What's new in IT Services – March 2023

A lot’s been happening behind the scenes in IT in recent weeks. Here are just a few of the latest developments. 

Our new website 

As you’ll have likely noticed, our website looks a little different – we’ve redesigned it and introduced a whole host of new features to make it more accessible and easier to use.  

A massive thank you goes out to our students and colleagues who helped make this happen – whether that was through providing feedback and testing, suggesting features, and telling people about the upcoming changes. 

Find out more about the site’s new features

Email improvements 

The project team working on moving our email systems to the cloud (specifically Microsoft Azure – Microsoft’s cloud service) have made some great progress in recent few weeks. Their efforts in moving our email away from vulnerable legacy on-campus servers meant that we were able to turn off our old email servers last month.  

The new, streamlined service gives the University more protection from attacks originating from email, such as phishing and spoofing. Eliminating old email servers and networks will also improve email reliability. 

Moving core Postgraduate systems to the cloud 

Whichever University systems you use day-to-day, you will often be accessing servers in a University computing facility managed by IT Services. When we move these core systems to the cloud we are also modernising them so they will be more secure, dependable and scalable. 

In early February, the team completed the final move of outdated Postgraduate Customer Relationship Management (PGT-CRM) virtual machines to cloud-based systems consisting of newer hardware. That's over 50 servers successfully moved with no issues, thanks to excellent testing and risk management.  

As a database for storing and accessing postgraduates’ details, this system is vital for admissions and marketing colleagues – and this move to the cloud means that they will now be at considerably less risk of system failure. 

It was a lot of hard work – including some weekends, early mornings and late nights, but their efforts paid off, with minimal impact to end users throughout the process.  

Updating course searches 

Earlier this year we launched the new version of courses.leeds.ac.uk. This was the result of over a year of research and development across multiple teams and departments.  

The result is a site that – among other improvements – is fully accessible and built with a focus on mobile, in-line with other key University websites. This means that one of our key student-facing 'shop windows' is now in the best shape possible moving forward. 

Please join us in sending our thanks to the various teams around the University who contributed to making this happen! 

Upgrading our network 

In February, we carried out a major upgrade on the system that assigns all network devices a name and address. At a basic level, this is essential to allow the University’s network to function properly, which is obviously vital with today’s hybrid ways of working. 

This work was carried out overnight without any issues or impact on users. Unfortunately, it’s the nature of the working on IT infrastructure that means it only gets noticed in the wider community if it goes wrong.  

For something to go well – and happen without any major impact to users – takes a lot of planning and hard work from everyone involved.   

This was no small task – it was a major jump to the new version, which bought with it plenty of risks which required careful management by the team. However, the team were able to successfully carry out the work through the night, allowing others around the University to log on and carry on working the next morning as if nothing had happened.  

Recognition of IT Services’ impact on research 

It’s always great to see the work of colleagues getting public recognition, so it was fantastic to see a recent example of our collaboration with researchers coming to fruition. 

Contributions to supporting research from members of IT Services were noted in the acknowledgments of a new paper entitled "Numerical Simulations of a Spin Dynamics Model Based on a Path Integral Approach".  

A PDF of the paper itself is also available.