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AITS

AITS Mission and Overview

Background

In the early 1980s the former Department of Computer Science was at the cutting edge of an evolving field founded on UNIX. As personal computing soared in popularity, the department readily adapted by establishing a dedicated team whose mandate was to ensure day-to-day IT operations – whether these involved faculty members, staff or students – ran smoothly. The traditional Computer Science UNIX environment came to co-exist with the evolving IBM and Microsoft DOS operating system. Over time the UNIX backroom infrastructure integrated with and accommodated the new Microsoft Windows personal computing environment resulting in the current hybrid operating system environment supported today within the Faculty.

The concept caught on. Soon, other departments within the Faculty of Engineering had their own crews of IT professionals to manage their respective computing facilities. This autonomous method of working remained in place throughout the 1990s but had to evolve quickly in the early 2000s, when a multi-million dollar grant was secured to establish a new home for Engineering: the state-of-the art EV building. With all of the Faculty’s departments set to converge under one roof it was decided that it would also make sense to merge the Faculty’s IT resources.

The various departments, centres, units, and institutes of today’s Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science were spread across the Sir George Williams campus, located in nearly 20 different buildings. Bringing them together meant assigning the right positions, roles and responsibilities and skill set requirements to the right people, all the while establishing a robust academic IT infrastructure that would ensure uninterrupted service.

The team that is now AITS had approximately two years to consolidate its skills and resources while maintaining the high level of service to which users had become accustomed.

AITS Mission Statement

AITS is currently the faculty wide IT services department providing academic computing, information services and applications to manage teaching, administrative and research activities of the Faculty of Engineering and Computer Science.

The AITS mission has the following priorities: teaching support, administrative support and research support.

Teaching Support

To develop, operate, maintain and manage the teaching facilities (computer laboratories) by keeping current the computer hardware and computer applications students require to fulfill their academic obligations.

The AITS mission is focused primarily on computer laboratories dedicated to teaching. The more specialized labs (e.g. wind tunnel, machine shop, real-time lab, VLSI lab, digital lab, gaming lab, network lab) are managed by their own technical support groups. Nonetheless, AITS provides computer consultative services, infrastructure, computer hardware and software as needed.

AITS aims to meet the academic computing needs of courses by providing the appropriate applications and resources. This requires a consultation process to clearly determine the requirements and suggest options to satisfy the requests, always taking into account the cost of the hardware, software licensing, maintenance and operational demands on the AITS staff. It is for this reason that hardware selection in the teaching labs is made by AITS. Keeping an accurate list of required software and licensing information (through the collaboration of the departments) ensures that needed software is always available to our students.

In order to help students to effectively use the computer facilities and services, a Student Help Desk facility is available in the Hall Building and in the EV Building. In addition to helping students with staff on duty, a comprehensive website provides a vast amount of information on laboratory facilities and “HOW-TOs”.

Administrative Support

To provide the faculty (in administrative roles) and administrative support staff the comprehensive assistance and computing resources necessary to help them perform their tasks.

AITS offers day-to-day assistance to the faculty and staff occupying administrative roles. This includes the selection and installation of a standard set of office hardware and software in consultation with the Departments and Faculty administration. AITS also provides access and training to the various information system applications and to administrative file sharing.

Research Support

To act as consultants and guide researchers to effectively use the infrastructure services, such as networks, computer installations and NetApp file access, developed and maintained by AITS. AITS provides complete support for central resources such as high performance computer clusters, high speed 10 Gigabit network access and secure data centre location .

Dedicated Services

To accomplish our mission, a Faculty wide set of infrastructure services were identified, planned, developed and deployed. These included; the complete integration and management of the ENCS high speed computer network; the operation of central servers (mail, file, administrative and courses file sharing, print, web, application, information etc.); the development and distribution of information systems (EIIS - an identity management system , GradDB, Asset Management System, Card Access, space management, Calendaring, room reservation, etc.); creation of the Help/Service Desk as the primary contact point for questions from faculty, staff and students; formation of the team that develops the engineering desktop that supports the teaching mission in a reliable and secure and safe manner; establish a purchasing process for efficient procurement, receiving and deploying new equipment with greater inventory control resulting in more effective resource management.

These infrastructure services are planned and carried out by six working groups under the leadership of the Director. These groups are identified as follows: Information Systems, Network Services, Core Technologies, Client Technologies, User Services and Purchasing/Asset Management.