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20,000 students and staff given better IT quality

University of Surrey speeds problem resolution with flash new software

By Jason Stamper

The University of Surrey announced it has implemented a new IT monitoring solution from British systems management firm Opsview.

With 17,900 students and 2,597 staff spanning four faculties, the University relies heavily on a central IT infrastructure through which vital functions such as student registration, library applications, email services and the VLE (Virtual Learning Environment) are provided. But the IT department was struggling to get a single view of IT performance from an array of disparate management tools that it already had.

"A lot of those tools were very specific to a certain service we are running," the University of Surrey’s Hilary Sherlock, networks & operations team leader, told CBR. "For example we use Epicentre for network management and backups, and configuring switches; but these are all more like tools, and we wanted something that could pool all performance information together."

After settling on Opsview, Surrey University installed the software within three months and is already pleased with the results, according to Sherlock. "I would say that a hard ROI is difficult to evaluate," he said, "but we are now able to offer meaningful figures [to students and staff] rather than smiley faces. We’re 100 per cent better at demonstrating the value of IT to the organisation."

Sherlock’s team now offers the organisation metrics on the top 12 services that it is responsible for, with a ‘traffic light’ reporting system that quickly updates students and staff on service levels.

But as well as helping to improve visibility of the performance of all the IT functions, Sherlock said the new software has actually helped the IT department to raise its game: "Because we are alerted to problems much more rapidly, we are able to resolve them quicker too," he said. "That means that we may be able to fix the problem before staff or students notice it. And instead of only being alerted when something is up or down, Opsview is able to warn us when something is still up, but running slowly. If there is an issue we encourage people to look at the service levels – they can immediately see that we are aware of an issue and that we are working on it."

Opsview claims its Opsview Enterprise provides a consolidated, real-time view of IT performance. "Opsview Enterprise offers scalable and flexible platform that provides network, IT, server, application and cloud monitoring," the company states.

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Sherlock says there are plans to use another technology, Selenium – a suite of tools to automate web application testing – when the University’s infrastructure is upgraded later this year. Sherlock and his team are rolling out a cluster of six servers to bolster capacity and build in additional resilience.

Sherlock said it’s also likely that other areas will start to be monitored and optimised by Opsview, for example the audio visual service that provides everything from overhead projectors in lecture theatres, to sound systems for the latest battle of the bands.

"Not only do we have a much more in-depth view of IT, we also save time that was previously spent tracking all of the various monitoring tools separately," Sherlock concluded. "We don’t need to spend hours going through each monitoring tool, checking each area of IT is working correctly. Instead, we log in to Opsview and check the status from one dashboard. That saves us a lot of time that we can then spend on managing IT and improving service delivery even further."



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