IT Services

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Welcome to Information Technology Services. This site has been set up to provide you with the most up-to-date information regarding information technology services within the School of Public Health. Information Technology Services is responsible for all computer and video conferencing capabilities at the School of Public Health.

Password Changes

If you need to obtain a password or have your password changed, you may contact a support specialist listed on the right, or contact the UTHSC Help Desk at 713-486-4848. Please remember that it is a violation ot UT Policy to ever share your password with anyone.

Core Service Areas

  • Desktops
  • Servers
  • Videoconferencing (ITV)
  • Website & Web Application Development
  • Databases

Services Offered

Desktops. SPH IT Services is responsible for the design, configuration, installation, maintenance, and surplus of all desktop computers. In large part, SPH utilized primarily Dell machines with a Windows operating system; however, specialty systems can be configured when required. All desktops are required to be no greater than 48 months in age, by SPH Computer Policy. Faculty are provided a computer from State funds, but may supplement their computer resources using research or other designated funding. Classified staff who are 100% funded from State accounts are also supplied a computer; however, classified staff who are paid from grant funds must be supplied a computer from those grant funds. In any case, no matter what funding source, appropriation and support services are provided through IT Services

Servers. SPH IT Services maintains a high end data center with all the modern support services which you would expect. Aside from managing servers for administrative functions, IT Services can assist researchers with designing specific servers for their projects. This includes meeting with the project sponsors, designing the server(s), installing and supporting those servers over the life of the project, and finally standing down the server when needed. A range of expertise exists in IT Services to support web servers, storage servers, database servers, virtual servers, and highly project specific servers. While mainly supporting Windows based servers, all considerations are taken into account when designing a new system. At present, IT Services manages more than 150 servers.

Videoconferencing (ITV). SPH IT Services is responsible for all classroom technology and any conference rooms which include videoconferencing features. A full list of these rooms can be found at this link.

Website & Web Application Development. SPH IT Services has a dedicated staff of developers that support the business needs of the school.  There is always more work than IT Services can handle and many times we help a project locate available resources in the Houston area for contract development when required. Many times this will include an IT Services employee serving as a project resource or even project administrator on the contract.  To learn more, click here.

Databases. SPH IT Services assists all employees when in need of database creation, assistance, or other services. Often times, Microsoft Access is not appropriate due to the size or sensitivity of the data. IT Services can assist in putting data on database servers in the data center which offer better performance and security.

Current Students

The information below is the latest information technology information for current students enrolled in degree and certificate programs at SPH.

New Students

If you are a new student to SPH, or considering us for your education, you might be asking yourself some of these questions.

Q. Will I need a specific computer to enroll or complete my degree program? SPH does not specifically require that a student have a personal computer; however, a personal desktop or laptop is recommended. Most student resources are available for both PC and Mac computers; however, SPH does prefer new students purchase a PC with the WIndows operating system.

Q. Will I need to purchase software? SPH maintains both a physical and virtual computer lab. The physical computer labs are located on the Houston, Dallas, El Paso, Brownsville and San Antonio campuses. However, most students become very accustomed to using the virtual computer lab for their specific software needs. The virtual computer lab allows you to connect from any Internet accessible location to access a suite of software necessary for most degree programs. For more specific information about the virtual computer lab, see the Current Students section above.

Q. Is wireless access available? Yes. Secured wireless access is available to all enrolled students at all campuses.

For additional information or questions, please contact Derek Drawhorn, 713-500-9533.

General Information

ITV/Classroom Assistance

Grant Assistance Information

  • Computer Facilities and Resources. This handout generally describes computing resources at the UTSPH.
  • HIPAA Compliance Statement. This handout provides a brief overview of our compliance for granting purposes.
  • NIH System Security Plan (SSP) Template (PDF) (DOC). This is a template which can be used when submitting NIH grants which require an SSP.
  • NIST System Security Plan (SSP) Template. (PDF) (DOC) This is a template which can be used when submitting NIST grants which require an SSP.

IT Policies

Other Useful Links

Virtual Computers for Research

IT Services can provide virtual computers for use by internal and external collaborators and researchers.  This may be necessary when you have data which you care to protect more carefully.  In some cases, you may have signed a contract or an agreement in which you would share the data but it would be kept in one secure location.  As we have seen more collaboration with external researchers from other Universities, it has become necessary to both provide collaborative access to collected data and keep it very secure to protect the integrity of the data and the possible identity of study participants.  IT Services provides two types of virtual computers:

IT Services provides two types of virtual computers; Windows 8.1 Personal VM and Windows Server 2008 R2 Terminal Server VM :

The Windows 8.1 Personal VM has two standard configurations

  • BASE Machine:  1 Processor, 4GB RAM, 100GB Disk  – $700 for four years of use
  • PERFORMANCE Machine: 2 Processors, 8GB RAM, 100GB Disk  – $1400 for four years of use
  • The performance model can be scaled out as far as 16 Processors and 64 GB of RAM in $700 increments.  Each increment adds 1 Processor and 4 GB of RAM  ($11,200 for the maximum configuration).

The Windows Server 2008 R2 Terminal Server VM is designed for a group of 3 or more users.

  • Base Machine:  3 Processors, 12 GB of RAM, 300 GB Disk $2100 for four years of use (limited to 3 named users).
  • This model can be scaled out as far as 16 Processors and 64 GB of RAM in $700 increments (up to 16 named users).   ($11,200 for the maximum configuration).

In some cases, projects have purchased as many as 10 of these virtual machines for both internal employees (graduate assistants and staff) as well as external collaborators.   IT Services only provides Windows based virtual computers.  Once the virtual computer has been created, you can access the computer using Remote Desktop Protocol which comes installed on all Windows 7/8 computers.

External users would first have to obtain a guest account and access the VPN (virtual private network) and can then access the workstation created for them.

Microsoft Office is installed on these computers, but you will need to purchase any additional software you would like to install, such as Adobe Acrobat, SAS, Stata, etc.  You will have to budget these costs independently of the virtual computer.  The monies collected will be used to continue to update and replace the servers which are required to provide these virtual machines.  Once the four year period has ended, you will be given the opportunity to continue with the computer.  If you do, the assessment will need to be paid for an additional four year term.

IT Services will service these virtual computers like any other computer in the building.  This includes any assistance in accessing the computer, installing software, and applying all required and necessary operating system patches on a monthly basis.

A detailed analysis of the IT Service rate for virtual computers, compared with other market rates, is available here.

Other Development

IT Services has in the past provided fee based services for web application development, including electronic forms and workflow development and dashboards.  This service is currently on hold as a result of an abundance of work which is preventing us from taking on any new development efforts.  We hope to be available for this service again in 2015/2016.   Please stay tuned.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

How secure are these virtual computers?   A virtual computer is not much different than a normal computer sitting on a desk in one of our buildings.  Rather than a machine that can be picked up and moved around, a virtual computer is actually running on a large server platform in our data center, the most protected security zone we have.  In this sense, a virtual machine is far more protected than an average workstation.   Even though they are virtual, they are still managed by IT Services, which includes patch/anti-virus/anti-malware management.  Access to these virtual computers is not only restricted from the general internet, they are also reserved and restricted for use only by the person/project for which they were purposed, unlike a normal workstation in an office which can be accessed by anyone with an account.

Are these virtual computers backed up?  How do I protect my data?   These machines are NOT backed up.  This is true for all workstations at SPH.  Your data should always be kept on the NAS (network attached storage) which is backed up daily.

If these machines are virtual, why aren’t they free?   These virtual computers run on a Windows dual-server cluster.  It requires two robust servers and a shared disk platform in order for this to be made possible.  With the current specification and capabilities, we can host roughly 50 virtual computers per cluster.  Each cluster costs about $35,000.   The simple math tells you that 50 * 700 equals $35,000.  We need to replace each cluster every four years.  Collection of these fees will allow us to provide these resources in an ongoing fashion.

What is performance like for a virtual machine?  Very good.  These virtual machines are actually running on a high performance server cluster.  The memory and processors are built for very intense computing operations.  Those who have taken advantage of this service have been very pleased with the performance.

Are there any software restrictions to using a virtual machine?  There are some cases where certain packages may not work as well as others.  IT Services has experience with many of the packages used by faculty and staff and can assist in advising on how to configure software for this platform.  The key is to let us know ahead of time what software you intend to use.

A virtual machine has access to a disk drive, but what about access to the NAS (network storage) or FILR?   The local storage available to the virtual machine is available to the Windows operating system and the installation of software, but all data should be stored and accessed on the NAS or FILR.  These resources are fully available through the virtual computer.

What if I do not like using the virtual machines?   You have 30 days to use and test the virtual machines once they are created.   If for any reason during those 30 days you want to change your mind and purchase actual computers, you will receive a 100% refund.   After 30 days, whether you choose to use or not use the virtual machine(s), no refund will be available.

My grant stipulates I must be able to have physical access to a machine on my project or I should be able to secure the machine for years after the project ends?  How does this relate to virtual machines?    Many granting agencies have not fully embraced the digital world of cloud computing.  Granting agencies very much like to purchase physical equipment, own that equipment, and then be able to show a physical destruction of that equipment when the grant ends.   This is NOT possible when using virtual computers.  These virtual computers are part of a shared resource, much like the NAS disk storage systems.  Grants use the NAS storage, but it would not be feasible for a PI on a grant to come and demand their “drives” for their grant.  These large storage systems have thousands of drives and data is stored across many variable drives for high throughput access.  The same is true for virtual computers, they are not physical assets which can be passed around like a normal computer.  Talk this technology over with your granting agency, many are coming around and have accepted this technology as a great way of getting work done in a secure manner.   If your granting agency insists you not use this technology, you should not do so and speak with us about possible alternatives.