August 2011 Archives

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.)

Lyris - Configuring Mailings to Track Data

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QUESTION: How do I configure mailings to track data including, "clicks," "opens" and "page views" along with the various reporting options available under "All reports" -> "Web Site"? Do mailings have to be in HTML in order to track these data?

ANSWER: When you're setting up your mailing (not content), you need to flip to the tracking tab and enable open detection, HTML detection, and clickthrough tracking; these are not on by default. Lists can be set to have these on by default. The settings are spread across two pages: Utilities->List Settings->Web Created Content and ...->Email Created Content.

The mailings don't have to be in HTML to get click-through tracking. However, HTML is strongly recommended for:


  • better overall presentation, and

  • better link appearance.

The tracked URLs from Lyris can get very long and seeing one of those in plain text really breaks up your content if you haven't carefully formatted the plain text part of your message. If resources permit, consider both multipart message with both HTML and text, and format each part appropriately.

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

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