By KAREN BEAUDWAY
Some of the services provided by Pitt IT are hard to miss. When you visit Student Computing Labs, Pitt Print Stations or Drop-In Support on campus, call the 24/7 IT Help Desk, or have a Pitt IT consultant providing on-site support, it’s pretty clear you’re working with Pitt IT. However, the work that Pitt IT does to support faculty, staff and students goes far beyond these obvious services. Here are just a few of the Pitt IT behind-the-scenes services you likely use on a regular basis.
Ring me up
Have you ever made or answered a phone call to or from a Pitt office? Then you’re using a Pitt IT service. Telephony is part of the Pitt IT portfolio, including the helpful live operators who answer your questions when you call the University. Pitt IT oversaw the transition to VOIP (voice over internet protocol) and supports the infrastructure that allows you to make or answer calls from your office number, even when you’re off-campus.
Have you used Word, Excel or PowerPoint? Sent an email with Outlook? Attended a meeting, event or class over Teams or Zooms? Those apps are all provided through Pitt IT. Pitt IT administers our enterprise-wide software contracts, distributes the software, tests and supports new features, works with the vendor to implement Pitt-specific functionality, and provides training and support, including workshops through the Faculty & Staff Development Program.
Making the grade
Pitt IT supports the academic systems used to support teaching and learning, including the Student Information System (PeopleSoft/HighPoint CX) and Learning Management System (Canvas). This enables instructors to manage their classes, post online materials, and enter grades. Students use these systems to search for and select classes, access course sites, check their grades, and monitor their progress toward graduation. Advisors help students pick classes and plan out their schedule, identify students at risk for not graduating on time, and proactively help students who need academic support.
Data analytics is a vital service for making operational and strategic decisions. Analytics is essentially taking raw data and making sense of it. This includes presenting data so that users can quickly and easily understand it, often in user-friendly dashboards. Pitt IT Analytics created dashboards that helped Pitt navigate the pandemic, tracking infection and vaccination rates, analyzing student movement across campus, and monitoring building and classroom use. Analytics dashboards monitor service usage and status, which helps Pitt IT scale capacity, identify system problems, and informs users when a service is down. (Sign up to receive alerts from Pitt IT System Status page.) Athletics, academics and financial data — Pitt IT Analytics brings together the data that the Pitt community uses every day.
Network for success
Wherever you work — on or off campus — you are connecting to the Pitt computing network every time you access any Pitt-supported service. There are almost 145,000 active devices connected to PittNet, and over 1.5 million devices outside the network that connect to those devices. Pitt IT supports about 25,000 wired data ports across all campuses and 6,000 wireless access points in academic and residential buildings. It takes approximately 2,400 miles of cabling to support the network — that’s the driving distance between Pittsburgh and Los Angeles, if you take I-40!
The Network Operations Center is the central hub that supports Pitt’s networking activities. In addition to monitoring network activity, it provides secure hosting for enterprise-wide applications, including data storage and resource-intensive computing for University systems. It also includes administering network-based firewalls and web hosting.
Your Pitt computing account is the basis for nearly all the computing services provided through the University. Pitt IT manages nearly 2.2 million identity records for use in major systems. Those identity records include active faculty, staff, and students; alumni; prospective students; research participants; and academic colleagues and community members.
Identity management ensures appropriate, confidential and personalized access to all major systems. Pitt IT manages more than 55,000 primary email accounts, plus another 68,000 alumni accounts. Pitt email addresses receive more than 350 million emails a year and send about 40 million messages.
Your identity record enables you to access Pitt Worx to enter your time records. It lets you submit expense and travel reports in Concur. It lets your ID card access your Panther Funds or provide building access. It gives you access to PeopleSoft, Salesforce, Office 365, and other systems. Once more, all are managed and/or maintained by Pitt IT.
Nearly every day, the news reports a major data breach, ransomware attack or cyber crime. Pitt IT Security works to make sure Pitt does not become one of those stories. They manage firewalls on our systems to ensure that only authorized people can access data. They review every vendor who does business with Pitt to ensure they follow strict security protocols. They consult on research IRB reviews to ensure that participant data will be carefully safeguarded. They provide the PittNet VPN services (using GlobalProtect or Pulse Secure) that allow secure remote access to restricted services.
Pitt IT Security also monitors network activity to identify attempted breaches or malicious activity. Email security blocks or quarantines about 31 million suspicious or spam messages a year. They work closely with the Office of Compliance, Investigations and Ethics to ensure data privacy and confidentiality and respond to unintentional or malicious data disclosure.
Look behind the curtain
Technology and computing supports the work of every faculty and staff member and student at Pitt. While you might not think of yourself or your department as using Pitt IT services, Pitt IT works behind the scenes to support the mission and work of the University community.
Karen Beaudway is a Pitt IT blogger.