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Annual Report 2014/15

A Look Back

Message from the CIO

Technology touches nearly every aspect of our daily interactions, notably at UBC, where it enables us to solve complex research problems, empower students and alumni, or quickly extract 10,000 GB of data within a few seconds.

Every year we take time to pause and reflect on the impact that UBC Information Technology (UBC IT) has made in the community. I am pleased to share the 2014/2015 UBC IT Annual Report, which provides a look into some of the highlights from the past fiscal year and celebrates the partnerships that have led to a greater level of collaboration and innovation in our community.

I invite you to read through the stories below that provide a glimpse into the breadth of the work that is completed by this department to help further UBC's goals for teaching and research, as well as working together with the UBC community to ensure a sustainable, secure infrastructure.

The next year and beyond will see us continuing to evolve our services, whether it is through enriching learning experiences, supporting exciting research initiatives, or creating awareness about information security on campus.

Our community is full of inspiring leaders and experts who push us to discover new and advanced technologies to support big ideas in the higher education sector. Given the accelerating pace of advancement in technology, we strive to continue to deliver the IT solutions and services to enable everyone at the university to pursue their best work – pushing the boundaries of the digital age further than ever before.


Jennifer Burns
Jennifer Burns
Chief Information Officer

A Year In Review

UBC Core Network Availability
UBC Wireless Core Availability
Websites Created
Pageviews Per Month for
3.6 Billion
Identity Access Management Transactions Per Year
Applications Using Identity Access Management Services
Videos Created
Entries On UBC Video Share
Wireless Access Points - Vancouver
Wireless Access Points - Okanagan
Faculty & Staff Email Mailboxes
Student & Alumni Email Forwarding Addresses
5,000 TB
Total Storage (Vancouver / Okanagan) Managed
Virtual Machines
UBC Phone Numbers - VOIP
UBC Phone Numbers - TDM (Analogue Lines)
Tickets Resolved
Desktop And Hardware Requests
Active Courses On Connect
Active Users On Connect
Average Daily Prints Via Pay For Print
Posters Printed From Creative Media Services
System Upgrades In Classrooms Or Learning Spaces
Video Conferencing and Video Production Handled

Automatic Service Account Provisioning

The onboarding process is a critical time in any employee's career. Despite this, 22 percent of organizations have no formal onboarding program and 49 percent see themselves as only somewhat successful with the process1.

In 2014, UBC IT introduced a new initiative to consolidate the university's process for campus IT services and Campus Wide Login (CWL) account creation. This process, now known as AccessUBC, worked to shorten the process substantially as well as to address security and legal obligations for managing personal identity information.

For the departments and faculties that participated in the first roll-out phase of AccessUBC, permitting access for a new employee to UBC IT services could take up to an average of seven to ten days. Employee life cycling processes also differed from department to department. Now, the process has been substantially shortened down to one day.

With AccessUBC, automatic account provisioning can be completed immediately for new staff across a variety of campus wide services, including Faculty and Staff email, SharePoint, Mailing Lists, Virtual Desktop Interface, Campus Wide Login, Teamshare, and Workspace.

Along with making it easier for assimilating new staff, AccessUBC provides an improved level of security by automatically and immediately de-provisioning accounts for employees no longer with UBC.

The centralized and automated service life cycling system at UBC is proving to be beneficial both for those being on-boarded, who are enjoying smoother and quicker transitions into their new roles, as well as with managers who are finding it easier to oversee the process.

Evolving a Critical Response Process

New security vulnerabilities are discovered on a daily basis. However, this past year marked the beginning of an era of naming vulnerabilities and seeing them take centre stage in the mainstream media, due to their complexity and broad scope of exploitation. Heartbleed, Shellshock, and ransomware, such as CryptoLocker are just some of these examples. Dealing with such intricate vulnerabilities requires a speedy response and an executable plan that involves collaboration across the organization. For the university, UBC IT has refined its critical response process and implemented a University-Wide External Vulnerability Scanning initiative, which has received a tremendous positive response from IT across the university.

Enhanced communications and methods in approaching and identifying vulnerable systems, and deploying patches are just some of the ways UBC IT has improved its critical response process. Last summer, UBC IT began issuing vulnerability reports on a regular basis regarding enterprise networks and systems within UBC IT to review if any patching is necessary.

For the rest of the university's IT systems, an external vendor was hired to assist with the process, due to the scope and size of UBC, and to provide insight on how attackers can externally exploit our university systems. It was pivotal to be able to provide this information to departments and faculties to ensure they are protected from possible attacks.

The Security Centre Operations Response (SCOR) team has also been in place to manage security incidents, including vulnerabilities at the university. When new vulnerabilities are discovered, the SCOR team reviews them and identifies an effective strategy for protecting against the vulnerabilities, patching them, discussing actions to take, and regular reporting on vulnerabilities.

"We've come a long way since Heartbleed, when we had to develop new processes on communication and patch management. Today, we have a critical security incident (also known as a "Code 3" internally) process that we can put in place. Our maturity is now at a level where we constantly re-evaluate the risk to the university during a Code 3. Should that risk drop, we downgrade the incident to a standard event," says Larry Carson, Associate Director Information Security Management.

Average number of blocked messages monthly

Number of encrypted workstations
(not including smartphones and tablets)

Enhancing Student and Administrator Experience through SASI

Launched in May 2014, the Student Academic Systems Initiative (SASI) is a large scale UBC-wide program working in collaboration with units across campuses, that seeks to transform the way students, faculty and staff interact to support student success and to replace the current aging Student Information System (SIS). SASI will revolutionize the academic administrative experience for 65,000 students, and 15,000 academic and administrative staff across the University with enhanced functionality and process improvement.

This past year, SASI has been working in partnership with the UBC community to gather requirements as part of its Design and Validation phase in order to review the suitability of the SITS:Vision platform and establish an Implementation Plan. In addition, the SASI team transformed two core systems: the Graduate Admissions Application System (also known as the Graduate Admissions Streamlining Project (GRASP)) and Sauder Executive Education's Enrolment and Registration System.


Each year, UBC receives an average of 15,000 graduate applications. GRASP replaced a limited functionality graduate admission application system with a platform that offers end-to-end application, evaluation, and an admissions system that is expected to improve time and cost efficiency of applications, as well as provide better data quality and distribution.

By working with graduate programs and conducting focus groups, the newly designed user interface allows applicants to receive a more tailored experience, such as receiving specific program information and requirements throughout the application process. On the administrative side, information from applicants is captured in a more organized and streamlined way and supports the development of in-system evaluation and admissions.

"I continue to appreciate the new centralized nature of admissions which now enables things to happen in one system, allowing for an informed and streamlined process," says Anonymous, Graduate Student Services Coordinator, UBC Vancouver Campus.

Sauder Executive Education

Similar to GRASP, Sauder Executive Education required a replacement for their aging Enrolment and Registration System to support the registration processes for the Executive Education program. The new system supports their capabilities of prospective student management, course and event planning, registration and payment, student interaction, and reporting and analytics.

What's Next for SASI?

Along with developing a comprehensive Implementation Plan, the Design and Validation phase will ensure that the SITS:Vision platform can meet the long term objectives of the UBC community by providing a foundation for future functionality and process improvements. For more information on SASI, please visit

Creating an (Almost) Paperless Office

Although we are more than a decade into the 21st century, most offices are still far from a "paperless society" once envisioned by information scientist Frederick Wildfrid Lancaster in 1978. However, thanks to emerging digital technologies, it is becoming easier to decrease the amount of paperwork on campus in the effort to realize UBC's carbon footprint reduction goals.

Most recently, UBC Treasury worked with UBC IT to modernize their storage and documentation process in order to make the move to an (almost) paperless office. The department was responsible for storing many valuable hardcopy documents dating back decades – many of which were irreplaceable in the event of a disaster. Additionally, the document search and retrieval was based on a time-consuming process that relied on organizing documents in number sequences, which meant that staff searching for a document needed to know its exact description.

By introducing SharePoint into their workflow, employees are able to immediately access the documents they need. The new properly indexed and keyword-based digital system is far easier—and faster—to search than the previous landscape of numerically organized filing cabinets. Staff are able to scan a document to the system, which will then automatically capture and populate the metadata information. Aside from the enhanced functionality of search, SharePoint offers an advanced level of security to keep personal information safe. In addition, with an entirely online process protected with permissions there is no longer a need to store important documents offline or in email inboxes.

By developing a new digital workflow, going paperless has allowed the Treasury Department to reduce clutter from the office environment, helping to save time, money, and storage space.

James Heth

Assistant Treasurer


"Treasury transitioned to SharePoint to reduce the amount of paper files that we needed to store, to back up important university agreements, and improve efficiency of retrieval and reporting. We were able to eliminate three full filing cabinets of documents, the majority of which we were able to recycle, and have significantly improved our ability to manage our agreement files."

Designing a Transformative Education Experience

The Sauder School of Business Learning Labs are not your typical classrooms. They are designed to provide a transformative educational experience, with the idea that learning spaces can drive curriculum innovation. To help transform this vision to reality, UBC IT's Audio Visual Team conducted research and reviewed the latest technology available to realize Sauder's classroom vision.

"Responding to change and innovation is not always easy, especially within the culture of higher education; however, for the good of our students and our future as a business school, achieving a new vision is critical to moving forward," says Rob Peregoodoff, Director of Learning Services at Sauder School of Business.

In collaboration with Sauder, the Audio Visual Team's design revealed a classroom space where each table in the room includes a large LCD screen, microphone and the capability to interface devices such as laptops and tablets wirelessly to the audio visual system.

With this design, instructors can circulate freely around the room while providing instruction and students can actively engage with each other throughout the room. There are also two tables equipped with video cameras supplemented by four ceiling cameras which allows web conferencing and video capture capabilities, allowing collaborators to join from anywhere in the world. The Sauder School of Business Learning Labs serves many different styles of teaching and functionalities.

"The Sauder Learning Labs embodies a new model of collaboration between administration, faculty and support services that have provided our students with a transformative learning experience each and every day. Simply put, students feel more like real professionals on a career trajectory than a number in a large lecture hall," adds Peregoodoff.

For future projects, Ken Watanabe, Project Manager of Audio Visual Services at UBC IT recommends, "Keep an open mind and be innovative to create something visionary. This design has certainly paved the roadmap for future learning labs."

Streamlining the Leave Request Process

In 2004, a Personnel Absence Tracker tool (PAT) was first developed in-house at UBC to fill a gap in the marketplace and create a tailored approach to absence management for HR administrators. This past year, a significant upgrade was performed to streamline the PAT process and greatly improve workflow.

Previously, it was challenging at times for HR to keep track of who had requested leave, when, and what their details were. If a staff member wished to request a leave of absence, they would be required to fill out a form, which would then go through various levels of approval before being accepted and filed. This process would cause requests to accumulate, especially during Christmas and summer holidays.

With the recent upgrade to PAT, the process has become completely digital. Staff are able to submit their leave requests directly into the online tool, which has eliminated the need for paper forms and ensured that requests are tracked accurately.

Through custom design, permissions settings and leave types have been built into the service depending on the user's employment group to eliminate confusion. In addition, supervisors are now able to quickly and easily see who is away in a department of over 350 employees in order to keep track of requests and plan accordingly.

The PAT service has been adopted by eight departments across campus. UBC IT currently supports over 1,300 employees at the university. By incorporating the leave request tracker tool, each department saves an average of $3,375 towards HR work and an estimated $500 on paper and printer costs alone per year.

Anna Bin

Senior Manager

Faculty Affairs & Human Resources

"PAT has significantly streamlined the manual work required in tracking Faculty staff's leaves and vacation and reduced the potential for manual calculation errors."

A Collaborative Space Transforming Ideas into Reality

The past several years, Okanagan, BC has become a major technology hub in the province, with Kelowna recognized as one of Canada's top entrepreneurial cities1. Due to a strong interest from the government to bridge academia and industry partners to foster innovation and economic growth, Survive and Thrive Applied Research (STAR) was born.

STAR is a collaborative space at UBC Okanagan campus where industry partners can transform their ideas into reality, particularly in the field of human protection and performance, by working with UBC researchers, faculty members, and technological specialists.

UBC IT facilitated in creating the space by taking part in advising architecture layout, providing expertise on acquiring IT equipment, ensuring that adequate support staff members are in place, and connecting industry partners to researchers that can provide valuable insight on managing specialized equipment.

The facility is equipped with a range of tools and equipment such as powerful 3D printers, phantom cameras (a video camera that takes 100,000 frames per second), and an off-site ballistic lab.

Current projects with industry partnerships include developing helmets that reduce sports-related concussions, and creating a wireless-based emergency stop system for industrial machinery.

"The access to first-class equipment at the STAR facility, as well as the world-class knowledge and expertise at UBC, is truly valuable on a global scale… STAR allows us to further our research and try new things we otherwise couldn't do" says Daniel Plant, Founder and technology inventor, Armourgel Ltd. Fellow, Royal Academy of Engineering at Imperial College London.

Expanding Server Rack Capacity

As a top 40 global research university and one of Canada's major research hubs, innovative studies and new discoveries are constantly taking place at UBC. Ensuring that the necessary tools and equipment are available is pivotal to maintaining this level of excellence. Expanding the server rack capacity at the University Data Centre's (UDC)—UBC's highest performance computing housing centre launched in 2013—to meet and prepare for future demands of data and storage facilities needs was one of the many research-related focuses UBC IT has worked on this past year.

Currently, server space is fairly limited on campus. On average, creating new space at an older data centre at the university may require 12 to 18 months to build. By proactively building and increasing the amount of server rack space available, UDC is prepared to house a researcher's server once a grant application for high performance computing or other computing/storage need is received, preventing any delay in beginning research.

No additional equipment relocation or logistics will need to be planned, other than scheduling an installation appointment at the UDC. A full-time operational staff member is also on-site to maintain the card-access only facility, and an alarm system and cameras are set up to enhance the security at the UDC.

John Amor

Computer Systems Manager

Department of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Sciences

"The UDC has allowed EOAS to reduce the number of locations on campus that house our computing equipment and to provide an environment where researchers spend less time worrying about infrastructure and more on doing research. The up-time for the facility has been better than other server rooms we have used and the UDC staff have been very helpful,"

Integrating the Compass Card Program

Since 2003, UBC students have participated in the U-Pass program, which provides discounted access to transit services. With support from the BC Government, the U-Pass BC program has grown to cover 150,000 post-secondary students in the Lower Mainland.

When TransLink announced that they would be rolling out a new reloadable electronic fare card to its ridership, the participating post-secondary institutions and student associations needed to find a solution to work with the new system that would require minimal changes for students.

While most people like progress, not everyone likes change. In order to have minor impact on students, the U-Pass BC Advisory Committee established a technical subcommittee to develop a solution collaboratively with Translink. The group created a solution that protected students’ privacy and removed the institution as a pass distributor.

Rather than having to pick up a paper pass physically from a dispenser at UBC each month, students can simply request their monthly pass online with their Campus Wide Login credentials. If eligible, Translink's system loads the U-Pass BC onto the Compass Card registered by the student.

From a student's perspective, the U-Pass BC program has remained essentially the same and no extensive change management was needed.

"The best technologies are the ones that are never noticed," summarizes Paul Hobson, Director of Enterprise Architecture at UBC IT.

UBC Workspace, A Cloud Storage Solution for Higher Education

At UBC, working with highly confidential information and large data files is an everyday task for most staff, faculty, and graduate students. Although numerous cloud solutions are available, many of them do not meet security and privacy requirements for the university. UBC Workspace1 is the first of its kind in Canada for a cloud storage solution that’s tailored towards higher education.

Originally launched in 2013, the updated software launched this past year (also known as "Workspace 2.0") for staff and faculty, comes with a much improved user interface, security features, and stability compared to its predecessor. With 20GB of free storage, Workspace offers an easy and secure way to share files, both internally and externally with colleagues, partners and clients on any supported device, while being locally hosted at UBC and complying with Canadian, Provincial, and UBC security requirements.

The significance of this service for the university was never taken lightly. To prepare Workspace for a large community like UBC, pilot programs of the service were created for both Workspace 1.0 and Workspace 2.0. The pilots provided feedback about the service from users and assisted UBC IT's Systems team on developing a service and an implementation plan that would scale the service to the entire university, while meeting user requirements and operating as intended for UBC's network of internal and external users.

In the near future, Workspace hopes to include additional functionality features, as well as explore other options, such as the new Canadian hosted Microsoft OneDrive.

Stefan Mladenovic

Information Systems Manager

Faculty of Medicine

"Our unit of over 120 faculty and staff is at 90% adoption for Workspace 2.0. The convenience of easily sharing with external users and the built-in encryption are the features that our users like the most. With Workspace 2.0, there was better awareness of the features and users were approaching me with requests to upgrade or questions about the upgrade,"

The Power of Video

How can you get a taste of what UBC life has to offer without ever visiting the campus? An estimated 90 percent of international students never have the chance to physically visit the campus before deciding to pursue an education at UBC. To help showcase the campus, UBC Studios produced a video to help international prospective students with their decision of whether to spend the next four years of their life at UBC.

By combining shots of campus architecture, athletics, in-class research, and the uniqueness of both the Vancouver and Okanagan campuses, This is Our World was able to demonstrate everything that UBC has to offer with only seven simple words and is shown by recruiters to an average of 20,000 students a year around the globe.

The final video has managed to capture the attention of an international and culturally broad audience with over 18,000 views of the video on the UBC Prospective Graduate YouTube channel alone. This is Our World has been viewed in 165 countries around the world including Bulgaria, Yemen, Iceland, and Mongolia.

"Since I had never been to Canada beforehand, watching UBC's videos helped my family and I feel more comfortable and incredibly excited with the decision of UBC being my post-secondary school of choice," said J. Leano, a 4th year Psychology Major in the Faculty of Arts.

UBC IT Helps Launch New Online Research Hub

The scope of research at UBC covers a wide range of disciplines in almost every field, pushing the boundaries of knowledge and improving lives around the world.

To uphold UBC's global status in research excellence, the Vice President Research International (VPRI) required a website that would provide a focal point to highlight the range and impact of research and international engagement at UBC. Simultaneously, the site also needed to act as a portal for researchers looking to access support services for their activities.

UBC IT Web Services was given the opportunity to work closely with VPRI to produce an online research hub to serve both the internal UBC audience and an external audience comprised of potential students, partners and faculty as well as government and community stakeholders.

A discovery process involving consultation, analytics, and navigation testing was completed to complement the engaging design produced by UBC Marketing and Communications along with a sustainable content strategy developed by VPRI. The result was a story-rich website that combined original content and existing content from across the campus into a seamless web experience for both internal and external audiences.

Since the new website was launched, VPRI has achieved amazing results. In the first five months, page views have increased by more than 90 percent compared to the same period the previous year, while mobile traffic has increased by over 300 percent. Through working with UBC's institutional social media channels managed by Communications and Marketing, social media referrals increased from four to well over 7,500, and VPRI website video content posted on these channels attracted an additional 74,000 views.

Julie Ovenell

Communications Director

VP Research & International Office

"This project was a collaborative effort across multiple departments to highlight the impressive scope of UBC's research and international engagement. It provides a spotlight for some of the many areas of excellence that make UBC a top 40 global research university."

Jamie Hall

Communications Manager

VP Research & International Office

UBC IT Talks

With over 20,000 staff and faculty members at UBC, it can be challenging to meet colleagues in other departments and units across campus. To help provide a forum for collaboration, UBC IT introduced a new event series to bring staff and faculty together to connect and discuss pivotal issues important to the community.

The inaugural UBC IT Talks event was held in the spring of 2015 and focused on empowering women with leadership roles in science, engineering, technology, and trades. The event featured two distinguished speakers: Tina Nunno, Vice President and Gartner Fellow in Gartner's CIO Research Group, and Dr. Rachel Kuske, Senior Advisor to the Provost on Women Faculty.

With over 200 attendees from UBC, as well as external organizations, the event provided an inspiring forum for participants to share ideas, connect and explore new concepts in leadership and technology.

"There's something refreshing about meeting face-to-face and having a conversation that's not delayed or happening through email," explains Lida Mosadegh, Manager of Communications at UBC IT. "Our mission going forward with UBC IT Talks is to increase engagement with our colleagues across the university and to provide a place to learn from experts and innovators in the technology community."

Proactively Mitigating Risks

At UBC, there are currently 34 supported applications designed to manage student information. Ensuring availability, reliability, and security for these services that include the Student Information Service Centre, Student Service Centre, ePayment Gateway, Faculty Service Centre, and Early Alert is crucial. The Academic Systems Support team has implemented a set of tools in order to proactively address problems and to prevent outages and security breaches on these applications.

First, the team ensures that as many processes as possible are automated. Automation reduces the chance for human error and increases efficiency. With over 200 servers hosting UBC's Academic Systems applications, an automated process for configuration changes, upgrades, patching, and security updates is essential to stay on top of the latest security threats and make the production environment functional and reliable.

Second, the team has utilized a tool that analyzes the source code of applications to identify and address various vulnerabilities, including those related to security.

Finally, the team is actively involved in a Log Consolidation project that ensures that activities on production environment can be reviewed and audited in real-time mode. This increases the quality of application monitoring and helps in detecting and troubleshooting problems before they impact users.

By controlling the environment and proactively monitoring the systems, the Academic Systems Support Team assures privacy, security, and availability for student systems.

Annie Yim

Associate Registrar & HR Director

Student Records & Systems Management

"Enrolment Services has developed a collaborative partnership with Academic Systems Support with the common goal of ensuring the security and privacy of student data. This partnership, along with the proactive measures and responsiveness of Academic Systems Support helps to facilitate confidence in the security of the Student Information System."