What We Offer

 

 


Information Services

 

Web Application Development

The Provost IT Office has a special application development team that designs, develops and maintains custom web applications (also known as programs or systems) to meet our client’s needs. These have included, but are not limited to: web applications for forms and routing (approval workflow applications), various automations, registration systems, etc. Paramount to any approach with application development is the need to ensure existing tools and technologies already purchased are utilized as well as the need to ensure development is done in a single environment to maximize the value and impact of the solutions over the long term. The Provost IT Office also works collaboratively with the Enterprise Information System unit to modify existing Banner processes and to build applications within Banner or applications that integrate with Banner.

Our team has begun the analysis for development of mobile application strategies in collaboration with EIS, CIS Infrastructure, and NIS to ensure secure and reliable mobile applications. In addition, the application developers will assist units in supporting purchased or third party software solutions and provide any appropriate customizations needed to enhance the operation of those solutions.

 

Custom Application Workflows

The Provost IT Office, through the Offices of Admissions, Registrar, and Scholarships & Financial Aid, has implemented numerous workflow solutions for business processes. Workflow development, in most cases, can be customized to integrate with either Compass or the appropriate imaging system. Workflow designs and applications should be developed by either the Provost IT Office, or contracted with CIS if part of the Laserfiche solution.

 

Windows Service Programming

These are applications without an interface that automate background tasks and data manipulation to include but not limited to: scheduling server tasks and processes, file moves, letter generation, automation tasks that have previously been done by hand, merging data from different databases together and using templates to generate PDF’s.

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Development and QA/Test Environments

The application development team maintains three (3) environments for its custom applications: Production, Development and QA. The Production environment is where a normal public or TAMU facing application resides and is what users interact with. The development environment is where new applications, changes to existing applications, feature additions, upgrades and annual maintenance tasks occur. The QA environment is where final testing for usability, accessibility, performance, security and user acceptance testing transpires prior to an application going live, or moving into Production.

 

Database Development

Often coinciding with web application development is database development. The Provost IT Office provides custom database solutions to meet the business needs of our clients to store, calculate, display and report on data. These databases can be driven by and integrate with the custom applications that PITO creates and maintains, including when possible, integration with external and/or third-party applications or databases.

 

Event Registration System (ERS)

ERS is a customizable Event Registration System. The system is built with forms that allow event managers to display event details and collect necessary registration information. Registration fields can be pre-populated with CAS user information such as name, email address, etc.  Events have options to close based on date, attendance limits, or manually. Events can be configured with a customized confirmation message and/or customized confirmation email. There are options to view registrants, download registrant data, and email all registrants. Also, there is event check-in by UIN or by swiping TAMU ID. Provost IT supported units can request a personalized section of the ERS site. The Provost IT Office will provision a section for the unit, work with the unit to create events, and train the unit on how to use the system.

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Reports/Letters Generation & Distribution

Customized reports, letter generation and letter distribution for mail-outs can be developed for our client’s based on data from custom applications and/or database systems. This service has the potential to automate information distribution and create efficiencies in the business process for offices with high-volume letter distribution.

 

Content Management System (CMS) Websites

A content management system (CMS) based website is a popular platform that empowers clients to easily, pro-actively and immediately update the content on their websites themselves with little to no IT involvement. CMS based websites are the preferred website solution for the clients we serve. Currently, there are at least six different ways to manage website content and five different content management systems in use within the non-college units of Academic Affairs, including: Drupal, WordPress, Plone, and Sitefinity as well as static web pages. The Provost IT Office (PITO) maintains the back-end and assists our clients on these platforms. The Provost IT Office is working on the implementation and maintenance of the Enterprise-Class content management system, Kentico EMS/CMS. The Provost IT Office will assist in implementing new sites and migrating all current sites under our support structure onto the Kentico platform. A few standardized and TAMU brand-guide compliant templates will be developed for adoption by clients. The Provost IT Office will offer any training and assistance needed for the clients to be comfortable with the CMS their site is built with. The expectation is that once the clients have a CMS site and are trained to use it, that they will maintain their own content.

 

CMS Based Website Development Environment & QA/Test Environment

The Provost IT Office maintains a Development and QA/Test Environment to assist with testing websites. Changes, other than simple content creation or edits, that need to be tested will be done in these environments to prevent issues in Production. The Provost IT Office will also use these environments to test program and security updates to the CMS sites. Clients who have access to a Production site will also have access to the Development and QA/Test Environments for testing.

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Technology Services

 

Service Desk Support (Help Desk)

Prompt and efficient help and service for all PITO supported clients can be easily obtained through our centralized Service Desk portal using IRS (IT Request System) at http://moses.tamu.edu. If you do not have access to this system and feel that you should, please contact the Provost IT Office by e-mail at pito-support(at)exchange.tamu.edu, or by phone at 979.458.5200.  Key personnel will have direct access to IT support personnel without utilizing the online solution.  In addition, on call support will be provided at night, on weekends, and during holidays for major issues and problems that arise.  We will continue to collaborate with the CIS Help Desk to resolve any issues that may have been forwarded to them by providing the CIS Help Desk staff with a list of contact numbers for Provost IT Office personnel.

 

After-Hours Emergency Technical Support

For emergency incidents, the Provost IT Office is available after-hours, weekends and over holiday breaks for critical technical support. PITO’s on-call rotation cycles through an on-call technician every two weeks.

 

Troubleshooting and Resolving Computer Related Issues

Troubleshooting diagnostics and resolution services of computer/workstation related issues are provided for PC’s, Mac’s, desktops, laptops and tablets for hardware and software symptoms.

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Computer/Printer Maintenance and Repair

Preventive maintenance, upgrades and repair for computers and printers are performed upon request and as budgeted to maintain operational readiness for staff.

 

Software Installation, Upgrading and Patching

The installation, upgrade and/or patching of software is performed on a routine basis automatically for operating systems and core software applications (Microsoft Windows, Microsoft Office, Adobe Reader, Adobe Flash, Java, Microsoft Lync, etc.). Other non-core (non-standard) software installation, upgrade and/or patching can be provided upon request.

 

Computer Asset/Inventory Management

To maintain compliance and accountability for TAMU property, PITO provides computer asset/inventory management services to document and report as required to TAMU Property Management in annual inventory review, assist in computing asset replacement on schedules that follow a standard system development lifecycle for all computing assets in supported client inventories.

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Purchasing Agents for Computer Hardware and Software

PITO acts as purchasing agents on behalf of clients for computer hardware and software purchases to aid in ensuring the purchase of quality, standardized and supported hardware and software, to obtain bulk and specialized pricing and discounts for the client and to remove complexity and intimidation from the IT resource purchasing process.

 

Consulting for Computer and Software Based Projects

PITO provides consulting to clients for computer and software based projects to define and ensure adequate resources are considered, obtained and utilized effectively to meet clients’ goals.

 

Centrally Managed Endpoint Protection

In this growing age of threats, it is critical to protect our computing systems from the latest malicious viruses, trojans, and malware. PITO provides comprehensive antivirus and antimalware protection for workstations and devices for all clients under our support.

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Email & Calendar Services

Email, calendaring and enterprise messaging services (instant messaging/chat) are provided and billed by TAMU CIS Infrastructure Systems.  The Provost IT Office does not directly provide or support these services but is responsible for the software installed on client workstations that connect to these services (Microsoft Outlook, Microsoft Lync).  All non-college offices under the Provost & Executive Vice President have migrated to the Shared Services Exchange Server (exchange.tamu.edu).

 

Project Management

The requirements for project management at Texas A&M are presented in State Law and University Policy. Both the Texas A&M IT Project Management Office (PMO) and the Provost IT Office PMO strongly recommend that project management best practices be applied to all projects. The Provost IT Office provides project management services to our clients by fostering Project Management Institute (PMI) principles and best practices to identify, mitigate or minimize risk on information technology projects to ensure successful, accountable and ethical project completion while maintaining compliance with TAMU Standard Administrative Procedure (SAP 29.01.03.M1.34), Texas Administrative Code (TAC 216), and the Texas Project Delivery Framework (DIR).

 

Business Process Analysis & Consulting

A business process analysis can be requested for review of a client’s operations using a thorough analysis to determine how information technology can be leveraged to improve efficiencies and advanced levels of service, further enabling clients to meet and exceed their strategic objectives. Consulting services can also be provided to discover and introduce new information technology solutions to assist our clients in providing new services or discovering new methods of addressing challenges by utilizing products and services that PITO, TAMU or vendors provide.

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Authentication Services

The systems team provides and maintains a Microsoft Windows Server Active Directory Forest that all users under PITO’s support log on through to gain access to most of the services and resources listed below.

 

File Server Services

Being able to have a place to store files that have to be worked on daily is a critical part of our customer (user's) needs.  The systems team provides the behind the scenes servers and storage systems that house the file shares that the users we support store their files on. Essentially, we are the custodians and guardians of a really big electronic filing cabinet.

 

Network Print Server Services

The systems team provides a print server that allows all printing to be centrally managed.  This creates a very large print queue for everyone to use.

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Direct Access Services (for laptops and remote/branch located workstations)

The systems team has deployed a Direct Access System that allows remote users to work from home or most locations that have a decent connection to the internet just as if they were at work, without a VPN connection.  

 

ImageNow Document Imaging & Workflow System (student related documents)

The units reporting to the Office of the Provost use two different imaging systems, ImageNow (directly supported by the Provost IT Office) and Laserfiche (directly supported by CIS).  ImageNow is used in the Offices of Admissions, Office of the Registrar, Office of Graduate Studies, Office of Undergraduate Studies, and soon by Scholarships & Financial Aid. Laserfiche is used in some colleges and the Office of the Provost. Laserfiche is the recommended university wide solution for all offices. In this particular area, however, the implementation of ImageNow offers a better solution for student processing, has already been integrated with Compass data, and is recommended to be continued as the preferred solution for student processing and integration with Compass. All other administrative functions of the university, including processing of travel, personnel actions, and similar functions should be implemented using the Laserfiche solution, including in offices using ImageNow for student processing.

Given the long-term intent and that Laserfiche is already centrally managed and supported by CIS and not the Provost IT Office, we should utilize Laserfiche similar to other university-wide solutions (Compass, FAMIS, Exchange). The use of ImageNow should be expanded within Academic Services as the solution for integration with Compass and managed and supported by the Provost IT Office.

 

SharePoint Server Services

The systems team has deployed a Microsoft SharePoint Server for use by our customers (users).  SharePoint allows users to work much more collaboratively by being able to share documents easily and securely through a check-out and check-in process.

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Access and Usage Auditing/Logging

The systems team is responsible for monitoring and auditing all access and usage to ensure that only the users that are authorized to access the systems and files can do so.  We are putting software in place that will allow us to help protect your data from unauthorized access.

 

Secure File Transfer Services (SFTP)

The systems team has deployed and maintains a Secure File Transfer Server (SFTP) that provides an easy to use web interface to allow users to transfer files to other entities that have been set up to receive them.  This system is capable of very large batch file transfers but is also available for users to use on a file by file basis too.  Many automated file transfers between different systems such as Compass and various Analytical Databases and Web Sites will use this process.

 

SSN, Credit Card & PII Existence Scanning & Reporting

For a number of reasons, including laws that have been passed within the last few years, we have a  critical need to secure Social Security Numbers, credit card numbers as well as confidential, sensitive or personal information that may be stored on our computer systems.  The Systems Team is tasked with making sure that this kind of information is stored only where it is authorized to be stored.  This allows us to meet University, State and Federal Compliance.  We are putting software in place to help automate this process and help all of us meet compliance requirements.

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Infrastructure Management

The Systems Team has the responsibility of managing a very large number of virtual servers. Virtual servers are actually software installations that act like a complete server, but consume less energy and resources. The virtual servers are running on top of a highly available group of physical servers. Physical servers are somewhat like a desktop PC but more powerful. They are hardware servers that you can see and touch. In order to accomplish the task of managing the physical and virtual servers, the Systems Team is deploying the Data Center Edition of Microsoft’s System Center 2012 suite of tools. When completed, these tools will give us unparalleled insight into our server environment and allow us to respond very proactively when problems do arise.

 

Backup & Recovery Services (Files, Databases, Application and other Data)

While we on the Systems Team feel that when complete we will have one of the most secure, redundant and highly available systems infrastructures in the country, we do realize very clearly that disasters can happen.  Whether those disasters are caused by weather, equipment failures or human error, they do occur, so, the Systems Team has deployed Backup and Recovery Services that are second to none.

 

Infrastructure Disaster Recovery Location and Services

As with the situation above, we fully understand that disasters can and do occur so we have embarked on building a data triangle of protection.  When completed we will house redundant systems in three (3) physically different locations.  Our primary site is the University's Teague Data Center.  Our secondary site will be located in the Wehner Data Center on West Campus and our third site will be in our server room in the GSC.  The third site will house much less critical systems and will provide us an additional location that we could operate our infrastructure from in an emergency.

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Load Balancing Services

The PITO Systems Team provides redundant pairs of load balancing devices that help balance the load of our web traffic. Think of this as an invisible traffic cop that is directing web traffic and making sure that each request for web information gets to its correct destination. There are a number of other advantages of having our web environment load balanced but the one that that is most relevant to our customers is increased availability to all web services. Because of load balancing we are able to manage and work on our web servers in real-time without interfering with our customers getting to their web sites. We are also able to patch and secure our web systems in rotation without having any impact to our customers.

 

Data Encryption

The systems team is currently working on a large project to build out a secure and encrypted file storage area where confidential, sensitive or personal information that is not for general consumption is stored.  We will be putting in place systems software that will help us monitor and enforce compliance with University, State and federal regulations and policies. 

Security

The Provost IT Office creates and maintains consolidated policies and procedures for IT risk management to include user account provisioning, password policies, personal identifiable information monitoring, and any other processes that fall under TAC 202.75, as well as University SAPs and rules to protect its clients. The Director of the Provost IT Office is the current chair of the IT Audit Best Practices Committee for the Information Technology Advisory Council for the CIO.

In addition, the Provost IT Office will coordinate the completion of the annual ISAAC security report and ensure all offices are compliant and lead the university in maintaining the security of confidential and protected information.

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