Tech Tuesday: Change management demystified

Ever wonder why IRT has to announce network or system outages (such as the one on Saturday, Dec. 5)?

UST central systems such as Banner, Web sites, Email (Exchange) and Voice Mail all run on computers running Windows, Macintosh, UNIX or Linux server operating systems. These systems require security patches, firmware updates, drive and storage replacements just as a home computer would. Although there are redundant systems in place to ensure that UST’s computing network remains up and running, occasionally the central systems do need to be taken offline for maintenance. The process used for upgrading and maintaining the central systems is called “Change Management.”

IRT’s Information Technology department conducts change management (CM) events throughout the year on both scheduled and as-needed dates. Although emergency hardware repairs may require that a central system be taken down immediately, CM events are normally scheduled for Sunday mornings, so as to minimize the impact on academic and administrative computing needs. As a general rule CM events occur monthly, but also are scheduled much more heavily during summer and winter breaks to take advantage of the lower demand on systems during these times.

Once an update is released, a system is identified for maintenance, or an upgrade is requested by the UST community, the administrator of the server in question investigates what is required to perform the upgrade. Following appropriate planning and testing, the server administrator requests that the upgrade be conducted at an upcoming CM event. The request undergoes a review process in which feedback is sought from affected and interested parties, the maintenance is scheduled, and is coordinated with all other maintenance being requested for that particular CM event. A schedule and communication plan based on the work to be performed also is drafted during the review process.

When the day for the maintenance arrives, the server administrative team will take the affected central systems offline to perform the work. Usually, the work will begin prior to 6 a.m. As the work progresses, other systems may need to be taken down and brought back up throughout the process. Once the work has been completed, there is a testing phase, which is conducted prior to the systems being brought back online. Once the test is passed, the systems are brought back online and the CM event is complete.