Computing and Information Services



Computing and information technology has become an integral part of learning, teaching and working. Every member of the University community is, in some way, benefitted, affected or influenced by the ever-changing world of technology. Whether people are communicating by e-mail, performing research over the web, preparing papers or presentations using a software application, getting their grades from the Registrar or even using a telephone, they are interacting with the world of information technology. Information technology encompasses telecommunication, networking, computers, and information transfer.

The challenge for Computing and Information Services (CIS) at the University is to provide access to all of the information technology resources available so as to facilitate the goals of the University and the individuals who learn, work and teach here. This involves providing a solid technology infrastructure that includes networks and network access, centralized directory services, advanced electronic mail, telecommunications services, and access to a variety of hardware and software resources.

CIS also strives to be flexible enough to respond to the rapidly changing world of information technology and to help the University community react to these changes. This means providing access to the most recent versions of software and operating systems; providing state-of-the-art hardware; providing training, consulting and documentation; and facilitating access to these resources.

Below is a description of some of the major services that CIS provides in its efforts to meet those significant goals.

CIS network services reach thousands of desktop PCs across five campuses and offer access to the Internet. In addition, many more PCs from desktops at home reach out to the world via CIS dial-up services. The backbone of CIS-distributed computing services is PittNet, a network based on Ethernet technology that serves the diverse communications needs of the University community. Encompassing the entire University, PittNet enables users to communicate with each other and with various CIS systems, regardless of their location or the devices they are using. CIS also maintains the University's World Wide Web service that showcases the University to the international community via the Internet and serves the University community through the PittHome online information service (http://www.pitt.edu).

CIS timesharing services consist of UNIX, VMS, and MVS. A wide range of mainframe software applications, including e-mail, database management systems, graphic analysis programs, mathematical and statistical program libraries, simulation packages, tape utilities, and file transfer utilities are supported by these timesharing systems.

Universal Student Computing (USC) is a concept that guarantees access to information technology resources to all students of the University. Each student is provided with a USC Network Authorization Account. Computing services and resources are directly accessible via the eight public computing labs on the Pittsburgh campus. The David Lawrence Hall, Benedum Hall, and Sutherland Hall labs are open 24 hours a day, seven days a week. More than 700 Macintosh, Windows NT, and UNIX computers and workstations allow access to a variety of software packages, laser printers, and Internet services. Software is made available to provide the most complete and updated library of software to every lab computer. Information on lab locations, configurations, and the hours that the labs are open is available at http://www.pitt.edu/~cislabs.

For residence hall students, CIS provides the ResNet program. Through ResNet, every residence hall room is equipped with an Ethernet computer port. This port enables students' direct access to PittNet and the World Wide Web. In addition, computers from the homes of commuting students, faculty, and staff can connect to PittNet via CIS's dial-up services.

The University has taken the lead in offering students and staff the opportunity to view, select, and order University-recommended and supported computers and accessories online. Through an agreement with an online e-commerce site that offers an extensive variety of computer products and networking equipment, the University of Pittsburgh has created the e-Store. The e-Store is an internet-based, online computer store available at http://e-store.pitt.edu. It offers the University community the opportunity to purchase hardware, software, and accessories at educational discounts. For those without access to an individual computer with a web browser, orders can be placed through the CIS Help Desk.

CIS recognizes that providing assistance and help resources is an important component of providing a comprehensive information technology infrastructure. Assistance with CIS computing services is available via the CIS Help Desk. The Help Desk can be reached 24 hours a day, seven days a week via telephone at (412) 624-HELP (4357), via an online problem submittal form at http://www.pitt.edu/~helpdesk, and via e-mail sent to helpdesk+@pitt.edu. The Help Desk offers troubleshooting and problem resolution, responds to system problems and failures, answers "how to" questions, and provides information and instructions on CIS services and programs.

CIS also provides training classes, available to all students, faculty, and staff. Classes range from beginning to advanced levels on topics such as operating systems, software applications, e-mail, and the Internet. Intranet-based training on the most popular Microsoft programs is being implemented as a pilot project for students during the Fall term of 1998.

Extensive help sheets and documentation are available in printed form and online, covering the most frequently used software applications and topics. In addition, an online knowledge-base is being implemented called UPLINK (the University of Pittsburgh Logical Interactive Networked Knowledge-base). UPLINK provides a searchable database of computer-related topics and problem resolutions. The interactive system helps users to identify the exact problem and its cause, and then provides detailed instruction on how to resolve the issue.

CIS system analysts are available to provide departments with computer consulting and evaluation services. Through the contract program, technical support professionals can be hired anywhere from one to five days per week to provide dedicated, high-level, on-site consulting. The Expert Partners program was created for departments with support personnel on staff. An Expert Partner is defined as a faculty or staff member with the responsibility for providing the day-to-day support for computing at the departmental level. Through a partnership with CIS, convenient access to CIS resources, liaison services, and training services, an Expert Partner will be equipped to provide continual, high-quality support and technical training to his or her own department. This support and training will be coordinated with the overall direction of CIS-distributed and maintained services.

CIS also provides comprehensive telecommunications support. CIS operates and maintains more than 18,000 telephones on the Pittsburgh campus alone, processes approximately 250 "move and change" orders per month, and also provides service to the regional campuses. Other telecommunications services include telegraph services, Audix voicemail, telephone credit cards, paging support, and Ethernet port installations. Through the Student Telephone Service operations, CIS provides services to students residing at the Pittsburgh and Bradford campuses, including on-campus, local and long-distance phone services and voicemail.

CIS reports to the Office of the Provost. Three major committees, the Information Technology Steering Committee, the Executive Committee for Academic Computing, and the Senate Computer Usage Committee, along with several associated working groups, oversee the activities and services of CIS.

The next page lists a more quantitative description of CIS' services and facilities.

Source: Computing and Information Services, August 1998.

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Office of Institutional Research
University of Pittsburgh Fact Book, 1998-99