The University Record, November 26, 1997

Basic computing services to be provided at no charge as of January

Editor's Note: This article is excerpted from one by Janet Eaton of the Information Technology Division in the November ITDigest. The full text is available on the Web at http://www.itd.umich.edu/ITDigest/1197/feat01.html

Starting in January, students, faculty and regular staff on the Ann Arbor campus will be provided with a basic computing package at no charge. Gone will be the monthly Information Technology Division (ITD) computing allocation that required individual users to search through a menu of computing services, figure out what they needed and then allocate funds to each of those individual services. Instead, the University will automatically provide a set of core services that will meet the basic computing needs of all users on campus.

Demand for ITD services continues to rise each year, while funding levels have remained essentially unchanged.

"We need a new approach to providing services that makes the most effective and efficient use of our resources," says Jose-Marie Griffiths, University chief information officer and ITD executive director. "We are focusing our efforts on core services that are essential to the learning, teaching and research activities of the campus.

"I believe ITD can best meet the growing demand for basic services„and for easy, uninterrupted access to those services„by providing the new basic computing package to all eligible users at no charge," she says.

Those who need more or specialized technology services will be able to purchase them through student, department or other accounts on an as-needed basis.

What's included

In a nutshell, the basic computing package includes use of e-mail, the Login Service, the Web and Conferencing On the Web (COW), five megabytes of file storage on the Institutional File System (IFS), Confer U and Usenet. It also includes 120 pages of laser printing at the Campus Computing Sites and 80 hours of local dial-in access per term. Additional charged-for services also are available.

In the new model, services will be provided on a per-term basis„rather than a per-month basis„with terms being defined as three four-month periods beginning in January, May and September.

No sign-up necessary

Users will not need to subscribe to any of the services included in the basic computing package; they will simply be auto-subscribed to them the first time they use them. Metered services (dial-in and printing) will continue to be accessible after the allocated levels are depleted as long as a viable billing arrangement is in place.

All students, faculty, and staff who are currently eligible for ITD computing services will receive the new package in early January. New students, faculty, and staff will receive the basic package when they join the University.

Simpler buying options

"People have been asking for a way to reduce interruptions to charged-for services like dial-in access and printing," says Gordon Leacock, ITD's interim director for product development and deployment. "Those interruptions were often due to the charging procedures associated with individual accounts and the computing allocation.

"We now have the means to automate the charging process," Leacock says. Automated billing will greatly reduce the need for trips to the Accounts Office and NUBS to set up self-funded accounts--trips that were sometimes made on an emergency basis.

Self-funded accounts, which allow a user to purchase computing services on a pay-in-advance basis, also will continue to be offered as an option. Current self-funded accounts will be tapped as a first source of cash payment for use of services beyond those included in the basic package in the coming term.

Charged-for services

Users will still need to subscribe to charged-for services, such as Lotus Notes, the Statistics and Computation Service and additional IFS space. "We understand these services are essential to the performance of certain tasks within the University," Griffiths says. "We will continue to make them as easy to obtain and as inexpensive as possible for those who need them."

ITD recommends that all individuals check to make sure they aren't signed up for charged-for services they don't want or need. Under the old model, users who were inadvertently signed up for a service they didn't need might not know that they were in fact "buying" an unnecessary resource with their allocation. Starting in January, however, all existing subscriptions to services not included in the basic package will carry forward to the new system and begin being charged against a student or department account in real dollars.

Students who have subscription or billing questions should contact the ITD Accounts Office at 764-8000 or itd.accounts.office@umich.edu. Faculty and staff with questions may want to check first with their departmental system administrator to see if they are eligible for funds, or if funding arrangements are already in place.

Details of the new plan are still being finalized and tested. Watch for a special information technology supplement to be published in the Dec. 10 Record. The supplement will also be distributed in the Campus Computing Sites and other locations on campus. Up-to-date information on ITD's products and services can be found on the Web at http://www.itd.umich.edu.