Friday, 5 December 2014

Mobile Working and the Microsoft Surface Pro

BYOD continues to be a challenge for organisations for all the obvious reasons of security, integration and interoperability.

With the emergence of devices such  as the Microsoft Surface Pro, for many SME's and larger organisations such devices provide a real alternative to providing a laptop, especially for executives.

I've  recently started to use a Microsoft Surface Pro 3 and have very quickly adapted to it and to Windows 8.1. With the availability of all of the applications I require and a docking station this is very likely to replace both my current laptop and iPad.

Whether the Surface Pro starts to become prevalent as a BYOD candidate remains to be seen but in the corporate world where CYOD is an option this device will likely quickly gain ground as the executive device of choice. Its slightly heavy however its small enough to easily fit in a briefcase without the bulk of a laptop. The ability to run line of business software applications and to manage the device using the standard toolsets are the two primary benefits in my opinion.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Best Service Desk Award 2014

As I've reported many times, we're a member of the Service Desk Institute and are currently the only University in the UK to hold 3 star accreditation.  Last week our Service Desk team attended the SDI annual conference, which features their annual award ceremony - IT Service Excellence Awards.  Earlier in the year, the team put forward an award submission for the title of Best Service Desk (small team) at the event.  Taking part in the award process was no easy task - writing a 5000 word report, producing an extensive evidence folder, a judges visit, presentations - and making a fun film featuring the Service Desk.  At Tuesday nights award ceremony, the University of St Andrews was announced as the winner of this prestigious award. 
The award ceremony was attended by around 500 IT professionals - including companies such as 02, Liverpool Direct, Virgin Media, TopDesk, Telindus and several other Universities. This category was judged by IT professionals from other industries.

I just want to congratulate everyone in IT Services on this success - particularly of course the IT Service Desk team.  

This award is well deserved by IT Services.   In recent years, significant effort and hard work has improved our customer-facing support and services, which resulted in us earlier this year being ranked #1 in the iGrad survey for IT Support.   This of course is underpinned by highly available and robust systems and services to which everyone in IT Services contributes.

Awards such as this provide great external validation that we are delivering our services in a very professional way and are amongst the best in our industry vertical and beyond.

a very happy team!

Monday, 9 June 2014

Award-winning Data Centre

Last year I reported that we achieved Participant status from the EU Code of Conduct for our data centre.  An achievement in itself - as participant status was not easy to achieve.

I was therefore shocked and delighted to be told last month that we had won the 2014 annual award for the category.   Unfortunately I was not able to attend the lavish award ceremony in Monaco, as part of the Datacentres Europe conference! 

It’s almost two years since we were awarded GOLD CEEDA (Certified Energy Efficient Datacentre Award from the BCS).   Having this accreditation has brought many benefits -  in terms of our own internal management of the DC - and externally in terms of raising our profile and reputation in this field as experts and promoters of Green IT. 
To continue with accreditation, Data Centres are re-assessed every two years.  Work on gathering evidence has begun and the audit will take place later this summer.  The Data Centre Ops Group continue to meet regularly to report on and recommend actions to demonstrate continuous improvement in order to maintain future CEEDA accreditation status and to continue to operate the facility as efficiently as possible.


Saturday, 7 June 2014

Microsoft Scottish Apprentice of the Year - Sam Foster

Sam Foster, who is an IT Apprentice in my IT Service Desk team, won Microsoft Scottish Apprentice of the Year - at an event recently at the Scottish Parliament.  Sam beat off 450 other nominated apprentices to win the prestigious title.

Sam Foster - Microsoft Scottish Apprentice of the Year

Our first three IT Apprentices joined IT Services in September 2012 (including Sam) - and it’s been a huge success.  Since then, we recruited another four IT Apprentices in 2013 and I’m delighted that we’ve received approval to recruit a further four later this year. 

It’s really important we give these young people the best opportunity and training we can - and I’m delighted that everyone in IT Services has embraced this  - as these young people really benefit from being supported and mentored by a wide range of very talented and experienced staff.

QA (who provided Sam's training in year one) made this great film about him last month.

Sam also did a blog:  "How I became Microsoft Scottish Apprentice of the Year", to encourage others to consider an apprenticeship as a great start to a career.

Saturday, 22 March 2014

Press Release: 3 star award for University IT department

Press Release: Monday 10 March 2014

3-star award for University IT department

The University of St Andrews has become the first university in the UK, and the second in the world, to be accredited with 3-star Service Desk Certification from The Service Desk Institute (SDI).

The 3-star rating was awarded following an eighteen month auditing programme by the SDI, Europe’s only support network for IT service desk professionals and leading authority on IT support issues, which noted a significant improvement in the scores each time.
During each audit, nine concept areas were measured covering all aspects of IT Services including leadership skills, policy and strategy, people management, partnerships and resources, people satisfaction, performance results and social responsibility.

The University of St Andrews IT Service Desk team logs between 4000 and 8000 incidents a month, offering support to the University’s 2000 staff and 8000 students, through a single point of contact.
On being awarded 3-star accreditation, Lorraine Brown, the University of St Andrews IT Service Desk Manager, said:

“IT is a fundamental part of every member of staff and every student’s day to day life at the University and we want everyone who uses our service to have a positive experience from the moment they arrive in St Andrews. We believe that our 3-star certification proves our commitment to offering a great service and we aim to use the programme to further aid the continuous development of our IT services.”

The Service Desk Institute’s audit evaluates service desk operations against an internationally accepted global standard for best practice, providing companies with a benchmark to form a baseline for service improvements.

Howard Kendall, SDI’s Master Auditor, who presented the 3-star award to the IT Services team, commented:
"After achieving 2* SDI certification in 2013, it is highly rewarding to see that the excellent strategy and leadership in place and SAITS is playing a major part progressing the service to a 3* customer-led level of maturity. Quality leadership, combined with a new location for the service desk, the appointment of a business relationship manager, the implementation on a carefully planned customer experience feedback programme and the on-going enthusiasm and high morale of staff is clearly bearing fruit. I’m delighted to see St Andrews embracing continuous service improvement and shall continue to follow them on their journey"

Issued by the Press Office, University of St Andrews
Contact Victoria Herd on 01334 462530

Monday, 3 March 2014

Enterprise Mobility and Mobile Device Management Event

I'm speaking later this month at the Enterprise Mobility and Mobile Device Management Event organised by Whitehall Media

My talk is entitled "User Experience: The Key to Successful Mobilisation".

I'm going to look at how Universities have delivered BYOD solutions for over a decade with mixed success. From experience, ease of integration with the wireless infrastructure, an identity management solution (to identify and register users) and establishing the correct security posture is key. Ultimately security should be the overriding factor - as any solution must not compromise an organisations security.

The user experience for academic and other university staff now can be a positive one with the ability to use a device of their choice and with true wireless "roaming" throughout the UK education sector and beyond using eduroam.

I will argue that BYOD is about developing an ecosystem which begins at the data centre and expands out from there. Protecting the organisational infrastructure is also critical however getting the balance here is crucial as stifling creativity and innovation is all to easy. Also by putting barriers in place to prevent specific actions or behaviours is a waste of time as people are creative enough to get around such barriers. For example, if you restrict access to certain categories of website many with either bring their own network (BYON!) or utilise free tools to tunnel traffic over http.

The other big change in moving and supporting a BYOD approach is to the support model. The traditional service desk approach is often no longer suitable in environments with high BYOD such as a University. You need to also cater for hardware repairs such as screen replacements, data restorations etc. The demand for accessible power is also a challenge. 

Making it clear what is and is not acceptable is also crucial and this should be embedded in easy to read guidance for all employees.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Lecture to first year students

Last week I was given the opportunity to talk to a group of approximately 50 first year students (on a multi-disciplinary module) in the School of Computer Science at the University. The focus of the talk was on Green ICT.

I loved it! It was the first opportunity ive had for a while to share some of my knowledge and more importantly experience with a group of students as most of my talks now are to peers or other IT professionals. This is also a great forum for students to provide feedback direct to me about their perceptions of IT at the University - and often you can get a lot of really innovative suggestions for improvements or new services.

I was able to give the students some insights into what IT looks like in St Andrews, talk about our primary Data Centre - and why it's so important (and explain why it really is Green). It was also important to link this to some of the business drivers for our IT decisions and how these underpin some important aspects of the University's strategy.

In IT Services, we want to provide the best possible environment for our students and staff to learn, teach and carry out research - using technology as an enabler and not an inhibitor.

I'm grateful to Lisa Dow in Computer Science for providing this opportunity and hope further such opportunities arise in the future.

Tuesday, 25 February 2014

IT Security - The Great Challenge...

One of the increasingly high profile areas in the IT arena is security. I know for many years IT security has been a hot topic - but think about the last 6 months and the amount of security breaches we have seen widely reported in the media. The latest one I've just read is home router security which will likely affect many of us:

There are a number of very simple steps we can take to improve our security such as setting up secure wireless networks and regularly patching our operating system and applications software. Also having anti virus software installed and using more complex passwords will go a long way in preventing the more simple attacks.

The privacy settings within social media applications such as Facebook and LinkedIn are also worth spending a bit of time getting to understand. The more personal data we share on such sites there is a greater risk of identity theft.

Physical security is also another area which is often overlooked. Often the theft of the device, whether a laptop or mobile phone, is a minor issue compared to that of the loss of the data which may have been stored upon it. Its imperative that any sensitive data, such as personal details or intellectual property, is adequately secured using encryption and of course by taking regular back ups! 

We have heard all of this before but do we really pay any attention! 

There is some really good online material including the recently launched  (by the Home Office) Cyberstreetwise website which can be found at  I would highly recommend this website


European Code of Conduct on Data Centres

Last year we were granted Corporate Participant status with the European Code of Conduct (EUCOC) on Data Centres - which demonstrates our commitment to implementing best practice in this area.  Being a participant means we have agreed to abide to a set of agreed commitments for our Butts Wynd Data Centre. I'm very supportive of the EUCOC and actively promote its adoption wherever I get the opportunity.

Reducing energy consumption and our carbon emissions should be an aim for anyone who can influence this. With data centres being such a significant user of energy, data centre operators and developers could assist greatly by promoting and adopting the EUCOC.

Full details and a copy of the current Code can be found at

A list of the current participants is available at:

We now have 3 star SDI accreditation... the only University in the UK to achieve this!

I'm delighted that we've now achieved 3 star SDI status.

In early 2012 we were looking for a tool or framework to help us improve our service.  In Spring 2012 we signed a contract with the Service Desk Institute - making a commitment to three years of audits.   In eighteen months, we've seen a significant improvement in our audit scores - and most importantly, it's provided us with the framework to help us improve our service to our customers.   We've changed the way we do things... we focus on the customer.  Nine concept areas are measured by the auditors:
  1. Leadership
  2. Policy & Strategy
  3. People & Management
  4. Partnership & Resources
  5. Processes & Procedures
  6. People Satisfaction
  7. Customer Satisfaction
  8. Performance Results
  9. Social Responsibility
Our Scores
May 2012:  1.67
Dec 2012:  2.84 (2 star accreditation achieved)
Dec 2013:  3.28 (3 star accreditation achieved)
SDI provides the only industry, standards based, accreditation based programme.  We’re the only University in the UK to achieve 3 stars.  It's been quite a journey - and I'm extremely proud of my team for their commitment and dedication to continual service improvement. 
The SDI certification programme will continue to enable us to measure and improve our IT Service Desk’s effectiveness and maturity against globally recognised standards.  We will be audited again in December 2014. 
Yesterday, Howard Kendall, SDI's Master Auditor, presented the St Andrews team with their 3 star award.
He, said: "After achieving 2* SDI certification in 2013, it is highly rewarding to see that the excellent strategy and leadership in place at St Andrews is playing a major part progressing the service to a 3* customer-led level of maturity. Quality leadership combined with a new location for the service desk, the appointment of a business relationship manager, the implementation on a carefully planned customer experience feedback programme and the on-going enthusiasm and high morale of staff is clearly bearing fruit. I’m delighted to see St Andrews embracing continuous service improvement and shall continue to follow them on their journey."
The SDI audit project is lead by Lorraine Brown, IT Service Desk Manager.   
L to R:  Kevin Donachie, Associate CIO; Lorraine Brown, IT Service Desk Manager; Howard Kendall, SDI;  and me


Sunday, 23 February 2014

Data Centre World - MicroDataCentres

This week I'm attending Data Centre World at Excel, London. This is one of the larger Data Centre focused events and full details can be found at:

I'm delivering a talk on Micro Datacentres sharing some of the work we have undertaken here at the University and highlighting the opportunities which exist to optimise such facilities. Accurate measurements can only be achieved by extensive telemetry and monitoring and even small modifications to systems (e.g. HVAC, UPS, etc) can result in significant recurrent energy savings.

Also, understanding your data centre systems is a bit like understanding your body. Regular measurements allow for monitoring and trending over time and any deviations are easily identified and allow for further analysis. Building and populating a facility is not simply a install and forget exercise. Its vital that ongoing management of the facility is carried out and a proactive approach is taken to its optimisation.

IT Security Week: 10-14 February 2014

Last week, we ran our first ever IT security awareness campaign in the University - IT Security Week (10-14 February 2014).  We ran this in conjunction with the University of Dundee. 

We had a special one-day event, targeted at staff and students - to raise their awareness of the dangers online - and give tips on how to stay safe.  We also invited students and staff from the Universities of Dundee and Abertay, St Leonards School - and Dundee & Angus College. 

The event was a great success - and I was delighted to see so many staff, students and visitors attend.  We had a great variety of speakers involved, to all of which I'm extremely grateful for taking the time to share their considerable knowledge and experience.  Having experts from all around the UK involved in our event was a critical factor to the success of our event. 

  • DI Eamonn Keane, eCrime Unit, Police Scotland
  • Duncan Atkin & Gavin Holt, 4th Year Ethical Hacking Course, Abertay University
  • Martin Brown, Chief Security Portfolio Architect, BT
  • Kenneth Macdonald, Deputy Information Commissioner, ICO
  • Saleem Bhatti, Professor, School of Computer Science
  • Helen Ridley, Client Manager (on behalf of Mike Loginov), Hewlett Packard
  • Leona Forbes, Head of Product Solutions, brightsolid
  • Mark Williams, Information Security Specialist, University of Dundee
  • Steve Watt, CIO, University of St Andrews (Event Chair)

We've received great feedback.  The campaign highlighted the need for better education of the dangers faced online - every organisation needs to put this higher up the agenda.  This is something we're committed to. 

 a series of campaign posters were created

Sunday, 5 January 2014

More IT Apprentices in the ITS team

Rebecca, Dhani, me, Matthew and Stuart
I was absolutely delighted to welcome a further four IT Apprentices to the IT Services team.  In 2012 we piloted the scheme by recruiting three IT Apprentices (on a two-year contract) and it’s worked extremely well.  Rebecca, Dhani, Matthew and Stuart joined IT Services in September 2013.  They are working in our Service Desk, Desktop and Media Services teams. 

These young adults get a great on-the-job learning experience, whilst receiving invaluable training and support from QA.  I very much hope that they enjoy their experience and relish the wide range of skills and experiences we can offer them. 

I’m particularly pleased we have recruited two female IT Apprentices as women are under-represented in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) areas. Scottish IT and digital businesses are struggling to fill job vacancies as a result of increasing demand, with over half needing to recruit from outside Scotland, (according to a survey from Scottish trade body ScotlandIS) so it’s really important we give these young people the best opportunity and training we can.  These staff will benefit from being supported and mentored by a wide range of very talented and experienced staff and get the opportunity to work across the full range of IT roles.