CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University


WIU Now Using Zoom For Video-Conferencing

ZoomLogoVideo-conferencing just became easier for WIU students, faculty, and staff. Until the summer of 2016, the University’s preferred video conference software was Adobe Connect. However, when Adobe announced that its annual subscription was going to increase more than 300%, University Technology (uTech) began to explore alternatives.  Zoom was identified as a cost effective, scalable, and flexible alternative.  We also think you will find that it is much easier to use than Adobe Connect.

WIU students, faculty, and staff can go to WIU.zoom.us to sign up for a free “Basic” account using their WIU email addresses. These free basic accounts are limited to 40-minute sessions and traditional video conference rooms (such as a Polycom room) cannot be invited to a Zoom meeting.  However, Pro accounts do not have the 40-minute limit and, with an additional license, can connect to Polycoms.  Pro accounts are available for purchase.  To find out more about Zoom, we encourage you to visit http://WIU.zoom.us.  

uTech coordinated a group purchase of Zoom licensing with the College of Education and Human Services, University Libraries, the Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, and the office of the Vice President for Quad Cities and Planning to take advantage of volume pricing options. If you are interested in obtaining a Pro account or a Room Connector license, please contact the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-TECH or support@wiu.edu.

How Zoom Works

Zoom meetings can be created very simply:

  1. One person starts or “hosts” a meeting and may invite up to 50 participants to join. The host is the only party required to have a Zoom account and he or she can choose to host the meeting from a desktop computer (Windows, Mac OS, or Linux) or mobile/tablet device (iOS, Android, or Blackberry) just by installing the free downloadable mobile app or logging into the zoom.us website.
  2. Participants may choose which method they are the most comfortable with when connecting to the meeting. They can also connect with audio-only by calling a phone number included in the meeting invite.

For a typical Zoom meeting, each host and participant needs speakers, a microphone and a webcam. These devices don’t have to be expensive to provide a great experience. Basic speakers and a webcam such as the Logitech HD Pro C920 ($80) wzoom_laptopith its built in microphone will give you a great picture and audio.

Zoom is a cloud-based system so the desktop applications, mobile apps, and all the backend technology to make the system work is provided by the company. Unlike traditional video conference room systems (such as Polycom, Lifesize, or Cisco), neither hosts nor participants are tied to a specific location. Hosting or joining a meeting can happen from anywhere there is a reliable internet connection and little background noise.

With the purchase of a “Room Connector” license, Zoom hosts can invite a traditional video conference room system to a Zoom meeting as well. That capability is useful if several people want to participate in the meeting from the same location.

Zoom also boasts several other advanced features that are flexible and easy to use:

  • Hosts or participants can share whiteboards or other content and allow other attendees to annotate as the originator sees fit.
  • Entire meetings or portions of meetings can be recorded by the host and hosts can individually allow participants to record as well.
  • Public and private meeting chats facilitates communication between those who need to be involved without overwhelming those who do not.

Zoom combines its simple and well-designed interface with the ability to participate from various geographic locations and freedom to allow participants to choose the technology each are comfortable with for a great win. The quality and price of Zoom will be very difficult to match.


Recent Phishing Email

On July 12, many members of Western Illinois University received a phishing email scam (see screenshots below). The email message linked to a fraudulent website that impersonated WIU’s legitimate Central Sign-On web page. This fraudulent website has since been removed, but for a period of time, it functioned and some users may have provided their username and password to a malicious third-party.

If you received this or any other phishing message

  1. Report it as phishing to Google so they can block future copies of the message from being delivered to the University.
    phishing-menu

  2. Do not reply to to message or click on any links within the phishing email message.

If you clicked on the link and submitted your username/password

  1. Immediately change your ECom password in Guava. Your account could be compromised and action needs to be taken immediately to protect your data.
  2. Notify the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-2704 or support@wiu.edu if you need assistance or have additional concerns.

Common signs often found in phishing email messages

The phishing email had many giveaways that indicated it was not legitimate, as did the website that the phishing email linked to. Below are screenshots where we have pointed out several indicators that the email message and web page were not legitimate:

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  1. Poor spelling and bad grammar. Cybercriminals are not known for their grammar and spelling. Professional companies or organizations usually have a staff of copy editors that will not allow a mass email like this to go out to its users. If you notice mistakes in an email, it might be a scam. For more information, see ‘Email and web scams: How to help protect yourself’.
  2. Beware of links in email. If you see a link in a suspicious email message, don’t click on it. Rest your mouse (but don’t click) on the link to see if the address matches the link that was typed in the message.
  3. Threats. Have you ever received a threat that your account would be closed if you didn’t respond to an email message? The email message shown above is an example of the same trick. Cybercriminals often use threats that your security has been compromised. For more information, see ‘Watch out for fake alerts’.
  4. Spoofing popular websites or companies. Scam artists use graphics in email that appear to be connected to legitimate websites but actually take you to phony scam sites or legitimate-looking pop-up windows. For more information, see ‘Avoid scams that use the Microsoft name fraudulently’. Cybercriminals also use web addresses that resemble the names of well-known companies but are slightly altered. For more information, see ‘Protect yourself from cybersquatting and fake web addresses’.

Please be constantly aware of these social engineering and phishing scams. They are not always received via email, but include telephone calls, use of social media, and other attack avenues.


Blog Recognized As One of Best University CIO Blogs

WIU’s CIO Blog was recently recognized as being among the best Higher Ed IT blogs on the Internet by Optimal Partners Consulting.  Nuno Couto, Founder and Managing Partner of Optimal Partners, in an email to WIU’s CIO, said that “The long-form approach your blog takes is different from others I’ve read, but it is great content.”

Optimal Partners ranked our blog third among seven CIO blogs that they highlighted.  Their intent in this effort was to provide “an insider’s perspective” on IT in universities, and they state “these 7 CIOs are more than willing to give you a tour of what’s going on at their universities.”  You can read more about the top CIO blogs on their blog post entitled 7 Best University CIO Blogs.

“If you’re looking for an in-depth look at what’s happening behind the scenes at a university’s IT department, then Stephen Frazier’s aptly titled “CIO’s Blog” is the place to start.” – Optimal Partners Consulting, LLC

Steve Frazier, WIU’s CIO, said, “One of our initiatives in University Technology at Western has been to better communicate our many services and projects, which traditionally has not been a strong point of most IT organizations.  uTech is a fairly large organization with a lot of going on.  We started a Major Projects Tracking System on WIU’s website but we really needed someone to focus on the marketing aspects.  During uTech’s recent consolidation and reorganization efforts, we tasked Jeremy Merritt, the University’s Coordinator of Web Services and an assistant director in uTech, with spearheading that effort.  He has been doing a terrific job and I think it is going to pay off in numerous ways!”  Merritt has been creating marketing materials for uTech that are published on the web and in various media outlets around campus.  He is also now a contributor to the CIO’s Blog.

Optimal Partners specializes exclusively in project management for Higher Ed.  Couto says, “Although my company is focused on staffing and consulting services, we do a lot of “giving back” to the community in line with the mission of Higher Ed. We mentor students and student startups. We sponsor events like this one in the Azores, Portugal. We also promote education through supporting various charities.”  Optimal Partners can be found on the web at http://optimal-partners.com.


Gmail and Google Apps to Replace Zimbra

gmail-logoAn edited version of the following article appeared in the April 11 issue of the Western Courier.


Western Illinois University is moving from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Apps this spring and summer. This change has been over two years in the making, and originated with a proposal submitted in March 2014 to WIU’s IT Governance process.

“The idea behind IT Governance is to engage the entire campus community as full-fledged partners in IT decision making,” said Stephen Frazier, WIU’s Chief Information Officer who leads University Technology.  “The proposal to move to Google Apps was made through this governance process. The basic premise of the proposal was to save the University money while offering additional services such as unlimited drive space, shared folders that can be set up by individuals, a superior interface, and real-time collaboration.”

The proposal was reviewed by WIU’s Student Government Association, the Faculty Senate, and the Administrative Alliance (an IT Governance workgroup) for review and feedback. In November 2015, a task force comprised of individuals from across the University formally recommended that the University implement Google Apps. This recommendation was reviewed and approved by the President’s Leadership Team in early February 2016 and University Technology was subsequently directed to begin the transition.

The use of Google Apps by educational institutions such as Western is completely free, so the move from Zimbra (which has significant yearly costs and requires considerable man-hours to maintain) is an important cost saving measure. The business-class edition of Google Apps that WIU will be using is similar in feature sets to the free versions that anyone can access, but Google offers more support and storage for educational institutions.

University Technology’s goal is to have everyone (students, faculty, staff, retirees and alumni) moved from Zimbra to Google Apps by August 19 – just before the start of the fall semester. Nearly 700 early adopters have already been migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps. These early adopters are helping University Technology to ensure that the migration process of copying content from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Calendar is as flawless as possible for everyone else at the University that will be migrating between now and August.

“Popular applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, Groups and Contacts will be the core applications that the University will support from the start,” said Frazier. “Other applications such as Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, Sites and more will also be available for use, but the support that we can offer when it comes to using and troubleshooting those apps will be limited.”

All users of WIU’s Google Apps will have unlimited storage for email, documents and files, which is a huge benefit over Zimbra’s storage limitations.  Additionally, they will be able to access the Google applications using the same ECom username and password they’ve always used to access systems like Zimbra and WesternOnline.

Matt Mencel, who serves as University Technology’s technical lead for the migration, said that “the unlimited storage space is a huge benefit to all users, students and employees alike.  And the collaborative nature of sharing documents and files using Google Drive and apps such as Google Docs will make group projects much easier to work on together.”

What won’t change?  According to Mencel, “Your WIU email address will remain the same, and all of your existing email messages and calendars will be copied over to Google services for you automatically.”  He added that “there are some things that users will need to manually do after they are migrated, such as re-create email contact groups and copy their Zimbra briefcase files to Google Drive. But we’ve automated the migration process for everything else that we can.”

Frazier said, “We know that many people are anxious to move to Google Apps!  We will be communicating frequently via email over the next few months with more information on the process. We anticipate moving entire departments to Google Apps during April and May, and then allowing remaining individuals to schedule a date/time to move starting in June. Please check your email between semesters for details!”

He also stated that WIU’s Google Apps transition team has created a website to answer questions regarding the move to Google Apps, as well as provide resources on how to use the various applications that Google provides. Visit wiu.edu/GoogleApps for details, and contact the uTech Support Center at support@wiu.edu if you have further questions.

Frazier said that the transition team is bringing Google’s best collaborative, cloud-based solutions to the University.  “We are joining well over 40 million other people who are using Google Apps for Education”, he said.  Frazier is optimistic that faculty, staff and students will explore and find new ways to work and learn using Google Apps for Education.

 


Google Guides and Early Adopters

gg_early_adoptersThe Google@WIU Transition Team has been hard at work preparing for WIU’s migration from Zimbra to Google Apps for Education!  Last week, they held a series of meetings for members of the University community who have been designated as “Google Guides.”  These guides will serve as local resources in their department and assist their colleagues with the migration. The Transition Team has already started migrating guides over to Google Apps to give them a head start on learning about the applications and so that they can receive additional training.

If you were one of the nearly 800 people who signed up to be an Early Adopter, this may be the news you’ve been waiting to hear.  The Transition Team is  ready for you, too!  Watch your email starting this week.  If you’ve been selected as an Early Adopter, you’ll receive an email indicating your scheduled migration date.  Some Early Adopters will be moved to Google Apps as early as this Friday.   A small group will be moved over first, and then the rest will be moved during the next few weeks.

The Transition Team will depend heavily on both the Google Guides and the Early Adopters to identify problems with the migration process or ways of doing things in Google Apps.  Their comments and questions should be sent to support@wiu.edu.

In the coming week, the Transition Team will be asking department directors, chairs and the deans to consider scheduling a time to migrate their entire department from Zimbra to Google Apps in one fell swoop. The Team recommends that departments migrate en masse if at all possible.  This will:

  • Make sure that everyone is using the same platform for consistency, compatibility and training
  • Ensure that calendars and appointments are not missing for intradepartmental meetings

Once again, thank you for your patience and assistance during this transition process!  The process has begun and nearly 200 people have migrated already.  I urge you to check wiu.edu/GoogleApps frequently for updates, resources, and FAQs regarding WIU’s migration to Google Apps!


Google Apps Update – March 2016

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WIU is Going Google!

Western Illinois University has chosen Google Apps to become its new email and calendar platform. University Technology (uTech) has been working on the migration and will begin moving select students and employees from Zimbra to the new services as early as this month!  You can read more about Google Apps and the history of how the University made the decision to move to this platform at wiu.edu/GoogleApps.

A WIU Google Apps Transition Team has been meeting regularly since late February in order to make plans.  There are many hurdles to overcome – technological, instructional, and contractual in nature.  Nevertheless, the team is moving forward with the aggressive goal of having everyone moved from Zimbra to Google Apps before the start of the fall 2016 semester.

In late February, the transition team invited members from the University community – students, employees, alumni, and retirees – to volunteer as early adopters who will alert the transition team to potential problems.  The response was amazing!  People had volunteered within minutes and the list has grown to include over 700 individuals. We will start migrating some of these volunteers in late March.  If you signed up, watch your emails to see if you were among those chosen!

In addition, we’ve asked the department chairs, deans and directors to nominate tech-savvy individuals from their areas to serve as “Google Guides”.  These Google Guides will be migrated along with the first early adopters and they will serve as local resources in their department by assisting their colleagues with questions relating to the migration and the new Google Apps programs. There are now over 150 employees and students who will serve as local Google Apps experts for their colleagues!  Besides turning to Google Guides for answers, uTech will make information and tutorials available on the wiu.edu/GoogleApps website.

A complicated transition such as this can be difficult and we appreciate that everyone – especially the Google Guides – will need to invest some time into learning about the new services. With their help and yours, WIU can quickly and efficiently make the move to Google Apps and start enjoying all the benefits that these new services have to offer.

The following is a rough timeline to help you plan for your migration. 

  • Late March: Google Guides and select early adopters to be migrated to Google Apps
  • Early April: No new Zimbra accounts will be created; all new WIU employees and incoming students will be given Google Apps accounts
  • Mid-April through May: Migrate remaining early adopters and migrate entire departments of faculty/staff (on an opt-in basis per request of department chairs/directors)
  • Starting June: Allow individual students, employees, alumni and retirees to opt in for immediate migration
  • August 19: All remaining users will be migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps

Please note that these dates may change depending on our progress. uTech will post this timeline and keep it updated at wiu.edu/GoogleApps, along with a list of resources, FAQs, and a list of Google Guides.  Please bookmark that page and check back there often!


Scanning of WIU E-mail for Sensitive Information Underway

Throughout this spring semester, automated processes will be scanning the Zimbra email accounts of all Western Illinois University community members (faculty, staff, students, and alumni) to identify sensitive information (social security numbers and credit card numbers) contained in email messages and attachments. The date when individual email accounts will actually be scanned cannot be determined because of the way email accounts are distributed across the mailbox clusters. However, we will email the campus community sometime in the late spring or early summer when the process has completely finished.

This is part of Western Illinois University’s ongoing commitment to protect its electronic assets. Scans of desktop computers and infrastructure servers in recent years have resulted in the remediation of over 37 million instances of sensitive data. Until recently, however, we have not had the means of scanning Zimbra accounts where this type of information is also stored. In addition to protection efforts, the remediation of sensitive information in Zimbra accounts is necessary to prepare for the possible migration of email accounts to another email service provider (such as Google or Microsoft).

When the automated scans identify possible credit card or social security numbers in an individual’s Zimbra account, it will send a notification via email to the account owner. The subject of the notification message will be “Sensitive Data Scan Report”. If you receive one of these messages, click on the link in the message to view instructions and then determine the nature of the information that was identified by the scans. Delete the email message or the attachment containing the sensitive information. You may also secure it outside of the email system, preferably in an encrypted format. However, do not simply copy it to your desktop or a shared folder where it will still be discoverable.

If no action is taken within a week of when the alert message is sent, the data will be archived and removed from the email account. If you have questions on how to protect sensitive information that needs to be retained, need access to the information once it has been archived, or are concerned about the validity of any email notification that you receive, please contact the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-2704.

It is everyone’s responsibility at Western to help ensure the protection of WIU’s electronic data. We appreciate your help, understanding and commitment to these ongoing efforts!