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Time(line) for a change: New tool developed for use in ISG SharePoint sites

A new SharePoint timeline tool has been developed by a member of The University of Edinburgh’s (UoE) Information Services (ISG) team which will enhance organisation and utilisation of list data.

The tool has been created by Don Stuckey who was appointed SharePoint Developer in July 2020 within the SharePoint Solutions Service (SPSS) at ISG.

Don was tasked by Claire Bradford, SharePoint Solutions Manager, and Robert Beaton, SharePoint Technical Lead, to develop a roadmap/timeline ‘web part’ for UoE’s SharePoint sites.

This was done to help enhance Don’s SharePoint Framework (SPFX) development skills and produce a reusable ‘web part’ – that is a web part not tied to one particular SharePoint site.

After early experimentation with various forms for the web part, including a Gantt chart format, Don determined that a one-dimensional timeline format would be the most beneficial due to its relative simplicity.

Throughout the process of the web part’s development, Don has also collaborated with ISG colleagues to acquire feedback and suggestions for possible improvements which he has integrated and applied to further enhance the tool.

As a result, Don’s web part can read in event-based SharePoint list data (such as the data shown in the image below) and provide a chronological timeline representation of that data.

Example of SharePoint list data

Through this, SharePoint users are provided with an at-a-glance view of event-based data. Such data – which represents an activity, task, or development with a start and end date – is created and utilised across ISG and the wider UoE.

An example of the web part in configuration mode, i.e. showing the options the site owner can choose from when deploying the web part to a page in the site; can be seen below.

A screenshot of the web part in configuration mode,

Don said: “Besides all the valuable skills I have developed working on the web part, it has also all been great fun!

“I have really seen the value in sharing the web part with colleagues in the SharePoint Solutions Service Team and in Service Management, at various stages of the web part’s development, to get their feedback.

“I took each round of feedback into account in working on the next version and ultimately was able to implement nearly all the enhancements/features suggested by colleagues. This iterative process of feedback-building-sharing I think led to the web part being quite in tune with the form and functionality my sample users (i.e. my colleagues) envisaged for the web part.

“Given that the requirement to record and access event-based data is quite common (by “event”, I mean piece of data with a start and end date), and that users often wish to have an at-a-glance view of such data, I can see the web part being of value to various business units within ISG and the University of Edinburgh.”

Don’s web part is currently a ‘work in progress’ in the ‘targeted release’ stage and is presently deployed only to several targeted production SharePoints sites in IS Apps

Among the first sites to utilise the web part during this initial stage is the IS Apps Journalism SharePoint. An example of how this appears can be seen below.

A screenshot of the timeline web part in the IS Apps Journalism SharePoint, including the Hovercard users can see when moving their cursor over an event

Don said: “We will see how this targeted release goes, but assuming it goes well and the feedback from real users is positive, we could then consider making the web part available throughout the University’s SharePoint tenancy, so that any site owner can have the option of adding the web part to their site.”

As this web part is a work-in-progress, Don is welcoming any suggestions to develop it further, such as requests for additional features or configuration options.

He is additionally inviting anyone who wishes to try out the web part to email him to provide access to the demo site and add any ideas they have for its development into the “Suggested Enhancements” list.

Beyond its practical applications development of the timeline web part has also proven of immense personal and experiential benefit to Don, enabling him to gain and grow his SharePoint skills and to apply these to new challenges and other software.  

He said: “I have been able to use the SPFX skills that I acquired through developing the web part in many different projects where web parts in general are part of the solutions.

“In addition, SPFX uses many technologies that are not specific to SharePoint, e.g. React, Git, and REST APIS, and I have enhanced my knowledge of these technologies through my work on the web part.”

For more information or to trial the new web part and/or pass on any feedback contact Don Stuckey via email on: don.stuckey@ed.ac.uk

Student staff members land top graduate scheme offers after completing internships at ISG

Rachel Weller (left) and Ting Hsuan Lin (right)

Rachel Weller, who studied Spanish and Classics, started as a Project Management Intern and then became a part-time Project Management Office (PMO) Administrator. She has now received an offer for the Change and Business Solutions Graduate Programme at NatWest in Edinburgh.

Ting Hsuan Lin, who studied Business Management, started as a Digital Transformation Intern and then became a part-time Digital Transformation Analyst. She has now received an offer for the Compliance Analyst Graduate Programme at Barclays in Singapore.

They spoke to us about the benefits of being employed by ISG as students.

What was your experience like as an intern?

Rachel: “It was a great experience, especially when I knew so many people whose internships elsewhere could not go ahead due to the pandemic. The summer is a varied and interesting time to work for ISG, and I had many critical year-end tasks to complete alongside my intern project. This was beneficial as an intern as it meant that I could have an impact alongside developing my own skills.”

Ting Hsuan: “Initially it was quite challenging as at the start of the pandemic I had issues with connectivity and equipment. Luckily my team was very supportive and I eventually managed to get better internet connectivity and some headphones so I could better participate in Teams calls. I spent time learning and picking up knowledge on platforms like Sharepoint which were new to me.”

What did you do once you became a part-time employee?

Rachel: “Compared to being an intern, a part-time role allows much more responsibility. I had ownership of many regular tasks, the most important being our departmental quality assurance process.

“I was also able to return to full-time employment during the summer break, which means that I have had two years in which I have supported the new summer interns and the end of year process.”

Ting Hsuan: “During my part-time role, I had the opportunity to spearhead more projects and lead other student interns. This was because I had gained more knowledge and experience after my internship so I could contribute more to the team.

“Working remotely allowed me to balance my time between studies and working because I could save time travelling to the office.”

How did your work complement your degree?

Rachel: “For me, it was more that my degree could complement my work – there was not much crossover in terms of content! Instead, it was largely soft skills that were complementary. The best example of this is communication. Obviously, communication skills are vital when studying a language, and this meant I had experience presenting, debating and communicating clearly from my classes. This was all useful when having to word emails, present at meetings and implement process changes. Altogether studying and working simultaneously added breadth to my experience at university.”

Ting Hsuan: “Having studied Strategy related subjects in my degree, it was interesting to see how it can be applied in a higher education context. I particularly enjoyed working on PowerPoint slides for different projects as this helped me improve my data visualization skills, a soft skill that will be valued in the Finance industry. At the end of my contract, I also spoke to my manager Stephen and kindly requested for a letter of reference; this might come in useful in the future after university.”

Bright future for UniDesk as service is transferred to new owners

It’s the end of an era but the start of a “bright future” for UniDesk as the service co-founded by the University of Edinburgh (UoE) moves into new ownership. After 11 hugely successful years, in which the service has gone from strength to strength, UniDesk has been transferred to the Higher Education specialist not-for-profit Shared Services organisation HEFESTIS.

Since it was created, the UniDesk Service has grown to become an indispensable IT Service Management (ITSM) tool for the University of Edinburgh and 10 other higher education institutions across the UK and beyond.  Among UniDesk’s many highlights are being consistently voted in the “Top 5 most used ITSM solutions within the HE & FE Sector” by UCISA every year since 2018, winning the UCISA ‘Best Delegate Presentation’ award at the 2018 SSG conference and being regularly showcased by TOPdesk online, via social media and at events.

As part of the pandemic response however Information Services has had to re-evaluate its priorities. Our focus on digital strategies and on supporting the University move to hybrid working has meant that we have been increasingly unable to grow and develop the UniDesk service in the way that is needed. The team at the University have therefore accepted that it’s time to pass on ownership of the service they have done so much to nurture and help flourish. 

“From the outset building the UniDesk Service and the journey we have been on since has been a real team effort.  We would like to say a huge thank you to everyone that has been involved – from those that had that bright idea all those years ago and created and developed the service to everyone that plays a part in supporting UniDesk today eleven years on,​”

Dawn Dodd​, joint UniDesk Service Owner at UoE, said.

“It really was a unique service to be involved with, and we don’t mind admitting that we are sad to see it go, but we know it has a very bright future ahead,”

​Catherine​ Hetherington, fellow UniDesk Service Owner at UoE, added.
Dawn Dodd​ and Catherine Hetherington, joint UniDesk Service Owners at UoE

What is UniDesk?

UniDesk is fully managed Information Technology Infrastructure-based (ITIL) shared service management solution, extensively tailored for Higher and Further Education process flows, using TOPdesk as the underlying IT service management platform.

The service was founded by the universities of Edinburgh, St Andrews and Abertay, and has grown to welcome eight new members, the universities of Sheffield Hallam, Ulster, Stirling, Edinburgh Napier, and Durham​; and most recently the Royal College of Art, University of Highlands and Islands, and University of Malta, in 2019.

Overseen by its incredible “small army” of hard-working University staff, UniDesk logs and resolves incidents and request calls to ensure these universities’ services are supported and can continue to run smoothly.

In the last academic session, the collective UniDesk membership logged a staggering two million calls, including more than half-a-million at UoE alone, and reached almost one million registered users.

“The key to the success of UniDesk is its collaborative community.  The service has been developed with the community in mind.

“We have nurtured the relationships with our members and ensure that they are involved with and have regular input into the service. 

“Our community is so unique that it is referred to, by not only the members, but those within the education sector as the “UniDesk Family”.  And a willingness to collaborate, share experiences and best practice, documentation and support each other is what makes the UniDesk family really special,”

Dawn Dodd said.
The UniDesk Team at the Conference in UHI in 2018

Bigger and better

The UniDesk Service has never stayed still and has constantly been evolving, improving and growing in more ways than just membership. Among the milestone innovations introduced are:

  • Quick Calls – a unique tool to capture face-to-face support interactions quickly and simply, which has helped to drive changes in service provision and improve student experiences
  • Launch of EdHelp – UniDesk underpins a ‘one-stop-shop’ where students can access help and information from all student services in one convenient place
  • Self Service Portal & Knowledgebase and Finance Helpline – delivering a clear route to financial support for university staff
  • Move to TOPdesk SaaS – providing possibility for future growth through migration of 24 environments in coordination with 11 member institutions

A number of successful communication and marketing initiatives have also been launched over the years.

This has seen the creation of promotional videos, a modernised UniDesk logo, regular newsletters and a revamped service web sites including a ‘forum’ area where members can chat and share documents and videos.

UniDesk has also been very active on social media, sharing information on new developments and “getting creative” by whipping up special seasonal and other temporary logos including animated gifs.

UniDesk’s seasonal logos

Alongside all the hard work the service team has taken every available opportunity to get the UniDesk family together to collaborate and have fun.

Four very successful conferences have brought together members to enjoy guest speakers and best-practice sharing and updates from the UniDesk community and TOPdesk.

The conferences have further helped to build connections, support new members and brainstorm solutions to any issues, during events and at breakout lunches.

Fantastic entertainment has also been provided at fun-filled preconference events, including a moonlight BBQ cruise in Durham, a spooky ghost walk in Edinburgh and dolphin spotting in the Moray Firth.

UniDesk team and members at one of the hugely successful conferences

The future of UniDesk

The University remains hugely committed to the future success of UniDesk. UniDesk is a critical service for the University and also underpins the successful EdHelp Service which contributes to student and staff experience on and off-campus. 

We are certain that HEFESTIS is the right choice for UniDesk. HEFESTIS, as a not-for-profit HE focused Shared Service provider, shares the values and ethos of UniDesk.

HEFESTIS is jointly owned by member Scottish universities and colleges and already provides a number of successful shared services, including DPO Share​, CISO Share​, Change Share​ and Office365 Share.

UniDesk run by HEFESTIS will bring a broad range of benefits, including:

  • Dedicated specialist resources with HEFESTIS
  • Building on the great foundations established by UoE Service Management, meaning a continuation in great service and delivery partnership with TOPdesk
  • More and bigger promotional activities – including HEFESTIS working in partnership with UCISA
  • Removal of current constraints on service growth, meaning more member innovation and even better value for the University

The legal transfer of ownership to HEFESTIS has now taken place. The transfer included a detailed agreement for continued UoE technical support, and 12 month transition period to ensure a successful handover.

“Working with the UniDesk team at UoE was a pleasure, the passion for UniDesk was evident and both sides worked well together to make the transition successful.

“Going forward we will endeavour to continue with the same culture and ethics. I believe UoE has built a great service in UniDesk and it’s a foundation that HEFESTIS will build on and grow,”

James Morris, Chief Executive Officer of HEFESTIS, said.

HEFESTIS have the capacity and expertise needed to further grow and develop UniDesk welcoming new members and taking the service forward to a bright future! 

Getting To Know The IRM

Image via Unsplash

What is the IRM?

The Industry Relationship Management (IRM) platform supports industry engagement relationships, across the University of Edinburgh. The Salesforce-based system centralizes and consolidates data related to engagement with external organisations offering a “pan University perspective” where end-to-end relationship management is possible.

The project to procure and implement the IRM began in January 2018 with the aim of providing external stakeholders with more streamlined interactions with the University, expand University collaboration with a range of industrial partners, increase visibility to interactions, support and report business activity across the University, connect with fellow Schools and Services who also engage with industry and ensure adequacy with regulations relating to GDPR, FOI and UoE Security strategies.

With the IRM University users can view and manage touchpoints from across the University with the outside world, improving understanding of what we’re doing with external organisations and quantify and demonstrate impact of engagements through reporting.

Where is the IRM being used?

The IRM platform is intended for whole-of-university use and is based on business requirements expressed by School of Informatics, Bayes Centre, Informative Ventures, the Principals Office and Edinburgh Innovations.

For example, Edinburgh Innovations (EI) – the University’s commercialisation service connecting researchers, students and staff with industry and external organizations – utilises the IRM to build partnerships and leverage strategic opportunities. In particular, the EI Student Enterprise Service uses the IRM to track key performance indicators (KPIs) related to company formations, student engagements and funding received by clients using the Salesforce Forms, Reporting and Campaign features. In addition, the Social Responsibility and Sustainability Team is currently in the process of onboarding to the IRM to track their communication and engagement activites.

What’s next for the IRM?

Up ahead, the IRM is looking to expand and connect with other parts of the University to leverage communication and information sharing. The service roadmap for the IRM draws from the University’s Enterprise and Innovation Management Strategy which calls for a “more efficient use of systems.” This includes a more tailored use of the IRM by innovation hubs as well as integration of the IRM with other existing University systems such as: alumni data from Access CRM, Career Service, dotdigital in the Marketing Office, Worktribe in the Research office and Kissflow with Edinburgh Global.

Currently, the IRM is “going global” in piloting information sharing between the IRM and Edinburgh Global in its North America and Asia Pacific areas.

The IRM team continues to meet with stakeholders to refresh current training provided to colleagues, refine IRM functionality and increase user awareness of the full range of IRM capabilities.

Where can I learn more?

You can find out more about the IRM platform and broader Industry Engagement Relationship Management Project on their SharePoint page: Industry Relationship Management – Home (sharepoint.com)

Recognising the Success of the Digital Library Programme

The Digital Library Programme is a collaborative body of work within Information Services’ Project Services and Digital Library teams focusing on developing the infrastructure to support digital scholarship activities and long-term access to large-scale digitised collections and content. The programme’s vision includes establishing Edinburgh as a “leading university in the provision of easily accessible digital collections, to be widely used in supporting creative learning, teaching and research.”

Achieving this vision includes implementing a number of projects to ensure the ease of discovery and accessibility of online collections, create a fresh and exciting website for collections, provide an efficient digitisation request service, provide a range of digital scholarship tools, guarantee long term accessibility to collections, deliver digitised items as “collections as data” and grow the digital skills of the Digital Library team and broader digital scholarship at the University.

The Digital Library Programme launched in October 2018 with a number of key projects designed to split up work incrementally, making projects more achievable following a planned progression. Analysis, procurement and implementation were split into separate projects with analysis projects being used to recommend next stages leading to incremental development, publishing of web pages, software implementation and data migration.

Breaking work into smaller projects also enabled the team members across ISG and the University Library to accommodate project work while still delivering on their typical daily tasks. In addition, the team members carry their experience of working together and their knowledge of the systems through each project, so the team isn’t left starting from scratch.

“By keeping each project small and contained we were able to use results to analyse how each project went and feed that analysis into the scoping for the next one, so the lessons learned as you go help the next project run more efficiently and focused. In big projects, you typically scope right at the beginning and imagine what might happen in a two-year project and when you get to the later phases everything is based off analysis long ago and not taking into account lessons learned along the way,” said Project Manager Alex Ross.

To date, the programme has accomplished a number of its key projects related to automating a number of digital preservation workflows, improving digital scholarship tools and expanding the offerings of online collections. The current and planned projects focus on implementing new digital workflows, digital asset management and ensuring consistent online access through the redesign of www.collections.ac.ed.uk

Karen Stirling, the Digital Library Programme Manager commented that ‘The Digital Library Programme is an example of how well IS teams can work together, collaborate well and build up their experience and knowledge from the projects we have delivered over the past few years.’

This was echoed by Kirsty Lingstadt, Head of Digital Library and Digital Library Programme Owner ‘It has been great to see the programme delivering and completing projects and watching the confidence and capacity of the staff grow as outcomes are delivered and implemented.’

Find the right tool(s) for your next online meeting or event

The University of Edinburgh’s Online and Digital Events Service provides support to ensure your event needs are best matched with the appropriate online solution. The service includes a list of meeting and online event platforms that ISG fully supports as well as advice and guidance, training and case studies to help you use the platforms to their fullest. 

Not sure which tool to use for your event? The Online and Digital Events Tool Selector provides personalised recommendations on which tool is most suitable for your online meeting or event based on your responses to the advice form.  

One of the options in the suite of tools available to the University community is EventsAir. EventsAir is a virtual digital event platform procured by the University to offer a comprehensive solution for organising and running professional quality, large-scale virtual events. The platform supports large numbers of attendees and exhibitors, integrated live streaming, recorded content and point-to-point text and video chat.  

EventsAir helps to deliver quality digital and hybrid events at scale, having already supported a number of successful virtual events across early adopters including Careers Week and University Open Days.  

“Speaking for my own business area, I was delighted to see 96% satisfaction ratings across our Open Days held in EventsAir for the first time. When feedback like this is coupled with the increase in global reach that we saw in these events, this presents really exciting opportunities,” said Clare Mackay, Deputy Director, Student Recruitment and Admissions.  

If you or your teams are interested in learning more about EventsAir and the other supported tools available for running events, you can find out more on the Online and Digital Events Service webpages at www.ed.ac.uk/digitalevents . The Online and Digital Events Service can help you get started, and recommend which route is most appropriate to your needs. The Online and Digital Events Service can also connect you with the EventsAir User Group that has been set up to enable adopters to share learning and good practices.  

Teams meeting recordings to be saved on OneDrive and SharePoint

By July 2021, all Teams meeting recordings will be stored in OneDrive or SharePoint.

FAQS

What does this change involve?

Currently, A1 licensed users (the majority of users) have their Teams meeting recordings stored within Teams, either in the meeting chat or in the Channel the meeting was scheduled in. While A3 licensed users (E.g. those requiring MS Bookings, Intune, etc) have their Teams meeting recordings stored in Microsoft Stream.

This will change by July 2021, and all users will automatically have meeting recordings saved to OneDrive or SharePoint.

Is there an exact date for when the change happening?

There is no exact date for when the change will be implemented, only that this change will be rolled out gradually and will be completed by July 2021.

Some users may see the change before others,

What are the reasons for and benefits of this change?

Microsoft state that they are making this change as a part of larger changes to Microsoft Stream. Moving automatic upload of Teams meeting recordings to OneDrive and SharePoint will make it easier for users to share recordings with external users. The change will also better integrate Teams, SharePoint and OneDrive.

Microsoft describe their expected benefits for users, following this change, as:

  • Benefit from OneDrive for Business and SharePoint information governance
  • Easy to set permissions and sharing
  • Share recordings with guests (external users) with explicit share only
  • Request access flow
  • Provide OneDrive for Business and SharePoint shared links
  • Meeting recordings are available faster
  • Multi-geo support – recordings are stored in a region specific to that user

Will there be any possible issues to consider?

We won’t know of all possible issues until the change starts to be implemented. However, Microsoft point out the following:

  • You can control with whom you share the recording, but you won’t be able to block people with shared access from downloading the recording.  
  • You will not get an email when the recording finishes saving, but the recording will appear in the meeting chat once it’s finished. This will happen much quicker than it did in Stream previously 

How do I know if my recording is stored in OneDrive or Sharepoint?

Whether the recording is saved in OneDrive or SharePoint depends on if the meeting was scheduled as a channel meeting or not.

For non-Channel meetings – the recording is stored in a folder named Recordings in the OneDrive of the person who started the meeting recording. For Example, Recorder’s OneDrive for Business/Recordings

For Channel meetings – the recording is stored in the document library of the SharePoint site of the Team that the meeting was scheduled in, in a “Recordings” folder. Example, Teams name – Channel name/Documents/Recordings

This process is automatic, and administrators cannot change where the recording is saved.

How do I handle recordings if a staff member leaves?

Since videos are just like any other file in OneDrive and SharePoint, handling ownership and retention after someone leaves will follow the normal process.

Who has the permissions to view the meeting recording?

For non-Channel meetings – all meeting invitees (except external users) will automatically get a personally shared link.

External users will need to be explicitly added to the shared list by the meeting organizer or the person who started the meeting recording.

For Channel meetings – permissions are inherited from the owners and members list in the channel.

Will captions and transcripts be available?

Closed captions for Teams meeting recordings will be available during playback, only if the user had transcription turned on at the time of recording. To ensure users have the option to record meetings with transcription, this must be turned on in the tenancy.

Captions can be hidden on the meeting recording, although the meeting transcript will still be available on Teams unless you delete it there.

Closed captions are supported for Teams meeting recordings up to 60 days from when the meeting is recorded.

Closed captions aren’t fully supported if the Teams Meeting Recording is moved or copied from its original location on OneDrive for Business or SharePoint.

Will my storage quota on OneDrive and SharePoint be impacted?

Teams meeting recording files will be stored into OneDrive for Business and SharePoint and are included in quotas for those services. You get more storage compared with Stream.

How can I play my Teams meeting recording?

Your video will play on the video player of OneDrive for Business or SharePoint depending on where you access the file.

Is there a detailed list of each type of Teams meeting showing where the recording will be saved and the permissions the recording will have?

Meeting typeWhere is the recording saved? Who has access?
1:1 call with internal parties (University of Edinburgh users)User who clicked record’s OneDrive– The user who clicked “start recording” is the owner and has full access
– The other user has watch access but no sharing access
1:1 call with an external userUser who clicked record’s OneDrive– The user who clicked “start recording” is the owner and has full access
– The other user has no access, the user who started the recording must share it with the other user
Group call User who clicked record’s OneDrive– The user who clicked record is the owner and has full rights
– Other internal users have watch only access
– Other external users have no access, and the user who clicked record must share it with them
Scheduled meetingUser who clicked record’s OneDrive– The user who clicked record is the owner and has full rights
– If the organiser was not the one who clicked record, organiser has edit rights and can share
– All other internal users have watch only access
– External users have no access, the user who clicked record, or the organiser, must share it with them
Channel meetingSharePoint site for that Team– The user who clicked record has edit rights to the recording. 
– Every other user’s permissions are based off of the Channel SharePoint permissions. 

Helping You Sleep Soundly: A Look at the University Web Hosting Security Tools

The University’s Web Hosting Service offers a range of proactive security tools to help keep users’ sites safe and secure

The University’s Web Hosting Service is an internal service for members of the University community to host websites suited to their unique needs. The service provides an environment for users to develop and host websites for specific areas that may have functionality, formatting or branding requirements outside the scope of what is offered on the main University of Edinburgh site. The service hosts over 1,000 sites ranging from research projects and PhD pages to the Edinburgh Sports and Student Unions.

“We currently utilise the web hosting service to provide free web hosting to our student societies and groups. Societies and groups utilise this service to host websites with information about the groups and post event details. We have found most of the end users have used the built in application installer to setup CMS systems such as WordPress, which they are able to do without the need of IT as the process is very easy,” said Matthew Ashton-Jones, IT Support for Edinburgh University Students’ Association.

With the flexibility to configure self-service sites suited to personalised needs comes challenges related to ensuring users are protected from potential online malicious activity, and themselves. There is a large variety between users who diligently monitor their site and patch when new updates are released, and others who, for legitimate reasons, leave their sites relatively untouched and vulnerable to exploitation. As such, in recent years the University Web Hosting service has sought to incorporate automated security and technical tools to help assess and secure the servers, increasing the security of the sites hosted on the service while decreasing the burden to individual users.

“We have a very good working relationship with the [Web Hosting] team. Their communications are probably some of the best – both timely and informative – that I have come across from an ISG team. The team have always been approachable, friendly and customer focussed. And extremely knowledgeable about their domain – which has been a life-saver on more than one occasion,” said Euan Cameron, Digital Innovation Team Manager, College of Arts, Humanities & Social Sciences. “If I have received a system-event alert from the service (security or otherwise) that I have been unsure about, they have always been quick to explain the issue highlighted when contacted.”

Cloud Linux Operating System

The University Web Hosting Service adopted the Cloud Linux Operating System to help manage the multitude of sites it supports. The Cloud Linux operating system is designed specifically for hosting websites in a shared environment and specializes in isolation between websites. In this way, if one site is compromised the system prevents others from being accessed and limits cross-infection. The operating system also has a mechanism for limiting resources between individual users, so one site cannot bring down the entire server of sites if it crashes or experiences technical difficulties. This tool ensures continuity of operations and helps prevent against the chain reaction of negative impacts from denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

“We rely on the OS to be stable and secure and impact as little on our workloads as possible. By utilising the Web Hosting Service, we are more than happy to say that CloudLinux OS has met our requirements, and with the team’s support we hardly notice/concern ourselves about the OS in our day-to-day work,” said Euan.

Patchman

Patchman is a vulnerability detection and patching tool created to simplify security for web hosting providers. The tool automatically scans all the sites hosted on the University server every night, identifies any known vulnerabilities, commonly via WordPress or Drupal, and patches them unobtrusively. The patching does not impact the platform itself or any settings, rather it changes the code to plug any security holes and then emails the site owners to notify of the patch execution and associated details. Site owners have the ability to roll back any patches in their Control Panel if they discover resulting issues. Additionally, system updates can override patches if necessary.

“With so many sites in our portfolio – including 40+ Drupal installations, and sites supported by external developers – having a tool that can automatically patch vulnerabilities when identified, and before a developer can get to it, has allowed me to sleep better at night,” said Euan. 

The proactive tool helps address vulnerabilities before they become targets for spam, DDoS attacks and more. For instance, the Unix team notified ISG of an unknown WordPress issue that suggested exploitation. In exploring the issue further ISG discovered Patchman had already patched 60 sites that contained the vulnerable plug-in.

“Patchman has proven to be an incredibly useful tool, as we are a small team and having time to manually patch the large number of websites which we administer can prove to be difficult to arrange,” said Matthew. “With Patchman this is automatically taken care of and we are notified via email that the upgrades have been successful or have failed (requiring manual intervention).”

Immunify 360

To round out its comprehensive package of security tools, the University also utilizes Immunify 360, a proactive defense against threats in the form of a web application firewall. The firewall detects any malicious traffic or attempts to hack into sites hosted through the University. The interactive dashboard provides statistics related to the security levels of sites hosted through the service and their web traffic including detections, blocked requests and black-listed and white-listed IP addresses. Immunify 360 also identifies grey-listed IP addresses that are presented with a CAPTCHA request when trying to access the site to prove their identity. The service’s malware scanner continually analyzes scripts and recognizes suspicious behavior in real-time, stopping malware from running on the servers and successfully restoring scripts from backup.

“Security incidents, to our knowledge, have been kept at an absolute minimum, while my team can focus on delivering and developing our own services unhindered by the resource burden of manually managing these ourselves, or resolving the incidents that would, most likely, be the outcome of not having these tools in place,” said Euan.

Because the University Web Hosting audience is largely internal, access to the tools is only available to those on the University network or via the University VPN. Further, the sites are integrated with University Single Sign On to provide additional secure options for users to access the sites.

“The web hosting service and the included security tools have enabled us to offer an easy and secure web hosting service to our groups which would not be possible without the assistance and service being provided by ISG,” said Matthew.

UniDesk Turns 10

UniDesk recognises a decade of providing shared information technology services across Higher Education

UniDesk, the shared service management solution, celebrates its tenth anniversary this Wednesday November 18th, 2020. Delivered in partnership with TOPdesk software, UniDesk offers streamlined service management across the higher education sector.

Founded in 2010 by University of Edinburgh, University of St. Andrews and Abertay University, the UniDesk solution incorporates information technology (IT) processes, guidance and support tailored to further and higher education. Its members collaborate to share costs, administrative knowledge and best practices with one another.

Service Owners Dawn Dodd and Catherine Hetherington are proud to be a part of the UniDesk community, helping to shape its future. “Higher Education needs are more complex than logging calls just for an IT function. Our service is used by different groups across the institutions and we need to ensure that UniDesk evolves to meet the needs of an ever changing and expanding community. UniDesk is scalable which is vital for our large operator base and even larger user base,” said Dawn.

In the past ten years UniDesk has grown its user community to 11 member institutions with almost 969,000 registered users and over 1.4 million calls logged collectively in 2019-2020. In recent years, the membership began hosting annual in-person conferences, pre-conference socials and forums as an opportunity to share their UniDesk experiences, continually improve the service and connect as a community.

To further enhance the partnership, UniDesk also launched the UniDesk Share space for members to support one another and share resources. The Microsoft Teams site includes a repository of videos, start-up guides and quick reference documents for members to rebrand and use in their local settings.

“It feels the UniDesk community has really moved forward in the past 2 years since we joined and there have been some rapid developments. The launch of UniDesk Share to encourage collaborative discussions on common problems has been a very positive step forward,” said Mike Burns, Learning and Information Services Manager at University of Highlands and Islands. “The conferences have been useful to bring teams together and put faces to names, especially for the institutions we work with outside of Scotland.”

Underpinning UniDesk’s continued success is the ethos of sharing and collaboration as part of the solution developed for Education by Education. Members often request advice from other members with years of experience as they develop in their service management journey. UniDesk also benefits from regular support and knowledge shared by an experienced team of dedicated University of Edinburgh staff. Additionally, each of the member institutions is given a seat on the UniDesk governance board and is involved in the future direction of the solution.

“UniDesk for us was ultimately a very neat solution in procuring a compliant system for our needs in a relatively short space of time, but also in the full knowledge that the wealth of experience and skills behind the product would provide us with continued ongoing support. Utilising the experience of the other institutions has led to some great collaborative working and new relationships which have proved fruitful,” said Mike.

UniDesk remains committed to growing and evolving with user needs and a changing education environment. UniDesk has recently moved to TOPdesk’s software as a service (SaaS), enabling Chat functionality and opportunities for improved Asset Management. Looking ahead to the future, UniDesk aims to ensure continuous service improvement through streamlined upgrades, provision of the API and improving overall resilience for the service.

“The move to TOPdesk SaaS will help us on our continual service improvement path. Our membership can look forward to seeing new features as we develop the service for the future,” said Catherine.

UniDesk’s current member institutions include: University of Edinburgh, University of St. Andrews, Abertay University, Sheffield Hallam University, Ulster University, University of Stirling, Edinburgh Napier University, Durham University, University of the Highlands and Islands, Royal College of Art and University of Malta.

To learn more about UniDesk, stay up to date on the latest news and engage with members visit the UniDesk website or UniDesk Twitter.

Microsoft Teams Hints and Tips: How to get the most out of Microsoft Teams – Roles in your meetings

Most staff at the University will now have been using Microsoft Teams for remote working for quite a few months now. However many users may not be aware of some of the hints and tips that can help in getting more out of using Microsoft Teams. Over the next few weeks we will be posting various Teams hints and tips about different features of the platform.

Concern over Teams meeting recordings

The topic of this post relates to how to change the roles of your invitees in your Teams meetings and is directed at Teams meeting organisers.

There has been some concern at the University about the fact that anyone invited to a Teams meeting can record the meeting. There is further concern that there is no way to know who started a recording, as the recording will be owned by the meeting organiser, not the person who started the recording. The following post will show you how you can address this concern in your meetings by changing the roles of your meeting participants. Following the steps in this post will ensure that only the meeting organiser and any specifically designated presenters will be able to record your meeting. Changing roles in your Teams meetings will also allow you to specify the participants in your meetings (whether that’s just you or a few others) who can share content such as PowerPoint presentations or their screen, and who can admit people from the lobby or mute others. This may be useful for you if you want to have a more structured style meeting, with designated presenters.

Changing roles in your meetings

If you are a Teams meeting organiser you may want to know if it is possible for you to set designated roles in your Teams meetings. It is possible and we recommend that you consider changing the roles in your meetings before all of your meetings.

What are roles in Teams meetings?

There are 2 roles in Teams meetings – Presenters and Attendees. Presenters have more capabilities than attendees, and when you schedule your meeting all your invitees will be added as presenters by default. Some of the different capabilities of presenters and attendees are listed in the table below:

CapabilityPresenterAttendee
Speak and share video
Participate in the meeting chat
Share content (i.e. a screen, a PowerPoint presentation)
Mute other participants
Admit people from the lobby
Start and stop recording

How to change the roles in your meetings

We recommend that if you are a meeting organiser, that you change your invitees to attendees rather than the default presenters.

  1. Schedule your meeting
  2. Then, access your Teams Calendar and click your meeting
  3. Then, click “Meeting options” beside the time zone information
  4. Next, a new browser window will open with the meeting options
  5. Then, beside “Who can present?” change the setting to “Specific people” or “Only me”
  6. If you selected “Specific people” type the user’s name into the “Search for participants” box
  7. Finally, click “Save”
Image showing how to change roles in Teams meetings

For further information Microsoft provide detailed and up to date information on changing roles in your meetings.