UW Information Technology

May 19, 2020

And the work must go on

Portrait of modern mixed race man speaking by phone while working from home in cozy interior.
Ingenuity is the key ingredient for continuing UW operations — from home.

By Ignacio Lobos

Ingenuity has become UW-IT’s watchword because nothing during the COVID-19 pandemic has been normal, except for this: UW has a strong IT infrastructure to support remote work.

Brad Greer portrait

Brad Greer
Associate Vice President and Chief Technology Officer,
University of Washington Information Technology

“No one could have predicted that we would be in this situation,” said Brad Greer, associate vice president and chief technology officer. “Thanks to the University’s ongoing investment in IT and the expertise we have in UW-IT, we have reliable tools and operations for working remotely and for a long stretch of time too in order to be safe and healthy.”

Yet unprecedented times calls for unprecedented action­ — and it’s taken creativity on the part of UW-IT staff to meet the University’s IT needs during the pandemic.

It starts with UW-IT’s Managed Workstation Service (MWS), which quickly created new processes to get computers into the hands of new hires and other staff who need replacement computers during the Stay Home, Stay Safe period, said Kim Frye, Service Manager and engineer.

Then, as thousands of students, faculty and staff needed to connect safety to the UW Network to access resources, teams rushed to add capacity to Husky OnNet, the UW’s virtual private network.

And to ensure UW researchers could continue their crucial work, the UW’s on-site supercomputer, Hyak, was named an essential service and made available 24/7.

Man opening box containing a laptop.
UW-IT made sure people received their work computers at home — with easy instructions to set them up.

“With so many people working remotely, they’re relying heavily on computation — more than ever before — to get research moving forward,” said Nam Pho, director for research computing at UW-IT.

For the MWS team, the pandemic posed a series of challenges in getting people the computing equipment and support they need. With physical distancing measures in place, Frye’s team could no longer set up computers in person. So, they created ready-to-go USB drives with instructions for on-site essential workers. They also created a set of instructions in IT Connect for setting up new or replacement Managed Workstations from off-campus.

“We have been shipping computers to people’s homes,” Frye said. “If they’re comfortable with technology, they can follow the set of instructions in IT Connect, or can get remote assistance via Zoom from our support staff.”

The ability to equip people at home has been particularly important to UW Finance Transformation and the UW-IT Finance Program because in order to keep them on track, they have continued to recruit and hire people through the coronavirus crisis.

“We’re able to get them up and running while still taking appropriate physical distancing measures,” Frye said.

And the work doesn’t stop there.

Greer said they’re exploring a number of measures to continue to support students, faculty and staff:

  • Continued improvements and assistance with networking for UW Medicine
  • Continue to meet the increasing demands for Husky OnNet VPN
  • Continue to assist the Husky Card Office with remote proofing of badges, as they’re issued to remote students, faculty and staff
  • Encourage the adoption of Managed Workstation services, which makes it easier for departments to manage remote desktops and laptops
  • Continue with plan to expand use of two-factor authentication (2FA), which has become critically important with more people working remotely

And all of this work is getting done with most of UW-IT working remotely, Greer pointed out.

And the work goes on.