Wednesday, 22 April 2015

eFile pilot progressing well

On March the 4th CiCS opened a pilot Student eFile system to a small group of Academic and Professional Services departments. The system allows us to hold electronic documents and scans of paper documents relating to our students in a single location available to all authorised users of the system. In the future it is hoped that this will rid us of remaining paper student files and will also avoid the duplication of documents, as more departments begin to share a single eFile record. Clearly there are challenges establishing common standards, some of which we have already addressed and others which will become apparent as we extend the use of the system.

The project is sponsored by Andrew West from Student Services and includes representatives from a range of academic and professional services departments. The software was develop by a company called Folding Space with collaboration from CiCS and a version has already been used successfully in Registry Services for capturing Immigration documents to meet government requirements for handling international students.

The pilot is progressing well, with over 1000 documents uploaded so far. We have fed back a range of issues to Folding Space who have responded with fixes and enhancements, ready to go into our test system.

A review of the pilot is planned for July/August.

Shape the Future of MOLE

Would you like the opportunity to feed into the future of  MOLE?

Representatives from Blackboard (the technology that MOLE runs on) will be attending the University of Sheffield to run a 'listening' session with staff at our institution (5th May 15, 11-12.30). 

This is an opportunity for colleagues that use MOLE as part of their teaching, to offer any feedback and shape the development of it. Share your wish lists and frustrations, the company are keen to hear from our institution. 

Following on from the listening session, Blackboard will return to the University and deliver a presentation to you, responding directly to your feedback (26th May 15, 11-12.30). 

Key Dates

Listening Session: Tues 5th May 11-12.30
Follow up: Tues 26th May 11-12.30
(NB, It is recommended that you attend both dates)

Sign up now, as places are limited!


End of support for Windows Server 2003

Windows Server 2003 is a server operating system produced by Microsoft, which was released in April 2003, but from the 14th July 2015 Microsoft will be ending support for this product.

All software products have a lifecycle. End of support refers to the date when Microsoft will no longer provide automatic fixes, updates, or online technical assistance.

After this date users will no longer receive security patches that help protect PCs from harmful viruses, spyware, and other malicious software, assisted technical support from Microsoft or software and content updates.

Departments using operating systems running unsupported software are exposed to risks and will need to update their systems to mitigate these risks posed to the University. Possible actions departments could take are: 
  • Upgrading any Windows Server 2003 to a later version along with associated services and software 
  • Moving the physical server to a virtual environment maintained by CiCS 
  • Finding out if the services running on the server are already provided centrally by CiCS eg. FTP, web services, VPN 
  • Determining if the service needs access to the internet 
  • There are some virtualised versions of Windows Server 2003 provided by CiCS and the Storage and Server Team are in the process of contacting departments so that they can be migrated to the latest version, Windows Server 2012. 
Errol Sweetland,  IT Support Manager in CiCS, is also contacting departments running Windows Server 2003 to discuss options as there are now just a few months until support ends.

Monday, 20 April 2015

Critical Windows patch

Microsoft have released a new patch in response to a critical vulnerability in Windows. The flaw enables attackers to compromise the security of Windows servers using specially crafted web traffic.

If you are responsible for any Windows servers or desktops, please ensure they are patched as soon as possible. The patch and supporting documentation is available from
https://technet.microsoft.com/library/security/MS15-034

We are patching machines managed by us to make sure they aren't vulnerable. We'll also take care of patching virtual machines hosted by us in our VMWare estate. We've taken the decision to do this patching out of hours so as not to cause any interruptions to service during the working day.

Windows servers that accept http requests are vulnerable; note that your server does not necessarily have to be running a website to be affected, for example it could be a management system. Affected versions include Windows 7, Windows Server 2008 R2, Windows 8, Windows Server 2012, Windows 8.1, and Windows Server 2012 R2.

If you want to know more about the vulnerability, here is a useful blog post from The Register: http://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/04/16/http_sys_exploit_wild_ms15_034/


Friday, 17 April 2015

New bookable silent study desks in IC room 1.20


We've made more silent study paces available for the exam period.

Information Commons room 1.20, which was used for the Faculty Challenge bookable group desks, is equipped with individual silent study desks for the exam period.

They were originally arranged in groups of 4, but the layout has been changed, so they are all single desks, with dividers between them. This has created 38 bookable desks.

  • The desks are bookable in RnR for a max period of 4 hours
  • We will have a touch screen kiosk by the door so you can book desks as you walk in
  • Desks will be bookable 2 days ahead, just like group rooms
If you're going to have a break for more than 20 minutes, you need to log off and take your belongings with you.

Feedback on the service can be sent to infocommons@sheffield.ac.uk