USHE pleased with smooth transition to UIT support
This year, the University of Utah and the Utah System of Higher Education (USHE) became more intertwined than ever as UIT absorbed the Northstar student management system for the state’s technical colleges and began providing IT support to the Office of the Commissioner, with the Scholarship Office not far behind.
The transition of the USHE Commissioner's Office to UIT support comes after a yearlong study of shared services, USHE Director of Communication Trisha Dugovic said. With the merger of USHE and the Utah System of Technical Colleges (UTech) in July, she said it makes sense to increase shared services wherever possible.
“There are many benefits to shared services, such as increased efficiencies, cost savings, standardized processes, and more,” Dugovic said. “By swapping our IT systems and support, we’ve experienced all of these benefits over a short period, and we expect these benefits to continue over the long term.”
Caprice Post, senior IT product manager for Product Management in the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) organization, said that by transitioning to UIT support, USHE can take advantage of the University of Utah’s IT systems and agreements, creating economies of scale, enabling USHE staff to work more closely and collaboratively, and freeing up time for them to focus on other projects or tasks.
“One of the most significant benefits to the transition is that it costs our office 30% less for IT services, plus we are gaining services we've not had access to in the past, including better security support, project management expertise, and IT process improvement,” Dugovic added.
The project, which Post oversaw, started in April and wrapped in August — lightning speed considering the number of tasks and groups involved. The transition included new wired and wireless networks; an email system; a phone system; computer rebuilds; database, storage and server migrations; security and access controls; and computer support.
“The project, while not huge in nature, was very complex and complicated for all the involved UIT areas because we had to turn a noncampus entity into a campus entity,” said Stacey Wood, manager for University Campus Computer Support (UCCS).
The timing also created some unique circumstances for USHE, UETN, and UIT staff, who were working from home due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On one hand, it made it easier for UIT staff to take care of testing, setup, and other tasks at the empty USHE offices; on the other, all of the commissioner’s staff had to bring in their laptops on specific days so UCCS staff could reimage and reconfigure them.
Despite the accelerated timeline and pandemic, “the project staff were just rock stars,” Post said. “It was such a smooth transition.”
“As with any transition, there are always some kinks to work out, but the exceptional staff at UIT has been so great to work with. They’re always quick to respond to any issues that arise, and their depth of knowledge has allowed any issues to be quickly resolved.”
Since moving to UIT support, Dugovic said, the IT experience for USHE staff has been more streamlined.
“We’ve been able to keep our computers more updated, and we have far fewer network issues,” she said. “It has also been a positive experience with so many of us working from home. We can easily reach UIT for our needs remotely.”
For those reasons and more, Post called the project a huge success.
“This kind of project would ordinarily take a year in planning and migration, and it was done in such a short period of time because people worked so closely together — and while everyone was working from home. So, to me, that's a big win.”
Wood agreed, noting that a single unit in UIT could not have tackled the migration on its own.
“This project was the epitome of teamwork,” she said. “Every area had something which needed to be addressed, and we all had to work together.”
Dugovic thanked UIT and its staff for all their hard work.
“They’ve been great to work with, and we look forward to continuing to work with them for our IT needs.”
Here are some highlights from the core project teams:
Account Executive and Project Coordinator Todd Smith managed customer expectations and helped coordinate the solution teams. Manager Bryan Morris called Smith “a positive, thoughtful employee who kept everyone on track and in line” with the project’s goals.
- Provided an overall needs assessment
- Coordinated the solution teams, including Network and Voice services
- Helped ensure the project was completed on time and on budget
Smith said the biggest challenges were the “side” jobs that popped up, such as pulling new cable for boardroom and large conference room network functions. Despite the “fun surprises,” he said, “Our teams have been awesome in response to the short timelines presented.”
Senior Systems Administrator Corky Richardson helped determine storage needs, allocate disk space, and deal with access lists, among other items.
Senior Network Engineer Tom Warnick worked with USHE and UIT teams to connect the USHE offices at The Gateway in downtown Salt Lake City back to the University of Utah campus, and Network Engineer Curtis Larsen and IT Specialist Christian Johnson handled the wireless architecture.
“Luckily, there was already fiber between university and their building at The Gateway. So we didn’t have to go to Comcast or any other internet providers,” said Network Services Associate Director Abraham Kololli, who was involved in early planning discussions.
Network Services also:
- Bought equipment to create additional capacity
- Studied the USHE offices’ wireless propagation for frequency and usage
- Designed wireless access points (APs) for each floor
- Ensured all wired switches and cables were connected
Director Dave Huth handled the negotiations, planning, and memorandum of understanding; mapped out the scope; and worked with leadership in both organizations.
Product Manager Caprice Post took on the project management, coordinating all the parties and parameters. “She has been a rock star,” Wood said.
Software Platform Services Associate Director Kim Tanner worked with USHE and UIT teams to determine which databases needed support and how to migrate the data, Wood said.
Senior Database Administrator Josh Grey was in charge of database migration, consolidation, configurations, upgrades, security, architecture, and much more.
“Josh went above and beyond to get this project done,” said Peter Mo, manager for Data Management Platform Support Services.
Dugovic noted that it took the USHE and UIT data teams a significant amount of work to transfer the state agency’s databases, which couldn’t be moved until after USHE completed its year-end processing, Post said.
“It was a lot of work on their part to transfer everything over, and we couldn’t have done it in that timeframe without everyone working to get that done,” Dugovic said.
- Consolidated/combined two existing SQL Servers into one instance
- Migrated 30 databases to UIT infrastructure and archived 21 databases
- Reduced disk space from over 2 TB to 1 TB, using transaction log maintenance
- Performed a thorough security audit on two previous SQL Server instances
- Reworked all database security on the new SQL Server instance from scratch so it would comply with current standards and provide the necessary access to users to perform their job functions
- Made file shares accessible across all system components (SFTP/DB/workstations)
- Used site-to-site VPN to upload data from new USHE SQL Server to UETN-hosted Tableau instance
- Configured the proxy on F5 to allow eight technical colleges to continue to submit data from external sources to the central database server in a secure manner, including encrypting client connections
- Worked with customers to resolve any post-migration/cutover issues
Systems Administrator Eric Martinez and Senior Systems Administrator Matt Munro “were instrumental in this migration because they had to take every workstation and join it to the campus Active Directory and update the environment to meet UIT standards,” Post said.
- Coordinated storage allocation, data migration, email migration, and network needs
- Coordinated with USHE’s current IT support
- Provided hands-on support and prepared our Microsoft Endpoint Configuration Manager environment to support the machines
- Handled much of the physical conversion for USHE’s machines, including setup of the Active Directory, email profiles, and wireless configurations
- Responded to and addressed users’ various issues, wants, and needs
Senior Systems Administrator Roy Schulz worked with USHE and UCCS to set up email systems for the state office.
- Figured out how to transfer the USHE domain to the university
- Moved over USHE archives and created new UMail users
- Coordinated cutovers, shared resources, and fixed calendar issues
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