FAQs – New Software requests and replacement of IT and AV equipment

Q: When is software updated and why?

Every year, IS&T updates the Managed Desktop with newer software and slightly different settings. We frequently make minor updates to core software (such as browsers and plug-ins) to maintain security and provide new features. We make the major changes once a year, over the summer, to avoid disrupting the business of the University.

We also deploy new versions of teaching software into our teaching rooms each summer to avoid any staff or students having to change the software they use midway through the teaching year.

Q: How do I request new software?

There are two ways to request software

  • the primary method is part of the annual or business planning process so money can be approved to purchase software.
  • IS&T also has some funding available for in year purchase so urgent or small purchases can be made throughout the academic year by contacting IT Help.

In both cases purchases need appropriate faculty or directorate approval

The University already has a large software portfolio so may already own the software you need or something similar. A list of software available for use in teaching can be found on the SHU Software List

Q: What is the annual planning process for software?

Your directorate or faculty will have its own process for requesting new software. For software which is needed for the start of teaching in semester 1 (September) or semester 2 (February), you will typically need to submit your request through your subject group leader (via your line manager) who will forward it on to the member of staff co-ordinating the business planning items for your Faculty. IS&T needs all requests from the Faculties business planning process by 7 April. How long before that date you need to submit your request depends on how long your faculty or department takes to coordinate them.

IS&T can help with costing and sourcing software so if you are thinking of asking for software, please contact IT and a member of IT staff will contact you to help cost what you need.

Q: What if I have a request during the course of the year

These are known as ‘In year’ requests. For these, please get approval from your faculty and contact IT Help with your request and we will do our best to meet you requirements.

Q: What if I need new equipment?

The process is the same as for new software. Your faculty or directorate will need to consider your requirements along with all the others and then decide what they want to request from IS&T.

Q: How often are PCs and AV systems replaced?

We replace PCs and AV equipment as they get older on an annual cycle to ensure that we have equipment which is reliable. You should not need to request this as IS&T have an ongoing programme of replacing equipment as it reaches its 5th year. Where there is a need for high specification PCs to run specific software, such as computer modelling software, we will replace PCs on a shorter cycle and reuse them to other locations.

Q: I need software only on my PC and not for teaching rooms – how do I request this?

If you need some software to run on your own PC, that’s more straight forward, as long as there’s a budget for it. You can refer the request through your line manager for approval and, if approved, they will forward it on to IS&T for consideration.

Q: How do I work out the cost of the software or equipment I need? Can you help me?

You can look online to see an indicative price for the software. There is usually an educational discount of about 10 per cent. It’s not always straightforward though so you may need our help with checking things like how many licenses you will require.

IS&T can help with costing and sourcing software so if you are thinking of making a request, please contact us for assistance.

Q: How do I make sure it’s ready in time for my teaching for the start of the academic year?

You need to make sure your faculty or department has requested it by the April deadline and be available to test it before it is finally installed. If you are planning on going away over summer, please tell us in plenty of time. It will also help if you give us the name of someone else who can test the software while you aren’t around. (Although, obviously, you will need to make sure they are happy and available to do so first.)

We aim to have all software ready by the end of August at the latest but you will need to test it to ensure it all works as you require before we can install it in the PC Labs.

Q: Why does it take so long for my new software to be installed? I requested it a long time ago?

Sometimes people wonder why they need to request software by April but it isn’t ready until late August. That’s because we need the requests early so we can budget for and plan the procurement but, in most cases, deployment can’t start until all teaching, exams and resits are finished. Because teaching now runs year round, with, for example TARQ and SLIT students being taught over the summer, we are given a very short window of time to install the software in any rooms where teaching takes place. When the software can be installed varies from room to room and we start as soon as we can in each location. As teaching is scheduled in some rooms throughout August and September, we sometimes cannot install software until just before teaching starts.

The actual process is also probably more complex than most people realise and there is time involved there too. Firstly we need to cost it and check the version of software against what others across the University are using or have requested. We then need to work out how many licenses you need (that depends on how many computers are likely to be running it at the same time). After that, we will test that the software you’ve requested works with other programmes which are already running or have been requested by other people in the University (that’s frequently more than 100 new and updated pieces of software each Summer). When all that is done, we need you to test it to make sure it works in the way you expect and that it runs with all the other components you use for teaching. Only then can we package it (that’s what we call getting it ready for installation) and then wait for the slot we’ve been allocated to deploy it into the teaching rooms.

Q: Who makes the decision about whether I can have new software or hardware?

In all cases, the faculty or directorate approves the decision on academic grounds. The process for approving software purchases differs between different faculties and directorates but it’s likely that, in faculties, subject group leaders look at what’s required and will make recommendations to the faculty business planning group. These are then submitted to IS&T to assess any technical limitations which may prevent software being installed and, on rare occasions, we may be unable to provide certain software.

As part of business planning, the University will also make a decision as to how much money is available and whether the software and hardware requests can be funded. For in year purchases, IS&T would need to consider if there is the money available to purchase the software or hardware requested from within that year’s budget.

Q: Who pays for new software or IT or AV equipment?

The University pays for it and it comes out of the IS&T budget for software and IT provision.

Q: Why do I have to test the software? Doesn’t IS&T check that it works properly?

IS&T will, of course, check that it’s installed properly and runs to the best of our knowledge. However, we aren’t experts in the use of all software and, when we do run it, we probably won’t use all the elements you do or do the same things with it. Testing software is a tricky business. Sometimes it appears to be working but won’t run under particular conditions – like the ones you use for teaching, for instance. If you have it open with other programmes, use a particular browser or you work with certain types of hardware, it might crash or throw up glitches we didn’t know existed. That’s why you need to test it in the way you will be using it when you teach.

Q: What happens if I’m on holiday when the time comes to test the new software?

It’s important that you tell us well in advance if you will be away from the University. If you won’t be around for testing, please find someone else who can test the software in the way you are likely to use it and check that all the different components will work.

Q: What if there’s a problem with the new software? If it doesn’t work as expected or the supplier can’t deliver it in time, will I be notified? What provision will be made to make sure I’m ready for teaching at the start of the year?

We know that this can be a worry – particularly for those academics who need everything ready for the start of the teaching year. Making the request in plenty of time (assuming the version you want is already available) and ensuring you test the software carefully will minimise any risk of problems. This is a big University though and we use a lot of different software so occasionally there are complications – either glitches with the programme or conflicts with other software on our managed desktop. If this happens, we will do everything we can to help and will find a way to either fix or, if necessary, work round the problem in time for you to start teaching. In situations like these, communication is particularly important. Explain to us what doesn’t work and we will keep you informed about what we’re doing to try and sort things out.

Q: I have software I don’t use any more, is it slowing down my PC? Can you take it off?

Software you don’t need may well be affecting the speed of your PC. You can contact IT Help to ask for it to be taken off.

Q: There is a piece of software I want to use. How do I know whether this is already available at the University?

In the first instance you should check the list on this page to see what software is available and where it is installed. You can search either by the software name (to find out which rooms it is installed in) or by room (to see which software is installed in that particular room).

If it is available, then you’ll need to make a request via your line manager and subject group leader (for software in teaching rooms) or via your line manager (for software on your office machine) and, if approved, they will send it on to IS&T for consideration. We like to avoid changing software in teaching rooms midway through the academic year because we don’t know how new applications will affect the programmes that are already running on the managed desktop.

Q: There is some free software available on the internet that I’d like to use. Can I download it?

If you want to use it for teaching, you will still need to put a request in – or speak to IT help. Sometimes free software has certain license restrictions, (it might, for instance, be free for individuals for home use but not for corporate/educational use), and can be more prone to bugs and regular updates. It therefore needs to be requested in the same way as other software so it can be packaged, tested and installed in PC labs.

If you want to use it on your own PC and have privilege guard on your PC, you can install it yourself – as long as the licence permits. If you have any doubts about the licence, please contact IT Help and a member of IS&T will be happy to check the licence and advise you.

Q: Why don’t I have admin rights to my PC?

Anyone using a University PC has user rights. This means they can run software and use the PC but cannot install software or make changes to how it is configured. This is a security measure recommended as best practice by IT Security firms and by the University Auditor. This ensures that if a virus tries to install itself on your PC (from a website or an infected file or email), it cannot damage your PC. Most virus attacks on University PCs are when a member of staff has admin rights on the PC they are using

However, we do recognise that many staff need to be able to have more than user rights to their PC, for example academic staff may want to install software to test and evaluate it for use in teaching. We therefore provide an application called Privilege Guard which allows staff to install software and change the settings on their PCs. If you need Privilege Guard please contact IT Help.

Q: What is Privilege Guard?

Privilege Guard is a piece of software installed on your PC which allows us to give users the ability to install software or change certain settings on their PC that they don’t usually have the rights to do.

When you try to install software, you will be prompted for your user name and password and the system will log a record of what software has been installed for audit purposes. We can then prove to any potential auditors that only legal software is being used in the University.

Q: I haven’t requested any new software or equipment – will the changes still affect me?

They might do. If one of your colleagues has asked for an upgrade to a version of the software you are used to working with, you may want to check that it works in the way you want it to and that there are no conflicts with the different components you may use. Also, we completely wipe and reinstall the managed desktop (and reinstall the desktop software on teaching and student PCs) before teaching starts. Other staff PCs aren’t normally upgraded in the same way – they are updated in a non-destructive way – a bit like WIndows updates on your home computer – so all your desktop icons and settings are retained. If you need to prepare lectures and student work on your own PC with software that has been upgraded then you need to request the upgrades by e-mailing IT Help with your computer name and the software titles you require. Look out for communications regarding the agreed software list for the start of teaching after Easter and over the summer to see what software changes might affect you.

Q: What is reimaging?

When we talk about reimaging a PC, we mean the process of removing all software from a computer and then re-installing the windows operating system and all the software – including new and updated versions of software.

Q: Why do we reimage PCs and why do we have to do it every year?

Doing a clean installation is the best way to keep computers operating efficiently because we can ensure there is no unnecessary software running and repair fragmented hard disks. It also minimises the risk of software not working as expected and improves the performance of new and existing hardware. Doing all this together, once a year, rather than as a series of updates, means there is less impact on those using the computers. It’s also the quickest way to make sure that new software requests are installed in the right rooms for the start of the teaching year.

For a fuller explanation of the benefits of reimaging PCs every year, see the more detailed:

Guide to the reasons for reimaging University PCs