Engineering responds to the fall 2011 IT survey

In fall 201) ITS sent a survey to faculty and staff on campus to gather information about the IT environment, including computers, mobile devices, software, networking, IT support staff, file storage, and email. (ITS surved users previously in summer 2010; CSS reported on the results of that survey in the May 2011 issue of Essentials, the ECS newsletter.)

Most responses indicate people are very or somewhat satisfied with the hardware, software, and services we provide. Of course we like hearing that we are doing a good job, but we learn more from dissatisfied users. Here are some of the comments we got from the 73 people who replied and our responses to those comments. 

Remote Desktop needs to be easier to use, as it was before the Connect2 VPN.

      ECS: When the University blocked direct connections to remote access, using remote desktop became a 2-step process: 1. Connect to a VPN that makes your computer appear to be on campus; 2. Start remote desktop and login to the specific computer. The requirement to use a VPN was a response to many computer attacks. Unfortunately security requires more complexity. There is no way to return to the simpler method of accessing your computer via remote desktop.

      If you have trouble using remote desktop, please talk to the Engineering Help Desk for assistance. Call them at 319-335-5055, or send email to consultant@engineering.uiowa.edu

      An alternative to remote desktop is the VDI. Use the VDI if you need access only to your home directory and the standard software load. The VDI is faster than remote desktop.

Staff not knowledgeable about software.

      ECS: we have more than 100 different software applications on our system. Most are installed at the request of a department or faculty member who wants to use the program for class. ECS ensures that the software runs in the computing environment, but we rely on faculty and teaching assistants to be the experts on using the software.

      With your help, we could agree on becoming more proficient on the top 10 programs. What software would you put on a top 10 list? 

Better communications

      We post information on our web site. We send email notifications of downtimes to everyone in the college.

      We, too, would like better communications from our users. Several responses to questions in the survey indicate frustrations of which we were unaware. When you have a problem using remote desktop, printing, or need help with a web page, please tell the Engineering Help Desk, 319-335-5055 or consultant@engineering.uiowa.edu. Or comment on the articles (like this one) we post on this web site. We want to hear from you about the smallest annoyances so we can address them before they become big frustrations.

   More testing with updated networking and software.

      ECS: We have created a parallel test environment in which to test new software. We are now able to do extensive testing of infrastructure software, which is what we know. We are not the experts on all applications software; we need your expertise to do that testing. We don’t have the ability – knowledge, staff, or time - to test all known cases.  If you have ideas about how to improve testing, let us know.

      Please let us know when something works differently than it used to. 

Would like access to queue of requests so can know where in the list a request is.

     ECSWe thought we had a product that would give users access to the queue of requests, but we encountered a reason not to use it. We hope that product will be modified so that we can use it in the future. The current request queue uses RT, which sends email to the individual submitting the request.

Consistent email service. Trust that mail sent is received and that I receive all email sent to me.

      ECS: We wish we could guarantee this, too. There are many variables to successfully sending and receiving mail. Just as you have no control over a letter you mail or that is sent to you using the US Postal Service, your control of an email message extends only to writing it. Once you send it, that message is handled by several different mail processing servers, which are likely to be running software written by different companies (Microsoft, Mozilla, Yahoo, Google, and so on). Mail programs work differently, mail servers are configured differently. Mail filtering can be done by software as well as a mail server. 

      Mail servers are set up to remove some deleterious email and spam. Messages identified by mail servers as possibly junk may be put in a Junk or Spam folder. Look there if you think you are missing some mail. Don’t hesitate to contact us—we will do our best to track down the root cause of delivery problems. 

Faster networking.

      ECS: We completed the 10x network upgrade in January that we started last fall.

April 2012