to AskIT. The UAB Enterprise Security Council will review each request and provide a risk acceptance recommendation to the CIO for final approval. Learn more here
UAB IT offers guidance for Windows 10
In July, UAB IT and Microsoft offered the campus community a sneak peak at Windows 10. UAB IT also released guidance about use of the updated operating system for campus computers. Learn more about Windows 10.

TechBirmingham training available for IT employees at UAB
Through UAB's institutional membership with TechBirmingham, all technology employees at UAB are entitled to free or significantly discounted access to the events, networking opportunities, training and other events sponsored by TechBirmingham. Learn more about upcoming events.

UAB IT fortifies security with modern identity management
UAB IT is introducing a new security infrastructure for its identity management (IDM) system, with a go-live set for Aug. 15. The project will not affect end users but is the first step in replacing the identity management system that supports access to UAB programs with a more robust central authentication service. The new system replaces the way UAB creates users in Exchange, Office 365 and the active directory. The user interface for BlazerID is not changing, but the security system will be brand-new, will utilize an industry standard and has been tested for the last six months. The next step will be for IT professionals across campus to register their applications in the new system. Further instructions will be communicated to IT professionals in coming weeks.

Campus IT professionals take part in ITIL training
A group of central and campus IT employees completed ITIL service management training in July, with 22 people going on to achieve ITIL Foundations certification. Additional training options will be offered to UAB's technology community as the reThink Project continues.

Info-Tech resources to be available soon

IT personnel will soon have access to a new technology resource. UAB IT has subscribed to Info-Tech Research Group services, which will provide blueprints and toolkits for application, strategy and infrastructure projects, as well as tools to improve team processes and governance. Information about how to obtain one of the named-user licenses will be available on the IT web site when the service goes live later this month.
PASSWORD LENGTH: UAB will change its password policy in September to ensure better security. As of Sept. 15, passwords will be required to be at least 15 characters, but they will not expire for 12 months. More information will be communicated in coming weeks.

ORACLE: UAB is considering replacing the Oracle e-Business product which supports Human Resources, Finance and Payroll for the university.

UNLIMITED CLOUD STORAGE COMING SOON: UAB IT is negotiating a contract with, which would allow unlimited storage for faculty and staff. If approved, the contract would go into effect Oct. 1.
Discounted subscriptions to Adobe Creative Cloud are available through UAB IT.

Adobe FormsCentral has reached end of life, but UAB IT can assist in the transition.
Wednesday, 02 September 2015 09:28

IT Update for September 2015

Subscribe to the IT Update.
View this email in your browser
September 2015
A monthly report to UAB leadership and the IT community about technology projects
designed to enhance the work and lives of UAB staff, faculty and students.

Robust support for research

UAB IT grants will help build fastest computer cluster in Alabama

UAB IT is building the largest academic compute cluster in Alabama and a powerhouse network and storage array that will be the foundation for groundbreaking research at the university. A series of grants and other financial pledges will strengthen the current network that supports researchers, enabling better collaboration and innovation.

Learn more about UAB IT's plans for research computing.

New passphrase policy will ensure better security
Beginning Sept. 15, UAB will have a new password/passphrase policy. Passwords/passphrases will be required to be at least 15 characters, but will expire after one year. The new policy ensures better security for UAB assets. Implementation of the policy will be phased in; as your password expires, you will be required to change it to one with 15 characters. Learn more about the policy change.

New WiFi service to allow BlazerID login at other institutions
UAB IT is partnering with eduroam to provide a free WiFi service that allows UAB users to log in to WiFi at participating universities with their BlazerIDs. Representatives of participating eduroam universities can also log on to WiFi at UAB with credentials from their participating institutions. The service will be rolled out in September. Learn more here.

Office 2016 now available for Mac users
Office 2016 for Mac is available for UAB faculty and staff. Learn more here.
UAB IT is moving at the speed of trust
Dr. Curt Carver, chief information officer and vice president for information technology, shared a new presentation about UAB IT's plans for technology strategy and improvements at recent meetings around campus. View the UAB IT video and strategy presentation here.

Denman Hall outage a reminder to follow UAB IT news
When construction crews accidentally severed fibers serving Denman Hall, UAB IT was able to update users through its Web site and social media accounts. "This is a prime example of why we urge students, faculty and staff to subscribe to social media accounts and RSS news feeds to stay up to date on technology news," said Kerry Bean, UAB IT communications director. Campus users can follow breaking news from UAB IT via the department's RSS news feed and UAB IT Twitter account.

Three processes under review for reThink Project
UAB IT's reThink Project has launched simultaneous requirements gathering sessions for three processes: knowledge management, request management and problem management, and work is also continuing on the design of the new self-service portal for users. The reThink Project is introducing standardized services and management processes to allow UAB IT to better serve its customers. Learn more about the reThink Project.

SharePoint 2013 upgrade schedule coming soon
The Campus SharePoint Users Group held its quarterly meeting on Aug. 17. The UAB IT SharePoint team discussed the new features coming in the SharePoint 2013 upgrade, and a schedule will be announced soon. A quarterly meeting reminder will be sent to all SharePoint site owners for future meetings. All SharePoint users and interested parties are welcome to attend. 
Grant will help establish ScienceDMZ for research network
A new grant awarded to Puri Bangalore, associate professor and incoming interim director of Research Computing, will strengthen the research computing network at UAB and increase its speed — tenfold. Learn more about the ScienceDMZ.

Plans under way for Research Computing Day
UAB IT is planning a Research Computing Day for Sept. 25. The event, which will be held in the Cudworth Hall auditorium, will begin with a general assembly in the morning and continue with a boot camp in the afternoon. More information will be distributed later this month.
Oracle RedFlag alerts available for UAB employee
UAB employees can sign up for Oracle RedFlag notifications that will alert them via text or telephone message when their personal information changes in the Oracle HR and Finance applications. UAB IT has been working with central administration on the project, which launched over the summer for employees who were already signed up for the Identity feature at BlazerID Central. The service works similarly to B-Alert. 

New system moving faculty recruitment online
The Office of the Senior Vice Provost and the Faculty Affairs Committee have partnered with UAB IT to implement a fully-electronic system to host and manage the entire faculty recruitment, search and hiring process. The primary goal of this initiative is to implement a new online Faculty Recruitment System which will move all aspects of the faculty recruitment process online – using PeopleAdmin technology system.  Moving to a new talent management system offers a tremendous opportunity for the Provost Office to implement a fully-electronic system to host and manage the entire faculty recruitment and search process. The implementation phase of the project is progressing nicely and testing is almost wrapped up. After the implementation phase is complete the core team plans to embark on a phased deployment. 
UAB IT launching SPARK campaign for students
UAB IT's SPARK platform, which gives the campus community an opportunity to suggest technology improvements and vote on those ideas, will focus on students' needs this fall. Learn more about SPARK.

New application supports academic withdrawal, appeals
At the request of the Registrar's office, UAB IT has implemented a new application for UAB students to submit academic withdrawals and appeal academic suspensions. The new application, which replaces a paper-driven process, has an extensive workflow for routing and notifications, ensuring review at all administrative areas. The application also allows students to upload supporting documentation.

UAB launches improved online tool for faculty
UAB faculty members have an improved online tool to help them manage their professional information — a place to document grants, publications, professional activities and teaching. The Faculty Profiles system is currently being rolled out across the UAB campus. Learn more about Faculty Profiles.
Protect yourself from email phishing attempts
Phishing attempts continue to hit UAB email addresses, and UAB IT encourages users to be aware of those attempts and take precautions to protect their personal information. Learn more tips here.

Campus IT participation in Cyber Security Initiative strong

Thanks to participation from campus IT groups, the Cyber Security Initiative has accomplished a lot in a short timeframe. After partnering with all campus affiliated IT departments, UAB IT is preparing a final report on UAB assets to the University of Alabama system in September. The next steps in the project are to continue to install SCCM and provide enhanced features to IT partners; develop advisory teams that partner UAB IT with other areas to ensure that the group defines a proactive campus action plan for identifying and reporting sensitive data; mitigate risk of reported inventory; and determine the best asset management solution for moving into the future.
Registration for BlazerID-authenticated systems coming soon
Over the past month, UAB IT has completed a major milestone of the first phase of deploying a new Identity and Access Management system from Oracle. This new IDM system replaces the legacy identity system currently leveraged by BlazerID-enabled resources throughout UAB. UAB IT is registering systems and applications utilizing the centralized BlazerID for authentication. This registry will assist moving applications and systems which need access to centralized authentication and understanding which applications can support CAS- or Shibboleth-based federated authentication. Additionally, the registry will be used to communicate upcoming changes to data which may have an impact to downstream applications or planned maintenance. Technical staff can begin registering systems and application starting in early September. 

Carver to speak at TechTuesday luncheon
Technology employees at UAB are invited to attend the TechTuesday luncheon on Sept. 22 sponsored by TechBirmingham. UAB Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technology Curt Carver will be the guest speaker for the luncheon. Tickets are free for UAB employees. Click here to register.

TechJunction conference coming Oct. 1
UAB information technology professionals are invited to a free one-day technology conference in Birmingham on Oct. 1. Learn more here.

UAB IT encourages upgrades of Adobe Acrobat
Adobe Acrobat Pro X is approaching end of life support. UAB IT strongly encourages users to upgrade to a newer version of Adobe Acrobat. Discounted pricing is available through UAB IT. Learn more here.
OPTIDOC: UAB IT and Financial Affairs are partnering to explore ending the requirement to fax documentation for purchasing.

VOICE OVER IP: The telecommunications department has been upgrading the infrastructure required to upgrade the telephone system to voice over internet protocol (VOIP). 

CLOUD STORAGE: UAB IT, in partnership with central administration, is finalizing a contract with Box to offer secure cloud storage for UAB faculty and staff at no cost to the UAB community. A beta trial will begin in October.

ENCRYPTION: A technology team with representatives from UAB IT and distributed IT is evaluating encryption solutions to replace PGP.
Discounted subscriptions to the survey tool Qualtrics are available through UAB IT.
UAB information technology professionals are invited to attend a free one-day technology conference in Birmingham on Oct. 1.  TECHJUNCTION14 Dark 0 WebBanner2

The conference, TechJunction Alabama 2015, is being sponsored by TechBirmingham and a variety of national sponsors. UAB has joined many of the larger employers in Birmingham in endorsing the event. 

Dr. Curt Carver is a member of their advisory board and will be chairing the CIO panel during one of the sessions. The keynote address will be given by Brunson White, Secretary of Information Technology for the State of Alabama.
The event is free and open to all technology employees at UAB. There is no charge to attend this event, but advance registration is required.  Employees wishing to attend the conference should seek clearance from their supervisors before registering.
By Tatiana Kabakova

Back in the 1980s, a new way of doing business evolved as corporations began collecting, combining, and crunching data from sources throughout their enterprise. Their goal was to improve the bottom line by discerning hidden patterns and thereby improving the decision making process. Three decades later, this goal has expanded to include increased student achievement and other data-driven decision making processes.

In the past year, UAB has produced groundbreaking discoveries and innovations, delivering on the promise of “knowledge that will change your world.” The university’s overarching mission pillars embody the commitment to educate, advance research and discovery, care for the sick, respond to the needs of the community and use knowledge to establish Alabama as a progressive economic center that can change the world.

None of this is possible without cutting edge technology and advanced business analysis, which is one of the seven UAB IT strategic imperatives.

 On the student side, UAB IT currently has dashboards available for the following content areas:

  • Enrollment
  • Retention and graduation
  • Credit hour production
  • Admissions funnel
  • Active course registration
  • Graduating student career plan survey results

Each of the dashboards has drill-down capabilities that allow users to focus and dissect delivered information specific to their area of interest.

The census enrollment dashboard image shown below provides a good example of UAB diversity trends for the past five years.

Jon Corliss and his team are working tirelessly on supporting institution-wide initiatives concerning faculty and student engagements and student recruitment and retention. 

The Office of Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni is another BI (business intelligence) consumer. Cognos allows them to focus on two additional institution-wide initiatives: alumni engagement and campaigning for UAB.

In one month, 73 Cognos users utilized dashboards and reports, delivered by the business intelligence department and the Office of Associate Vice President for Development & Alumni, either to justify decisions or look for business opportunities.

The Director of Human Resources Information Systems, Rahul Thadani, and HR Administrative Systems manager, Jason Womack, reached out to UAB IT recently.  They indicated significant interest in using the Cognos platform for their BI needs.

Soon HR and UAB IT will be able answer questions such as: Which program is successful that prepares diverse students to lead, teach, provide professional services and to become the prominent scholars and societal leaders of the future? Which department is efficiently utilizing resources to stimulate innovation?

The future looks bright when UAB fosters an institutional, data-driven, decision-making culture that allows UAB to make informed and optimal decisions. 

Puri Bangalore

Researchers at UAB need a robust computer network to support their world-class work.

A new grant awarded to Puri Bangalore, associate professor and director of the Collaborative Computing Laboratory, will strengthen that network and increase its speed — tenfold.

Bangalore, who also serves as assistant director of the UAB Center for Information Assurance and Joint Forensics Research, received a $498,443 grant from the National Science Foundation to create a ScienceDMZ, a network to be operated by UAB IT that will allow UAB researchers to more easily and quickly connect with each other and with other institutions.

With UAB researchers working on projects that generate vast amounts of data, they need to be able to upload and download files and images quickly and securely, Bangalore said.

The goal in building the ScienceDMZ is to provide UAB researchers with 10-gigabit connections and key research labs with 40-gigabit connections, allowing researchers to communicate with each other and with researchers at other institutions at far greater speeds.

“Internally we can move faster, plus we can go outside, whether to upload or download data,” Bangalore said. “This promotes collaboration. Instead of waiting for data to transfer, researchers can be working.”

Bangalore said the network is essential to UAB’s success in research.

“If we don’t do this, we’ll be left behind,” Bangalore said. “Networking is the foundation. We now live in a digital world. Everything is digitally driven.”
This grant provides the foundation for UAB to build the 100 Gbps network — giving researchers a network they can depend on as they would electricity or water service at home.
“In an ideal world you would want (researchers) to take this for granted,” he said. “We just expect things to work. But obviously, someone needs to make sure they work.”

password 1

UAB is revising its password/passphrase policy to ensure better security for campus assets.

Beginning Sept. 15, passwords/passphrases will need to be 15 characters, but the passwords will expire after one year.

Implementation of the policy will be phased in; while users can change their passwords at any time at BlazerID Central, they will not be required to change their passwords to 15 characters until their current password expires. Enforcement of the new requirements and expiration will begin on the first password change event after the policy goes into effect on Sept. 15.

Fifteen-character passwords are much harder to crack than eight-character passwords, making them more secure than UAB’s current standard. Once a password/passphrase expires, a user will never be able to reuse it. 

A strong passphrase:

  • Is a series of words that create a phrase.
  • Does not contain common phrases found in literature or music. You can choose a sentence or phrase that is familiar to you, but use the first letter of every word as a mnemonic device.
  • Does not contain words found in the dictionary. You can replace certain letters in words with numbers, such as 1 for an I or L.
  • Does not contain your user name, real name or company name.

UAB’s passphrases must contain three of the following four characters: an uppercase letter, a lowercase letter, a number and a special symbol.

When users log into BlazerID Central to change their passwords, they will automatically be prompted to enroll a phone number in the Identity feature, which allows users to more easily reset a BlazerID password/passphrase without having to contact AskIT.

UAB IT is also actively pursuing a contract for a password manager for faculty, staff and students. 

UAB Chief Information Officer and Vice President for Information Technology Dr. Curt Carver has delivered a video and presentation detailing UAB IT's plans for strategic technology improvements.

"UAB IT is listening intently to campus, so that we can act intentionally to meet the technology needs of faculty, staff and students," Carver said.

Fiber cables serving Denman Hall were accidentally damaged by a construction crew Thursday, affecting service to the UAB network, physical security network and Apogee ResNet at the residence hall.

Telephone service at Denman was not affected.

Construction crews have begun replacing the conduit and fiber cables, with service estimated to be restored by early next week.

We apologize for the interruption of service, which was out of our control.
Every day, the UAB Office of Annual Giving reaches out to more than 1,000 UAB friends and alumni through its student phone center.

A simple technology change provided by UAB IT’s telecommunications unit helped the office better serve potential donors — and helped UAB’s Annual Fund collect more philanthropic gifts to support schools, departments and libraries across campus.

Initially, the Office of Annual Giving asked UAB IT to change its unlisted number projected on caller ID to a live number that would direct back to the office, said Randy Kinder, senior director of Annual Giving for UAB. In just one day, UAB IT fulfilled the request.

“Be careful what you ask for,” Kinder said.

The result of the change was positive — but had the Annual Giving staff, who typically fielded two to three calls a week, trying to keep up with a much greater volume of returned calls from potential donors.

“The result was approximately 50 calls per day to Annual Giving regarding a missed call from our department,” Kinder said. “Most folks just wanted to know who we are and why we were calling, but several also made philanthropic gifts to the university during the return calls.”

In fact, the volume of calls prompted another request to UAB IT.

“We needed these calls to be directed to a different number, with a custom voicemail, and for the voicemails to be sent to an email account,” Kinder said. “This way, we could manage returned calls without drastically impacting our resources.”

That request was also fulfilled quickly, allowing Annual Giving and student phonathon staff to focus on seeking gifts for the Annual Fund, which provides funding for scholarships, programs, out-of-classroom learning, curriculum enhancements and more.

“This has been a monumental addition to our operations, which has allowed us to provide superior donor relations and transparency,” Kinder said.

To learn more about the Office of Annual Giving and the UAB Annual Fund, click here.
Friday, 31 July 2015 18:32

UAB IT Reports and Publications

For students
Student Quicklinks

For campus

The IT Update is a monthly update to UAB leadership and the IT community about technology projects designed to enhance the work lives of UAB faculty, staff and students. 

to the IT Update

IT Update for September 2015
IT Update for August 2015

IT Update for July 2015

Each month, the chief information security officers for UA, UAB, UAB Medicine and UAHuntsville publish a monthly electronic newsletter to help users avoid IT errors.

Summer 2015 | Issue No. 8
March 2015 | Issue No. 6

February 2015 | Issue No. 5

January 2015 | Issue No. 4
December 2014 | Issue No. 3

November 2014 | Issue No. 2
October 2014 | Issue No. 1