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ITS Support Model for Vendor-Provided Web-Based Systems

Effective March 2003
Revised December 2005

On This Page:

Note: Refer to Web Browser and Desktop Operating System Support for more information.

Background

Over the past few years, M-Pathways systems have transitioned from Citrix-based to Web-based systems. MAIS has also rolled out several other vendor-provided Web-based systems, like eResearch and My LINC. This move to Web-based applications introduced several challenges in how MAIS supports desktop software. The purpose of this document is to define the guidelines that ITS uses to support Web browsers and desktop operating systems.

These guidelines have been determined after reviewing information collected from various sources including: software vendors, other universities, and representatives of a wide range of University of Michigan units including central offices, schools and colleges.

Scope

This document addresses the ITS support policy for Web-based systems that have been, or will be, purchased from vendors. This includes nearly all the components of the M-Pathways applications from PeopleSoft, the My LINC online learning system from SumTotal, and the eResearch software from Click Commerce. This document does not address the support policy for any systems that ITS develops.

The distinction between vendor-provided systems and ITS-developed (or University-developed) systems is significant. The support for vendor-provided systems is greatly influenced by the support policies of the vendors in question. Support for ITS-developed systems, on the other hand, is completely within the control of ITS. Because of these differences, ITS has chosen to address these systems in different ways. Support for ITS-developed systems will be addressed later in a separate document.

Definition of "Support"

Throughout this document, the terms "support" and "supported" are used to describe services provided by ITS or expected by end users. The following text describes what is included in ITS "support" of Web browsers and desktop operating systems:

  1. Testing
    • ITS will conduct user interface testing on all supported software combinations. User interface testing will focus on common Web browser and desktop operating system compatibility issues.
    • ITS will conduct all end-to-end system testing on the one "primary" supported Windows OS/browser combination. Note: most functions of the system are not affected by the version of the browser or the desktop operating system.
  2. ITS Help Desk
    • The ITS Help Desk will answer all questions relating to the system for users of supported software combinations, or it will pass questions to Tier 2 staff (application and technical experts) as appropriate.
    • The ITS Help Desk will assist users of non-supported software combinations on simple questions such as those pertaining to navigation through the application, but will not address technical questions for these users, or pass any of these questions to Tier 2 staff.
    • The ITS Help Desk does not provide direct support to students. Student support for the M-Pathways systems will continue to be provided through ITCS 4-HELP. (Training for 4-HELP consultants will take place prior to an upgrade or functional enhancement.)
  3. Fixing Problems
    ITS will provide fixes and/or workarounds for software problems on supported software combinations, or ITS will work with the appropriate software vendor to resolve the problem.
  4. Security
    ITS will provide guidelines/best practices to be used by system administrators and/or end users for securing supported software combinations.

Support Guidelines

To the greatest extent possible, ITS will follow these support guidelines for Web browsers and desktop operating systems:

  1. ITS will only provide support for software on versions of Web browsers or desktop operating systems that are supported by the vendor of the software.
    • For example, if PeopleSoft does not support "Browser X," then ITS will not support PeopleSoft on "Browser X."
    • It is important to understand that this guideline may make it impossible to meet some or all of the other guidelines that are listed below on specific products. In other words, this guideline will always be followed, and the other guidelines will be followed as long as they are in accordance with this guideline.
  2. ITS will purchase software, when possible, that conforms to industry standards for Web software.
    • Software that follows industry standards, such as HTML4 and XHTML1, should work on the broadest set of browsers and desktop operating systems possible.
    • Standards will be selected based on input from campus units and reviewed on a regular schedule (e.g. annually).
    • Ultimately, support for these standards will be weighed along with business requirements in purchase decisions. If other business requirements warrant it, ITS may choose to purchase software that does not meet these standards.
    • The larger the community of users that must use an administrative application, the more heavily ITS will take Web browser and desktop operating system into consideration when purchasing software.
  3. ITS will endeavor to influence its current software vendors to develop software that meets industry standards for Web software.
    ITS' ability to influence vendors will vary depending on the vendor, but ITS will work with other higher education institutions to help influence vendors to follow appropriate standards.
  4. At any one time, and when it is possible to do so in concurrence with vendor software support guidelines, ITS will support two versions of Internet Explorer on two versions of the Windows operating system. As support from vendors becomes available, ITS will support one version of Safari on one version of the Macintosh operating system.
    • For example, ITS might offer support for Internet Explorer 5 and Internet Explorer 6 on Windows 2000 and Windows XP, and Safari 1.2 on Macintosh OS X. (These version numbers are provided as an example. The specific version numbers are identified in Web Browser and Desktop Operating System Support.
    • MAIS and PeopleSoft initially supported Internet Explorer (IE) on Macintosh OS 9 and OS X. However, Safari has emerged as the browser standard for Macintosh computers and Apple has ended support for IE. Therefore, ITS will make an effort to establish Safari as the supported browser for Macintosh OS X computers as support becomes available from our software vendors.
    • Sometimes lack of vendor support (see guideline #1 above) may prevent ITS from supporting two versions of the Windows operating systems.
    • ITS supports several different PeopleSoft modules, and these modules may be constructed from different versions of PeopleTools. PeopleSoft may support different operating system/browser combinations for different versions of PeopleTools. This will influence the support that ITS can provide to its user population and may result in support models that differ between various M-Pathways systems. In addition, ITS supports software from a number of software vendors. Whenever possible, ITS will make an effort to support common, robust and current operating system/browser combinations, but it is likely that ITS will at times issue support models that differ from system to system.
  5. ITS will identify a primary combination of Microsoft Internet Explorer and Windows operating system and a primary combination of Safari and Macintosh operating system for use with a given Web-based application.
    • ITS developers will use the Windows/IE primary combination during the application development.
    • ITS will provide similar support levels for all supported combinations, but the primary supported combinations will be the least likely version to contain compatibility problems.
  6. ITS will not prevent people from using non-supported browser and desktop operating system combinations, although support for these combinations will not be available.
    The recommended configurations are only identified as a convenience for the users. Users are not required to use these recommended combinations.
  7. ITS will perform some preliminary testing on commonly used, but not vendor-supported, operating system/browser combinations prior to implementation of a new system or upgrading an existing system.
    While ITS cannot provide support for these operating system/browser combinations (see #1 above), ITS will perform some testing to determine if major issues can be identified and communicated to the user community.
  8. ITS will review this policy on a regular basis.
    • Any significant changes to this policy will be discussed in advance with the appropriate campus constituencies.
    • Updates to these guidelines will be coordinated with changes in vendor support polices, software upgrades, and/or releases of new products.