Computing Facilities

The computing facilities within the School of Computer Science are available for use by all currently registered students and members of staff, studying or working in School. In general the facilities are available 24 hours a day with access controlled out of hours building access. Details about this building access system are available.

Use of the School's computing facilities is subject to both the University's General Conditions of Use of Computing and Network Facilities and the School's Security Policy.

The School's computing facilities fall into three distinct categories.

  • Teaching Labs
  • Staff, Visitor and Research Student desks
  • Core infrastructure services

These facilities are designed, installed, maintained and operated by the group of Technicians and Computer Officers known as the Support Team in accordance with the policies defined by the Computing Facilities Strategy and Policy Committee.

Three teaching labs are provided, each with two printers and desktop PC's configured in accordance with the School's facilities policy. At present UG04 contains approximately 100 identically configured Linux workstations and is primarily to support first year teaching. LG04 contains approximately 80 identically configured Microsoft Windows 7 workstations and is primarily to support second year teaching, ten workstations are equipped with multi-media facilities. LG34 contains approximately 60 workstations, approximately half of these configured to use Windows 7 with the remainder Linux. This lab is exclusively for the use of final year and master students, and therefore contains specialist software to support computing project work. The workstations in these labs are usually re-installed on a termly basis in order to ensure that software is in line with teaching requirements and to ensure that installations have not become corrupt. In addition the condition of hardware is checked periodically. Students are requested to inform the Support Team of any problems with the equipment or software in these labs.

To help protect the equipment CCTV (connected to University Security Division) is installed and food and drink is not permitted in any lab.

Staff and Research Students are generally provided with a dedicated machine for the duration of their employment or research. Visiting staff are supplied with a machine as necessary. Equipment and software is purchased in line with research requirements.

The core infrastructure services provide hardware and software to support both client desktop installations and user services. Windows installations are maintained via Active Directory (including group policy and software installation) and UNIX and Linux installations via bespoke systems. All users are provided with an email account and central backed-up file-store and are encouraged to use these facilities in preference to external or machine local storage. Central file-store and email data are backed up regularly in a secure location to magnetic tape. Tapes are transfered weekly to a fire-proof safe.

All managed machines check for operating system updates and security patches on a nightly basis. If machines are switched off at night, Windows machines will automatically reschedule missed updates at boot time and Linux machines will always check for updates at boot time. Both Windows and Linux machines check for updated or additional applications at boot time.

The Role of The Support Team

The physical installation and security of desktop PC's, workstations and printers is the responsibility of the Hardware Workshop located on the lower ground floor (also contactable via the email address workshop@cs.bham.ac.uk). The Hardware Workshop is also responsible for resolving hardware issues related to desktop PC's, workstations and printers.

The installation of operating systems, application software and core infrastructure hardware is undertaken by the Computer Officers. It is the responsibility of the Computer Officers to ensure that all software installations are fully patched and appropriately licensed. Therefore, only systems installed and maintained by the Support Team are permitted direct connection to the School's network. Resources not managed by the Support Team must be connected to the dedicated and firewalled segment of the network. It is a requirement that all systems connected to the network are appropriately maintained, secured and licensed.

The Computer Officers are also responsible for providing support to users of the School's facilities. Assistance is provide through three channels:

The SupportWeb pages are available 24 hours a day and contain information relating to most aspects of the facilities. Some pages may require authentication and most pages will be accessible from both the School's and external networks.

IT Services Helpdesk requests are processed by a tracking system where they will be assigned to a Computer Officer for processing.

In general the Support Office is staffed between 09:30 and 16:30 Monday-Friday, however, the Computer Officers are often called out of the office to assist with problems. Ideally users should use the email channel to obtain assistance.

Where support requests are received regarding facilities maintained by Information Services, Computer Officers will forward the request to the Central Helpdesk. Computer Officers are willing to act as an intermediary for technical issues.

Purchasing Equipment and Software

All purchases of computing equipment must be discussed with a Computer Officer prior to ordering in order to ensure compatibility with the existing infrastructure. Computer Officers will provide guidance and advice on selecting suitable suppliers of hardware and software in line with the University's approved supplier list. Software purchases must be co-ordinated with the Computer Officers to allow licensing records to be maintained.

Delivery of equipment must be to the Hardware Workshop to ensure appropriate records are maintained. Disposal of equipment must also be co-ordinated with the Hardware Workshop ensuring regulatory compliance.