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Summer 2017 ITS Newsletter (Faculty/Staff Edition)

by Michael Case | Jun 05, 2017

We have a great deal in store for everyone this summer—most good, some less so.  We’ll be honest about our efforts and what you can expect this summer.  With no further ado…

Alumni Email Licensing

Microsoft provides us with free employee and student email accounts.  They also supply alumni accounts.  The difference?  Alumni accounts only provide email services and OneDrive (i.e. no Office licensing).  Alumni email also adds advertising.

For the first time, we intend to transition alumni from a student account to an alumnus one.  Nothing happens to the email they have and alumni continue to receive email at their @manchester.edu and @spartans.manchester.edu accounts.  The two major differences:  alumni must log into their email accounting using their @alumni.manchester.edu email address and the email password is no longer tied to other MU resources (like Canvas, ChetNet, and ChetAdvisor).  Thus, an email password reset has no bearing on other MU resources.

We hope to do this work soon.  We’ll carefully coordinate with any alumni and will likely start with the most recent graduating class.  Stay tuned for further details as this may affect how you contact alumni.

ChetAdvisor & Self-Service

We’ve told you that ChetAdvisor replaces the WebAdvisor tab on Gateway.  Colleague, our student information system, is gradually rolling out a WebAdvisor replacement called Self-service.  Some of Self-Service is available now in ChetAdvisor but students will soon have access to Self-Service Financial Aid.  We’re working with Student Financial Services to implement this key new feature soon.

Colleague UI 5.x

We’re currently installing the latest Colleague UI version (the means by which you access Colleague) in our production environment with the intention to gradually roll it out to users over the summer.  If you want to see UI v5.3 before final implementation, please visit the test environment at https://chetui-test.manchester.edu/ui/home/index.html.  To view an Ellucian presentation on UI v5.x, you can visit https://event.on24.com/eventRegistration/EventLobbyServlet?target=reg20.jsp&referrer=&eventid=1198360&sessionid=1&key=F4AD12EFD5C1BA14834E4B78B12AC622&regTag=&sourcepage=register.  There’s also a training video available once you log in to the new UI version for the first time.

Desktop Software Upgrades

We’ll upgrade the classroom and lab computers to Windows 10 and Office 2016 this summer.  We strongly recommend that you request through Help Desk that we complete the upgrades for your office computer as well. 

In addition to Windows and Office, we’re performing clean installs of the other software we support in the classrooms and labs (i.e. SPSS).

Faculty / Staff Survey

To determine how well we met faculty needs were met and based on a suggestion from the Technology Committee, we’ll send all faculty members a survey in the coming days that asks how various technologies and the ITS team in general did to meet your needs.  We’ll use the survey to improve our service and technology offerings in the future.  Starting next year, we’ll conduct the survey more frequently (once per semester) so that we might better position solutions within the budget framework.

Likewise, we’ll survey staff for a similar reason.  The staff survey will inquire about the technologies that staff members frequently use and the technology’s effectiveness. 

Intercampus Video Conferencing

To support the One Manchester initiative, the ITS team is testing ways to improve video communication between campuses.  We currently use ADM 11 on the North Manchester campus and FW 125J on the Fort Wayne campus.  The problem is that these rooms aren’t big enough for the larger meetings planned soon.  To support larger meeting participation, we’ll configure one of the JYSC conference rooms to connect with one of the Fort Wayne classrooms.  A preliminary test proved successful.  A larger test is planned after further enhancements.

National Student Clearinghouse

The University recently agreed to use the services provided by NSC to include electronic transcripts (both incoming and outgoing) as well as degree and enrollment verification.  The team is working to implement electronic transcripts currently so that current and prior students may request them online.  We hope to include transcript import for incoming students as well.

Network Storage

We’re carefully looking at reorganizing how you access the files you store on the network.  Currently, some departments map multiple network shares and refer to the locations as the M:\ drive, N:\ drive, etc.  We’re looking at 3 options:

  • Maintain the status quo.  This is not our preferred option but we understand if it’s yours.
  • Use a technology that allows files stored in disparate locations to appear in Windows as one drive.  Thus, in the previous example, the M:\, N:\ drives, etc., become a single drive.  It’s also possible that the H:\ drive, where you store personal documents, will be merged into the single drive as well.
  • Move many, if not most or all, files into the Microsoft Office 365 cloud.

Security management is a primary reason for this change.  As employees request access to various drives, folders, and files, managing the security to ensure people who need access have it and those who don’t need access don’t is becoming more problematic.  Cost is another major reason for this effort. 

As we work on the major design foundation, we’ll be in touch with the departments to obtain their input.  This project is unlikely to be done by the end of summer if its complexity increases.

Security Enhancements

We’re evaluating several security enhancements given the current threats we face (and after the attempt to obtain our W2s this winter).  No plans are finalized but we are likely to implement some combination of the following.

  • Email encryption.  Currently email you send to other MU employees is encrypted from starting point to end point.  That’s not true of email we send to someone outside the organization.  Once such an email leaves Microsoft, anyone can intercept and read the email.  With email encryption, the email is secured from starting point to end point regardless of the end point.
  • Microsoft’s Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) for email.  This service does two things as email is received by Microsoft prior to arriving in our Inboxes.  First, all attachments will go through Microsoft’s “detonation vault” to determine if opening an attachment represents a threat.  When you receive an email with an attachment, at first the attachment appears as an email with the name “ATP Scan In Progress”.  Once the attachment clears the detonation vault, the email is refreshed with the actual attachment(s).  The second feature scans all Internet addresses in the email’s body to ensure that they’re not known threats.  This effort prevents you from clicking on a link that leads to your computer’s infection or worse.
  • Microsoft’s Data Leak Prevention (DLP) feature.  This service scans email and documents stored in the cloud for sensitive information such as credit card numbers or SSNs.  If you try to send or save such a file, you’re warned first.  You can still send or save but you have to make a conscious choice to do so.
  • Multi-factor authentication (MFA).  Passwords can be hacked.  Passwords can be stolen.  To overcome these two weaknesses, we may implement MFA for some in critical positions.  In addition to supplying your password, you’ll be asked to provide a one-time code or other form of authentication.  You can receive the code via email, a mobile app, a text, or even a phone call.  We’re currently trying to balance the improved security with the obvious impact to efficiency. 
  • Redo password policy.  With MFA deployed, it’s reasonable for ITS to relax the password policy currently in place.  Password complexity is still critical but the time between forced password resets is likely to be increased.
  • You must remain vigilant even if these features in their most draconian form are implemented.  The threats will remain a step ahead of the defenses.  One threat type, called ransomware, is potentially disabling.  Once infected, the ransomware encrypts your documents and demands a ransom in order to unencrypt them for future use.  One example of ransomware, WannaCry, has been in the news lately.  The best defense against ransomware is a good backup strategy.  As a result, DO NOT STORE DOCUMENTS ON YOUR HARD DRIVE.  Instead, store them on the network where they’re backed up frequently.


    We completed the implementation pilot this past spring.  We’re now installing the predictive analytics components.  The Starfish team hopes for the system’s general availability and widespread use in the fall.

    In addition to undergraduate use, the team is currently looking to add Pharmacy students to the system.

    Wi-Fi in the Residence Halls

    The current system struggled to meet student needs this past academic year despite our best efforts.  As a result, we’re going to more broadly implement a strategy we deployed in Oakwood this spring.  Using old radios, we redesigned where the Wi-Fi radios were placed to improve wireless coverage.  With the arrival of new radios, we’ll replicate that pattern in Helman and Oakwood this summer.  East, Garver, and Schwalm will all receive additional attention this summer if not new equipment.  We’ll replace these halls’ wireless radios when we receive funding.

    We similarly upgraded East Street Apartments this past December and have received very strong, positive feedback.