Published May 1, 2012
When something seems funky with your computer, how do you know whether the problem is confined to your particular machine or part of a larger campus service issue? You can start by checking UBIT Alert.
UBIT Alert has long been a source of information for IT staff
and others when IT service issues arise. The alerts range from
announcements about routine maintenance and service notices to
timely updates during an unplanned outage.
In the past, IT service alerts have largely been written and posted by CIT staff seeking to inform their departmental IT colleagues of service issues and planned maintenance. However, if you have ever read one of these alerts and thought "what the heck are they talking about," rest assured that you are not alone! Not too surprisingly, these Alerts quickly became a topical focus during a series of meetings with faculty regarding their understanding of IT services. Barbara Rittner, Associate Dean in the School of Social Work, summed up the challenge. "We understand that it's important for technical people to communicate with each other in precise language that they understand, but faculty, students and non-IT staff need just enough detail to understand what a service issue means to us in non-technical terms. It will save a lot of effort in the long run if I don't have to call my local IT person to interpret a technical alert."
Out of these meetings, a new online UBIT Alert messaging process was designed so everyone on campus could tell "at a glance" whether a service is unavailable, slow, or experiencing instability - in clear, non-technical language.
The new UBIT Alert website contains a collection of over 80 Alert templates covering the most common types of IT service maintenance and outages. The templates may be used both by technical staff when requesting an Alert, and by the staff responsible for posting an Alert. The headlines (which appear as the subject in the emailed Alerts) use common service names and a controlled service status vocabulary to quickly convey the nature of a service change. The messages themselves have been revamped for clarity and consistency. Most include:
• The anticipated timeframe the service is affected
• The current status of the service and implications for campus use
• Who is affected on campus: faculty, staff, students, technical staff or campus area
• Who is NOT affected (if reason for confusion exists)
• A brief, non-technical definition of the service
• When an update can be expected (if a resolution is not posted first)
• A separate "Technical Details" section containing a more precise technical explanation to assist departmental IT staff or to request action
• Contact information if additional information is required
As the UBIT Alert system is refined, the vision is to expand and improve the Alert template collection with feedback from CIT staff. There are also plans to create a graphical "dashboard" that uses symbols to indicate whether any major campus IT services (Email, UBlearns, HUB, MyUB, etc.) are experiencing difficulties - and that may be the quickest way yet to tell if the "funky" is at your desktop or elsewhere. To be even more useful, the dashboard will also be available on mobile devices.
Please tell us what you think!