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Annoucement Letter

To NDSU Faculty and Staff:

To provide better support for information technology-based productivity, Information Technology Services (ITS) has been working with Agriculture Communication and NDSU administration to develop a plan to better support desktop computing at NDSU.  The purpose of this letter is to notify faculty and staff of this effort, and to provide information about the process which will be used to develop a plan for carrying out this important undertaking.

The overall plan is to specify desktop hardware and software standards.  A Desktop Standards Committee, comprised of staff members from multiple areas in ITS/Ag Communication, was formed to begin the planning process.  Early in its efforts, the committee determined that it was important to establish a Statement of Principles in order to define the scope and spectrum of actions required by the organization as it considers implementing a strategy of standardized desktop computers.

The 'Principles' document outlines and summarizes seven principles that the committee considers essential to a successful implementation of desktop standards.  The document will be used to direct and guide the planning process even though details will be altered and refined with campus feedback. 

The committee also created a second document included as the second enclosure to this letter.  This document is in a Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) format.  The purpose of this document is to assist the user community to understand the nature and potential impact of the proposed standardization project.

The statement of principles are outlined and link to expanded and further information and related explainations. In addition, a special email address ( has been created you you may SEND ANY COMMENTS related to the Desktop Standards Initiative. We will not be responding individually to your comments; rather, attempt to add them to the list of issues to be addressed as we work through the standards process.

It should be emphasized that the process for desktop standardization will be ongoing and will require input from faculty and staff.  We look forward to your feedback.  Thank you.

Statement of Principles

Each of the following general statements are linked to additional information regarding the topic area.

Principle #1:  NDSU will develop a standard computing desktop that will be supported by ITS/Ag Comm.

Principle #2:  Software standards will be developed for the standard desktop.

Principle #3:  Support for a standard user desktop will be free of charge.

Principle #4:  Variable support levels will be available.

Principle #5:  Standardized minimum technology training will be available.

Principle #6:  A replacement cycle will be defined for the standard desktop computing environment.

Principle #7:  Improvements in core university infra-structure will be needed to support the standard desktop.

Principle #2:  Software standards will be developed for the standard desktop.

Q: What software can be installed?

A: The software available as part of the Standard Desktop includes core applications and optional, approved software.

Q: What constitutes the core set of applications?

A: Although the specific applications and versions have not been determined, it will include something like the following:

        * An operating system (Microsoft Windows 2000, Macintosh OS X, Red Hat Linux 7.2, etc...)

        * An office productivity suite (Microsoft Office XP, Corel WordPerfect 10, etc...)

        * Messaging tools (Qualcomm Eudora 5.1, Netscape Mail, etc...)

        * Other software considered to be important to productively use the standard desktop (Corporate Time 5, McAfeeVirusScan, etc...)

Q: How does an application become "optional, approved software"?

A: Applications which are essential to your productivity, but not yet part of the optional approved software list may be submitted for evaluation by ITS/Ag Comm.  If it is determined that they do not conflict with other approved software, they will be added to the list.

Q: What if I need an application installed that is not part of the Standard Desktop?

A: Installation of non-approved software requires that you be given administrative status on your computer.  From that point on, hands-on support by ITS/Ag Comm for the computer will be charged to your department.  However, at any time, the computer may be returned to the standard desktop configuration and ITS/Ag Comm support will be free.

Principle #3:  Support for a standard user desktop will be free of charge.

Q: Will this standard include peripheral devices?

A:  Yes.  There will be a list of standard supported printers and scanners.  Other peripherals could include digital cameras, PDA's, etc.  For more information on this level of support, see principle #4.

Principle #4:  Variable support levels will be available.

Q:  How can everyone be expected to use the same type of computer or software?

A:  The purpose or goal of the Desktop Standardization project is to provide efficient information technology support to fulfill a 90% need level.  It is well understood that there are a number of disciplines and special needs that will not be met fully by the Standard Desktop environment.

Q:  What is a 90% need level?

A:  A 90% need level is the set of tools and functionality required by 90% of the user population to have 90% of their daily productivity needs meet.

Q:  What are the 90% needs?

A:  The exact needs have not been completely defined yet.  A significant part of the work involved in this project is defining a basic set of productivity requirements needed by users to make efficient use of information technology tools.

Initial planning has indicated that the most basic need is a productivity platform which supports basic functionality such as word processing, spreadsheets, presentation development (Powerpoint), WEB browsing, calendaring, file-sharing and messageing (e-mail).

Q:  What are administrative rights?

A:  The operating systems being selected for the Standard Desktop environment all have the notion of an 'administrative' or 'privileged' user along with a standard user.  Privileged users have the ability to change operating system setup, install applications and perform other tasks.  In the Standard Desktop environment only ITS/Ag Comm support staff will have administrative rights.

Q:  Do I need administrative rights to install programs?

A:  In some cases yes, in other cases no.  Users who wish to use a Linux/UNIX based desktop can typically install applications in their own personal file system space.  Similar capabilities are developing for the Windows and Macintosh operating systems.

Q:  Can I change screen colors, install a different background picture or screen saver without administrative rights?

A:  Certain types of actions such as different screen colors or background pictures can be done with user privileges.  Screen savers can sometimes require administrative rights depending on the operating system and the type of screen saver.

Q:  Does requesting administrative rights affect participation in the Standard Desktop environment?

A:  Yes.  If a user requests administrative rights, they are, in effect, assuming all responsibility for the maintenance and operation of their workstation.  Free support will not be available for desktops which have been elected to receive administrative rights.

Q:  Does this mean that ITS/Ag Comm won't support my workstation or desktop?

A:  Requesting administrative rights means that ITS/Ag Comm will not support your desktop computer or workstation free of charge.  An hourly fee schedule will be developed as part of the Desktop Standards project.  The department or user will be billed, based on this fee schedule, for any work requested by the user or department for the computer or workstation.  ITS/Ag Comm will retain administrative privileges and intervene in the event of a network integrity issue.

Q:  What is a network integrity issue?

A:  A network integrity issue is a condition where a computer either through unintentional or intentional actions causes excessive network load or is used for illegal activities.

The most common example of a network integrity issue is a situation where a 'hacker' has compromised a computer and begins using it for their own purposes.  These purposes may include distributing copyrighted or pornographic material, attacking and breaking into other sites on the INTERNET or attempting to disrupt network communications.

Q:  What will ITS/Ag Comm do if there is a network integrity issue?

A:  If administrative rights or privileges have been requested network connectivity to the machine will be terminated until the situation is corrected.  Network connectivity will be restored when it can be demonstrated that the problems with the computer or workstation have been corrected.

Depending on the situation ITS/Ag Comm/NDSU may, by law, be required to confiscate or copy the contents of the computer hard-disk before corrective actions are taken by the user or by someone hired by the user.  This may occur in situations where federal law has been violated.  For example, if the computer was used to traffic pornography or attack federal or commercial sites.

Principle #5:  Standardized minimum technology training.

Q:  Who do we contact about getting training?

A:  The ITS/Ag Comm training group is responsible for developing a training curriculum and you may contact your supervisor to receive that training.

Q:  Who needs to get training?

A:  Training is open to all staff and faculty at NDSU.  New staff and those identified as needing skills to fulfill job functions may be required to take training.

Principle #6:  A replacement cycle will be defined for the standard desktop computing environment.

Q:  What is the length of the replacement cycle?

A:  We are suggesting that NDSU go with a 3 year replacement cycle for all computers.

Q:  What if I want to buy some hardware that is not available with the standard desktop? I need a more powerful machine for research, will I still be supported?

A:  There will be more than one level of machine that will be available for purchase.

Q:  Where do we buy the standard desktop? Who is responsible for purchasing the standard machine?

A:  This is still to be decided. Possible alternatives are the Varsity Mart, NDSU Purchasing (large group purchasing) or your department. We are hoping to gain increased buying power by purchasing as a group rather than independently. There are some options we need to look at such as leasing or group purchasing.

Principle #7:  There will need to be improvements in core university infra-structure to support the standard desktop.

Q:  What does this mean?

A:  We will be allocating resources to create file and print services for the standard desktop.  We will be allocating resources to increase availability/reliability for the standard desktop.

Student Focused. Land Grant. Research University.

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North Dakota State University
IT Help Desk Phone: +1 (701) 231-8685
Administrative Calls Only: +1 (701) 231-7961 / Fax: (701) 231-8541
Campus address: Quentin Burdick Building 206
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Last Updated: Monday, June 15, 2015 11:16:16 AM