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Northwestern University

Fall 2011 Weinberg IT Update

Dear Weinberg Faculty and Staff,

Welcome to the new academic year! I would like to take this opportunity to update you on Weinberg IT operations, recent improvements, and upcoming initiatives.

IT support in September and October

As you know, the period from Labor Day to mid-October is very busy for everyone within the College. To help ensure a successful start of the year, Weinberg IT will focus on addressing computing issues for continuing faculty/staff and assisting new faculty with all of their computing needs between now and Friday, October 14. We will resume full support operations, including new computer setups for continuing faculty/staff and email migrations to Collaboration Services, as of Monday, October 17.

General Computing and Support

Since June, we have migrated over three hundred faculty and staff to Collaboration Services, the new integrated email and calendar system for Northwestern. If you have not already been migrated, Weinberg IT will schedule your migration with your department during Fall quarter, to finish between October 17 and December 18. We will also continue our weekly Outlook demonstration/Q&A sessions every Thursday, 2:00 PM—3:00 PM, in Kresge 2-380, through December 8. Additional sessions will be scheduled for the week of December 12-16 to help ensure your questions are answered before the final migration date.

We have just begun to roll out a new service for automated data backup of College desktop and laptop computers (aka CrashPlan PRO). Weinberg IT has invested in both software and storage to ensure the College's data is protected from equipment failure, theft, or other adverse events. We will continue to roll out CrashPlan PRO on a department-by-department basis over the coming months so we can monitor storage usage and add incremental storage as needed.

This year, Weinberg IT has also increased its ability to respond quickly to support requests through the use of computer management software. Many of you have already participated in a screen-sharing session using the Bomgar service, which allows us to resolve issues over the phone with your permission. We also now use the Altiris management platform to remotely deploy and upgrade software on your computer, minimizing the interruption of a desk-side visit and installation. We have received positive feedback on this approach, and are continuing to seek ways to streamline the time it takes for your issue or request to be completed.


Computing resources for research have continued to expand in the past year at Northwestern, offering greater access to highly scalable computation and storage. The University has invested further in the Quest high-performance computing cluster, increasing its capacity to over 7,000 compute cores using the latest technology from Intel. Quest is available to researchers with no required fees; researchers may elect to invest in cluster nodes to gain priority access to compute time.

NUIT has released the Vault research storage platform, enabling researchers to use highly scalable, replicated storage. Researchers can request 50 GB of storage on Vault at no charge. They can add storage in 100 GB increments for $76 for four years' use. Please contact Dan Johannsson or me if you are interested in using Vault. We can help you determine whether Vault is the right solution for your needs, and relay your feedback to NUIT to help improve the service offering.

Weinberg, in conjunction with Kellogg, continued its investment in the Social Sciences Computing Cluster (SSCC), which increased by 96 cores and six terabytes of high-performance storage this year. Weinberg also upgraded the Sheridan cluster's desktop instances, which now have 6 GB of RAM and added new software applications, such as SAS. Other software applications on the Sheridan cluster include SPSS, Stata, Atlas.ti, Nvivo, and ArcGIS.

Looking forward, Weinberg IT is investing more time in helping connect researchers to available resources and acting as an advocate to the University on behalf of Weinberg faculty. We look forward to continuing our discussions with you over the coming year to further identify needs for computation and storage for research.


Weinberg IT has taken on a greater role in supporting College-managed seminar rooms in this past year. We have replaced projectors and lamps in selected locations as older equipment has ceased to work, and we have worked closely with department administrators on service issues. We will be continuing our efforts to enhance support for College-managed seminar rooms in the coming year.

We are exploring additional ways that we can help faculty use technology to improve learning. To that end, we have begun working more closely with Weinberg's Multimedia Learning Center (MMLC), the University Library, and NUIT to better understand Northwestern's capabilities at present and identify possible avenues to pursue in the future. This year, we have explored iPad usage in the classroom and using online video as a complement to classroom sessions.

Web Applications and Sites

Whenever possible, Weinberg seeks to leverage University resources to meet our needs for business software applications. However, sometimes needs arise that require College-specific solutions. In each project, Weinberg IT works closely with business owners to define process requirements and ensure the technical solution meets or exceed those needs. Weinberg IT has completed several of these projects in the past year, including new web applications for faculty committee elections and the faculty search process, as well as improvements to the freshman seminar and academic integrity systems. In the past year, a wider range of Weinberg IT staff have been trained to provide support for web site maintenance, allowing the College to respond more quickly to these service requests.

I welcome your questions and feedback on our efforts, as we work to provide high-quality services to Weinberg College.


Chris Comerford
Director of Information Technology
Weinberg College of Arts and Sciences
Northwestern University
(o) 847-491-2746
(c) 773-968-8488

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