Online Documents

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As we become more comfortable with what it means to operate "in the cloud", the University of Minnesota has met the challenges of this idea with a number of solutions. These solutions are intended to, first and foremost, make available an environment where data security risks have been reasonably mitigated. This is either through a UMN-hosted solution or through legal contract.

Google Documents

Google Documents in your UMN Google Apps account allows for online storage of a large number of file formats. Also, one can create word processing documents, spreadsheets, and presentations that can be shared with others to be viewed and even edited by multiple people at once. It is compatible with Microsoft .doc, .docs, .xls, .xlsx, .ppt, and .pptx formats, as well as .jpg, .pdf, and numerous others.

UMN Netfiles
Netfiles is an online file storage location that allows storage and sharing of documents both internal and external to UMN. This solution operates very similar to a traditional file service. One issue is that editing through a web browser is not possible. Documents are downloaded, edited, and uploaded to Netfiles.

Google Documents - Mail Merge

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Want to use mail merge functionality with your UMN Google Apps account? It can be done with Google Docs.

Mail Merge with Google Docs

The links to obtain the mail merge template document are located in the instructions at the link above.

Google controls how their products appear on any device via web browser. The web pages have been programmed to recognize the type of device being used and to deliver a web page environment specifically tailored for that device, while the user changes nothing - navigating to the same URL whether on a desktop computer or mobile device.

One drawback of this is that features can be limited on mobile devices. One of those issues is a full tool set in Google Apps Documents. Most notably for this issue, the ability to upload/download documents via Google Apps Documents is missing.

To work on a document that has been stored in Google Docs, an easy work-around is to dowload the document to a desktop, attach it to an email and send it to one's self. Then access the email in your account via the desired iPad. The GPS Alliance iPads have an app called "DocsToGo". When clicking on your document(s) in your email attachments ara, it will appear to you in Safari (the native web browser on iPads). Also, in the upper-left, you will see the text "Download to DocsToGo". Click on that button and the document will open, but now on the iPad via DocsToGo. You can edit documents, save changes, and manage them in much the same way as if on a desktop or laptop.

CAUTION: When using of the GPS Alliance iPads, be sure you remove the document prior to returning the device, especially if the document(s) worked on contain private information.

Google - New Privacy Policy (February 2012)

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Google issued a new privacy policy to Google users in February 2012. There have been concerns about this in the public arena.

Question:How does this affect my UMN Google Apps account?
Answer: It does not change the privacy agreement entered into by the University and Minnesota and Google.

From UMN Google Support:
"Hi Christopher,
There is a difference between University of Minnesota Google Apps accounts and personal Google/Gmail.com accounts. They are totally separate from each other, and fall under separate and different contractual agreements, as well as different terms of service. Institutions that use Google Apps for their email, calendar and the other core applications, have individual contracts with Google that define how data is handled and stored.
The University of Minnesota has a separate contract with Google, and Google remains in compliance with the confidentiality and security obligations provided to our domains under this contract. The new privacy policy does not change this contractual agreement between Google and the University, University's core suite of applications, including Gmail (email), Google Docs (word processing, spreadsheets, and presentations), Google Calendar, Google Talk (instant messaging), and Google Sites, are not affected by this new privacy policy."

Telephone Conferencing

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Teleconferencing information for GPS Alliance staff.

All UMN phones are capable of allowing phone conferences of 3 callers (this includes the originating call). For calls with more attendees, the UMN conference calling service may be used - there are charges for this service/capability.

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Specifics:

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GPS Alliance Conference Phone
GPS Alliance currently has one conference phone unit that resides in the Dean's Office at the University International Center. It may be checked out by contacting Kaoru Nunn.
The conference phone provides the advantage of better volume and higher quality speakers and mics, plus extended microphones for larger groups present in the room with the conference phone unit.

IMPORTANT: The conference phone DOES NOT function in a digital line. It can only be connected to an analog line, which is indicated by a black, single-line STE-SDB phone ***Please schedule time with GPS Alliance Technology Support to help with setting up the GPS Alliance conference phone.

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GPS Alliance Conference Room phone technology:
Heller Hall 110 - Analog STE-SDB phone (black single-line phone)
Heller Hall 214 - Analog STE-SDB phone (black single-line phone)
Heller Hall 630 - Digital ITE-12 phone (grey multi-line phone)
Humphrey 289 - Digital ITE-12 phone (grey multi-line phone)
UIC 101 - Analog connectivity
UIC 125 - Analog STE-SDB phone (black single-line phone)

Why Atomic Learning For Online Technology Training?

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Although we would all like personalized technology training to meet all of the needs that arise when working with software for our jobs, and preferably instantly upon request and for free, this isn't very realistic.

It seems that when presented with the choice of continuing each day to do work with software that one is not overly familiar with, being frustrated that it doesn't "work the way it should" or "work the way I want it to", or having to settle for online training on software, the latter choice would be the better one with regard to productivity.

GPS Alliance IT has chosen Atomic Learning instead of Lynda for two main reasons:

  • Atomic Learning is a Minnesota company
  • Cost - Information gleaned during research on online technology training from a page I have linked to below indicates that by moving to Atomic Learning, this customer would be able to offer training to 1950 more users compared with the cost of offering Lynda training for just a few licenses.

Article - A lower-cost alternative to Lynda.com

Computer Purchasing Policy

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GPS Alliance workstations are purchased exclusively through vendor offerings available at the University. The only caveat MAY be tight time constraints.

Why?

We have staff dedicated to understanding the technology, appropriate pricing, and negotiating access to proper products and support for the University enterprise environment. Taking advantage of this and not doubling these costs by trying to chase down equipment that may be a bit cheaper is the proper use of resources.

While doing research to bolster my reasoning for this policy, I received the following email from a colleague at the UofM. This person is a desktop configuration manager in one of the colleges. The author gives good reasons to utilize the purchasing options negotiated by OIT for the University of Minnesota community (as I know my opinions aren't reason enough...)

Components in a consumer grade computer will typically be of lower quality (power supply and so on). Please understand that the components themselves are only the beginning of the concerns.

Warranty support options and contracts have to handled differently than for standardized computers. Computers that are purchased by the University through a standardized program have additional contractual support. A home based computer could have it's warranty voided by having a regional tech open the case to perform maintenance. At a minimum simply having to take the time to support a non-standard computer will result in excessive and needless labor costs.

There are also licensing concerns with regards to the operating system and software that is installed on the computer. Some software that is 'free' to home users such as 'Spybot Search and Destroy' or 'AVG' is very distinctly not free in a work environment. This can have significant financial implications.

For example the University of Minnesota has licensed Symantec Antivirus through a site license. If your Best Buy computer is pre-loaded with McAfee (or whichever other software vendor paid advertising money to Gateway) and used in a work environment it can result in the University being financially culpable to a vendor that the University does not have a contract with. Similar agreements are also used for Operating Systems and productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

When purchasing computers a range of models is chosen for support. This allows the University to standardize support costs such as image development, software and spare parts availability.

Introduction of a non-standardized computer is also a security threat as the computer may have a virus inadvertently installed on it by the user or the factory. If the environment is subject to federal laws such as HIPAA the use of a non-standardized computer could also result in a HIPAA violation and fine.

Regulations for many standards require that any computer that is put into production to have gone through a standardized imaging process.The very first thing that IT does with any computer - Windows, Mac, Unix or otherwise is to wipe the hard drive and load a standardized image on it. This is an industry best practice and the University owns specialized tools just to support this practice.

Please do not use non-standardized computers through third party vendors. Your temporary cost reduction on the front end will more than be lost on the back and constitutes a security risk to the rest of the production network.

Dell -
The University of Minnesota has a strong relationship with Dell Computer. Reasons to utilize this relationship for Windows workstations:

  • Service from a dedicated sales team
  • Newer technology offered
  • Minnesota Department of Administration is the chief procurement for the State of Minnesota.
    1. Define standard requirements
    2. 34 states are part of the program
    3. Discounts are even larger for the UofM that at the state level.
  • Monthly meetings with Dell and UofM/State of Minnesota representatives to negotiate products
  • Many technicians at UMN are Dell-certified. This can result in a cost-savings as we have access to these folks through various channels to help troubleshoot problems.
  • The UofM negotiates business class workstations rather than consumer-grade. For the OptiPlex, Precision and Latitude lines, Dell promises at least 3 months overlap in upgrading to new models. The Inspirion, Vostro, etc. can be dropped at a moment's notice and thus the environment for replacement parts can turn more volatile quickly.
  • Pricing Stability

Computer Purchasing

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Windows Workstations

While doing research, I received the following email from a colleague at the UofM. This person is a desktop configuration manager in one of the colleges. The email gives good reasons to utilize the purchasing options negotiated by OIT for the University of Minnesota community (as I know my opinions aren't reason enough...)

Components in a consumer grade computer will typically be of lower quality (power supply and so on). Please understand that the components themselves are only the beginning of the concerns.

Warranty support options and contracts have to handled differently than for standardized computers. Computers that are purchased by the University through a standardized program have additional contractual support. A home based computer could have it's warranty voided by having a regional tech open the case to perform maintenance. At a minimum simply having to take the time to support a non-standard computer will result in excessive and needless labor costs.

There are also licensing concerns with regards to the operating system and software that is installed on the computer. Some software that is 'free' to home users such as 'Spybot Search and Destroy' or 'AVG' is very distinctly not free in a work environment. This can have significant financial implications.

For example the University of Minnesota has licensed Symantec Antivirus through a site license. If your Best Buy computer is pre-loaded with McAfee (or whichever other software vendor paid advertising money to Gateway) and used in a work environment it can result in the University being financially culpable to a vendor that the University does not have a contract with. Similar agreements are also used for Operating Systems and productivity software such as Microsoft Office.

When purchasing computers a range of models is chosen for support. This allows the University to standardize support costs such as image development, software and spare parts availability.

Introduction of a non-standardized computer is also a security threat as the computer may have a virus inadvertently installed on it by the user or the factory. If the environment is subject to federal laws such as HIPAA the use of a non-standardized computer could also result in a HIPAA violation and fine.

Regulations for many standards require that any computer that is put into production to have gone through a standardized imaging process.The very first thing that IT does with any computer - Windows, Mac, Unix or otherwise is to wipe the hard drive and load a standardized image on it. This is an industry best practice and the University owns specialized tools just to support this practice.

Please do not use non-standardized computers through third party vendors. Your temporary cost reduction on the front end will more than be lost on the back and constitutes a security risk to the rest of the production network.


Why Google At The University of Minnesota

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Along with many other non-profit institutions around the globe, the University of Minnesota has moved to Google Apps as their official enterprise, common good solution for email, calendaring and collaboration.

You can find an explanation for this move, plus other questions and answers at the Office of Information Technology's article Questions and Answers.

Lyris - Use of Distribution Lists

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QUESTION: Does use of a distribution list as a Lyris member affect the collection of "clicks," "opens" and "page views" along with the "Web Site" tracking for unique individuals? Is Lyris expecting individual unique members in order to track these data elements?

ANSWER: Use of distribution lists as a Lyris "Member" will have a significant impact on any tracking of any unique data element. Since Lyris embeds a member ID in tracked links and the transparent image used to accomplish open tracking, sending one mailing to a distribution list of 100 people might result in something like 30 total opens and one, or a handful, of unique opens (the IP address a message is opened from can factor in). You'll see a similar effect on click-through data.

(Answer provided by Lyris staff in response to a question sent to the Net-People list.)