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