Working overtime

GVSU IT department updates hundreds of computers across campus, fights virus concerns

By Theresa Mueller | 8/31/17 1:17am

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GVL / Sara Carte IT Help Desk worker, Cody Chinn, helps students in the Mary Idema Pew Library on Tuesday, August 29, 2017.

While most Grand Valley State University students and staff lessen their workload during the summer months, GVSU’s information technology department intensifies its task force by utilizing the summer months as an opportunity to rejuvenate various devices around campus.   

An ordinary summer for the IT department includes classroom or lab updates for audiovisual technology, audio projectors, speakers and more. The IT department uses this time to refresh and ensure devices are kept up to date.    

This past summer, the IT department exceeded its usual process by updating more than 800 computers and upgrading personal computer operating systems to Windows 10. John Klein, GVSU associate director of academic services, said this was the highest number of computers updated at GVSU since 2009.    

“This was an unusual summer for us because of the volume of computers we replaced,” Klein said. 

Despite a higher workload, staff numbers remained relatively the same, consisting of about six full-time staff supervising or guiding approximately 100 student workers across campus.    

The IT department’s process for upgrading computers to Windows 10 is far more complicated than simply the click of the button. Sue Korzinek, the associate vice president and chief information officer for IT, explained the two-step process, which involves the “pre-work” of reimaging, coding and choosing which models to use. These steps must be completed before any additional software upgrades can be made.   

“It’s not a simple process,” Korzinek said. “You’re taking apart a whole lab.”   

The process of upgrading is complex in itself, but to complicate IT tasks further, classroom access remains an issue during summer months. As many courses are still in session during the summer, classrooms and labs are consistently occupied.   

Yet, in the face of these obstacles, the IT department managed to upgrade more than 60 classrooms and labs by meticulously maneuvering their way around campus and strategizing the time and place for each restoration.   

With only one week of summer vacation left, the prioritization of classroom and lab updates was stalled when an email virus broke out among GVSU email users.     

All it takes is one simple click for a phishing virus to rapidly spread to a multitude of users. This particular virus asked for personal account information, such as an individual’s username or password.   

The IT HelpDesk Twitter account posted several tweets Friday, Aug. 18, warning GVSU email users. One tweet read, “There are several fake emails going around with links asking you to login with credentials or payment information.” The IT HelpDesk further reminded users that “GVSU will never ask you for personal information like password or username.”  

A virus may originate with one user, but if the infected link is clicked, a duplicate message is sent to everyone in said user’s mailing list.     

“(The IT department) continually reminds people to ‘think before you click,’” Klein said.   

Virus outbreaks among GVSU users are a priority within the IT department due to security concerns. The IT department is responsible for locking out all accounts and resetting them, and a viral epidemic adds to the department’s prescribed tasks.     

A virus is always an inconvenient disruption, but the timing of this bug happened during what is commonly the busiest week of the summer for IT. The week prior to the start of a new academic year primarily consists of phone calls from a multitude of students calling the IT HelpDesk to reset their forgotten email, myBanner or myBlackboard passwords.    

“The virus set us back,” Klein. “It tied up resources that would have been assigned to getting classrooms ready.”   

The virus may have been an inconvenient eruption that robbed IT workers of time, but this didn’t stop technicians from working through the weekend.   

There remain a select few computers that require minor updates, but Korzinek is confident everything will be up to date by the time students and faculty return after Labor Day weekend. 

“There always feels like there’s such a tight crunch at the end,” Korzinek said. “No matter how many people you have, you still have to get access to the place.”    

At this time, the GVSU IT department will continue its strategy of gaining access to available classrooms and working while everyone else is on break.  

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