Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Christmas Greetings: traditional card, e card, facebook message?


Yesterday I was frantically writing Christmas cards before I missed the last posting date, but wondered how many of us still write cards?  I've definitely received a lot more electronic cards/greetings this year... I've also heard lots of people saying they aren't doing cards and will just post a message on Facebook - as it's saving the environment! 
However you choose to send your Christmas greeting this year, there is no getting away from the impact technology is having on even the most traditional of habits! 

CEEDA Gold Press Releases

Below is the links to the press releases about the University of St Andrews achieving CEEDA Gold. 


By the University of St Andrews Press Office,96463,en.php

Thursday, 13 December 2012


I'm absolutely delighted to announce that the University of St Andrews has won an award at tonight's EMEA prestigious awards ceremony in London - against very stiff competition! 
  • Innovation in IT Optimisation

The DatacenterDynamics EMEA 6th Annual Awards recognise innovation, leadership and ‘out of the box’ thinking in the data center industry across Europe. 

Our award was for ICT Transformation at The University Of St Andrews.  Again, I'm very proud of my team.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Data Centre Dialogue 3

On 3rd and 4th December 2012 I'm delighted to be chairing the Econique Data Centre Dialogue conference in Reading. The range and calibre of the speakers is excellent and I look forward to a lively debate on some of the key issues and challenges in this area at present.

My own session at the conference is about Innovative, sustainable and cost-effective power management where I'll share some of the interesting approaches we have taken in St Andrews to keep our data centre electrical energy costs as low as possible.

Further details can be found at the link below

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

DatacenterDynamics Awards - Finalist

I'm thrilled to announce that yet again, the University of St Andrews has been shortlisted for a prestigious award.
Category: Innovation in IT Optimisation 
Project Name: ICT Transformation At The University Of St Andrews.

I face the judges later this month and the winners will be annouced at the Awards Ceremony on 13th December... watch this space

Monday, 19 November 2012

Eduroam - available worldwide!

Probably one of the most useful and best kept secrets in the education sector is the eduroam wireless roaming service. I've heard it's the fastest growing internet hotspot and it is now available in 50 countries. 

Visiting another educational, research or related institution, opening your laptop and being instantly connected to your home network - logging in with your own institution username and password.

There is an excellent introductory animation 'What is eduroam?', created by AARNet (the Australian research and education network), on Youtube:  What is Eduroam ? which is worth viewing if you are not familiar with the service.

Janet UK operate the service in the UK and futher details can be found at

IT Geeks

An interesting article by the BBC!

Finally, it's cool to be geek or a nerd.  Whether you agree or not, you can't live without us!

At a recent CIO Harvey Nash event a few weeks ago, the CEO, Albert Ellis, indicated that our sector is the future and definitely the industry to be in.  He also said there was a massive skills shortage.  He also shared an interesting alternative of my job title of CIO: Chief Innovation Officer? Absolutely! 
...or maybe CIO: Career is Over?

Mark Zuckerberg - geek
Steve Jobs - geek

Friday, 2 November 2012

GOLD Award for St Andrews

Further to my earlier blog regarding the University of St Andrews Data Centre I was notified today that we have achieved the British Computer Society GOLD CEEDA standard.  We are the first University in the UK to achieve this standard.  Not only this, we are the first public sector organisation to achieve this accolade. 

This is a fantastic recognition of our commitment towards energy management and is in alignment with the University's sustainability strategy - to become carbon neutral by 2016. 

Achieveing this standard was not trivial - all aspects of our project and operation were thoroughly investigated through an intense audit process. 

Many thanks to all those University staff involved in this project and to those involved in the accreditation process.  When we decided to go down the route of accreditation, those involved indicated  that receiving a bronze award would be our target.  To achieve gold – particularly as an organisation in which ‘IT’ is not its core function is fantastic.  I'm delighted for my team who have demonstrated a great passion and commitment to continually improving our energy efficiency. 

This is a very positive reflection on the skills, expertise and professionalism of all of the staff within my IT Services team as the assessment process also looked more widely at how we deliver various aspects of our service.

Well done University of St Andrews!

For more information about the award, visit:

Friday, 26 October 2012

University Hacking Attacks and Data Breaches

There have been a number of very high profile hacking incidents affecting US and UK Universities with the most recent being widely reported in the media.

From my experience, University computing environments tend to be far more heterogenous than would be found in a business or corporate setting and the management of systems more distributed making security an even greater challenge. This combined with the very fast Internet links into Universities make them good targets for hackers or spammers.

There are a number of things we can all do to reduce the likelihood of an incident. I've listed a few below which is not exhaustive by any means:
  • Regular internal and external penetration testing should also be encouraged to ensure the external posture of Internet facing systems is known and remedial action taken where required
  • Regular patching of systems and applications to ensure software is maintained at current and supported levels.
  • An information security policy which is maintained and widely known throughout an organisation
  • Basic good practice around access and identity management including firewalls, anti virus and anti malware solutions.

There is some very good advice available at which I would encourage everyone involved in the support of IT to read. It's also written in a way that all ICT users can make use of the advice across a wide range of areas.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

BT Openzone - University of St Andrews

Following the expansion of the University's wireless network to all campus buildings and all University owned accommodation (including bedrooms) we wanted to be able to leverage this asset further. By working with a third party it was recognised we could provide wifi services to a greater range of campus visitors by separating our academic wifi requirements from our public requirements. This was also essential to ensure we remained within the terms of our contract with Janet UK our network provider.  

BT Scotland Director Brendan Dick said: “BT is really excited to be working on this project with the University of St Andrew, bringing a 21st century technological advantage to a historic town. It will not only provide widespread wireless internet access for visitors to university sites, but has the potential to be extended out across the town benefiting local residents, business people and visitors.

“A public BT Wi-fi network would be a major new asset to help enhance the visitor experience for the thousands of tourists, shoppers and golfers who make a significant contribution to the local economy. The University of St Andrews is to be commended for its vision and its wish to make sure that its local community can also reap the benefits of its technological development. We look forward to working closely with the university on the project in the months and years ahead.”  

We launched this service today on a small part of the campus and will roll this out further to all areas of the campus before the end of the year. This will provide members of the public, visitors and non academic conference delegates the ability to access the Internet.

Monday, 10 September 2012


Sam Foster, Peter Woodbridge and Steven Gonzales start with us today (10th September 2012) as IT Apprentices.  I think we're one of the first, if not the first University in Scotland to offer IT Apprenticeships.  
The new recruits will be working in the Service Desk, Web and Desktop teams – gaining a wide range of technical, practical and customer care skills.  

I’m delighted that we are able to offer three apprenticeship posts in my team for up to two years.  It will give these young adults a great ‘on the job’ learning experience, whilst receiving invaluable training and support from QA (the UK’s leading learning company).  Our new recruits will tap into a wide range of IT expertise at St Andrews and in turn allow us to produce the IT professionals we need in the future.  Steven, Peter and Sam will be joining the University at a very exciting time – as we approach our 600th anniversary.  We’re the third oldest University in the UK – but we work hard to be innovative, customer-focused and forward-thinking in terms of IT.  I very much hope that they enjoy their experience and relish the wide range of skills and experiences we can offer them.
Sam Foster, me, Peter Woodbridge and Steven Gonzales

The Scottish Government has made a commitment to guarantee a place in training or education to all 16-19 year olds.  The aim of this initiative is to make it easier for young people to have access to opportunities and also for employers to have access to a community of high quality young people looking to do an apprenticeship as well as help improve Scotland’s economic future.
The apprenticeships were advertised on the IT page of the ‘Apprenticeships in Scotland’ website as well as being directly targeted towards local schools and colleges.
Current clients of ‘Apprenticeships in Scotland’ include:  BBC, IBM, Microsoft, Virgin Media, BT, Volkswagen, Diageo and Fujitsu.

Monday, 3 September 2012

UK IT Industry Awards 2012 - Finalist

I'm delighted to confirm that the University of St Andrews is a finalist in the UK IT Industry Awards Project Excellence category. The project nominated is our Butts Wynd Data Centre which we completed in 2011.

This is well deserved recognition of the excellent work undertaken by my IT Services team, in conjunction with our colleagues in Estates, to deliver a high quality and highly efficient data centre. 

I've always considered this facility to be one of the building blocks in creating a world class Platform which underpins every aspect of the University's operations. 

This is a significant achievement, as being UK wide, the competition is always considerable.The BCS and Computing UK IT Industry Awards are a platform for the entire profession to celebrate best practice, innovation and excellence. 

David Clarke MBE, Chief Executive Officer, BCS, The Chartered Institute for IT says: "Congratulations to the finalists; they can be proud of their achievements in reaching this stage of our prestigious Awards.  Through the Awards we aim to demonstrate not only the innovation and professionalism of those working in IT but also the importance of IT in delivering business and social benefit."

The winners will be announced on 14 November 2012.  I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, 28 August 2012

New Student Printing Solution

Following a competitive tendering process the University has selected Capital Solutions and Betasoft to provide its new student printing solution. The solution will provide a significantly enhanced printing experience for students with HP multi-functional devices (MFDs) located across the campus.

It is crucial that we provide the best range of service possible for our students and that these are fully supported and reliable.

This is a secure ‘pull’ print service – meaning a student can select print, then collect their print job at a time and location suitable to them (instead of their print job churning out at the nearest printer).   The service is ‘managed’, which means the Print Team are automatically alerted when toner cartridges need replaced or paper supplies are low,  therefore the students should experience very little or no downtime of the MFDs.  Students will, for the first time, have the option to scan (for free). 

We're looking forward to welcoming our new and returning students in less than 2 weeks - they will be sure to tell us what they think!  

Rohit from the Service Desk Team
using one of the MFDs

Monday, 27 August 2012

Super Hi-Vision Television Standard

Myself and some colleagues were recently invited by Janet UK to an event to experience the new TV standard - Super Hi-Vision - at BBC Scotland in Glasgow.  

NHK (the Japanese broadcasting giant) had recorded some footage of the London 2012 Olympics which was shown at the event. From my perspective it was very much like I was at the actual event with the picture quality and sound being unbelievable.  This pioneering technology transmits images 16 times sharper resolution than standard HD television. 

I'm pleased to see today that the UN's communication standards setting agency have approved the new standard.

location - BBC Scotland
centre - Prof Celia Duffy,
Director of Academic Development,
RSAMD (event chair)

Saturday, 25 August 2012

Energy Efficient Data Centre at St Andrews

Made by FutureTech UK in June 2011.

The BYOD challenge

Much of the headlines in the computer press over the past six months have been around the consumerisation of IT and the challenge of "Bring Your Own Device" (BYOD). This in essence is people bringing their own equipment into the workplace/classroom etc and connecting this to the organisations network. With devices such as smartphones and tablet computers being commonplace, corporates are being challenged with both policy and infrastructure to support such devices. 

In the higher education sector however, this is something we have been dealing with for more than 10 years and we can offer a huge amount of advice to the corporate sector. Speaking recently at an event in Edinburgh I stressed that the challenge is not about how to prevent devices being connected to the corporate network - its more about making it as easy as possible while still maintaining a secure environment. This requires a review of the network permiteter and a change in mindset to traditional network management. Here at the University we are seeing students (and staff!) connecting a number of devices to our wireless network with 4 or 5 not being unusual. 

The unknown posture of BYO devices creates additional challenges however these can be overcome by ensuring adequate controls are in place at a LAN and application level.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Cloud Computing in Higher Education

There has been significant and increasing interest in the use of Cloud Computing as an alternative approach to delivering ICT services in Higher Education. As a keen supporter of such an approach I'm currently undertaking some research around the legal and organisational impact of such an approach as this can be considerable and have wide ranging implications.

Already at the University we have transferred a number of our systems to public, private and hybrid cloud solutions and will continue to do so where its the most appropriate solution. I contributed last year to a JISC funded project which looked at the organisational and environmental impact of cloud computing in higher education which is well worth a read if your interested in this area.

ICT Energy Efficiency

Building a data centre in a conservation area!
Inside our data cenre
Around 30% of the electricity consumed by the University of St Andrews is used to power ICT equipment, much of which is powered 24 hours a day every day. With energy costs continuing to rise and our commitment to becoming carbon neutral by 2016 we face a real challenge. Our initial efforts focussed on reducing the number of locations which house servers and storage by constructing a very energy efficient data centre. We continue to consolidate equipment and locations and are starting to enhance our efforts to reduce our ICT energy demands. Over the next year we will seek to optimise our data centre configuration to reduce our environmental impact further. I am very interested in pursuing the BCS CEEDA accreditation and will discuss this further soon.

These efforts are merely a starting point and we can all do more to reduce energy usage.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Raspberry Pi

Interesting article.

This project was created to get children involved and interested in computer science.  I totally agree with what Dr Robinson from Manchester University says here: 
 "Children are experts in time management... You've got 10 seconds to get them to say 'wow'. Longer than that, and you may have lost them.  Once you've got their interest, you can get them to do more."

I'm sure many of us can relate to this!

Friday, 6 July 2012

Bletchley Park & The National Museum of Computing

Earlier this week I was fortunate enough to visit Bletchley Park in Milton Keynes. Home to the WWII codebreakers and also the National Museum of Computing.  It was Britain's main decryption establishment during World War Two. Ciphers and codes of several countries were decrypted including, most importantly, those generated by the German Enigma and Lorenz machines. A truly fascinating place with an amazing history. The guided tour lasted around 1.5 hours and the tour guide was very informative and entertaining!

The National Museum of Computing is also excellent (worryingly much of the equipment on display I remember from my childhood!!). The site is often referred to as the "birthplace of the modern computer" and certainly worth visiting if you work or have an interest in IT.

Sunday, 1 July 2012


Thanks for visiting. Here I will regularly share my own personal views, thoughts and other related information about IT and some of the emerging technology areas which will influence ICT and business strategy. Every large organisation is unique however one common factor is that Information Technology is key and touches every business process in one way or another. With nearly 20 years experience in a wide variety of IT roles I hope you will find this blog interesting !

Steve Watt