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Definition

 A maintenance window is a period of time designated in advance by the technical staff, during which preventive maintenance that could cause disruption of service may be performed.

Stakeholders

BO: 

PO: Bret Holloway

TO: 

Others: Alena Woods (UML), Patrick Driscoll (UML), Andrea Delaney (UMW), Toni Pennacchia (UMB), Pat Schmohl (QCC), Andrew Hinote (UMD), Joe Axenroth (WSU), John Landry (WIT)

Background

In order to help assess possible times for service windows, a Special Interest Group has been formed to give users of the UMassOnline technology platform a vehicle to voice concerns and/or ask questions pertaining to upcoming/ongoing service and maintenance processes. Since there are multiple campuses utilizing different UMassOnline technologies, it is difficult to coordinate one common down-time across several campuses. By bringing all interested stakeholders together under this SIG, each campus/participant can understand the rationale behind a selected date/time when selected as a group instead of UMassOnline or UITS selecting a window.

In addition to the SIG, many other considerations that might affect scheduling are;

  • Service and maintenance schedules of other IT departments (UITS, local campuses, etc.);
  • Staff availability (technical, CE, faculty, etc.);
  • Vendor availability;
  • Semester timeframe(s);
  • Historical data

The below RSS feed represents current usage of the LMS, which is also used to determine load at any given time.

Scheduled Service Windows

UMassOnline reserves the following Service Windows to perform required system upgrades, enhancements and/or maintenance etc. to our academic/administrative systems (Vista, Wimba, Confluence, etc.) and computing infrastructure (servers, databases, networks, etc.)

  • Blackboard Learn: Wednesdays, 4:00 a.m. - 7 a.m.
  • Saturdays, 4:00 a.m. - 7:00 a.m.*
    Campuses should advise faculty/students that these time-frames have been designated as a "Service Window" and users may experience degraded or interrupted service during these hours. Users should be warned that any activity in UMassOnline supported services and systems at this time may be interrupted, and users may not only lose access to the service/system but any content generated may be lost as well. UMassOnline recommends, communicating, "lab closed" during these times and not to conduct any official activities (course meetings, tests/exams, virtual office hours, etc.) during this time.

* Note: The Saturday morning Service Window is managed by University Information Technology Services.

Planned Service Interruptions

UMassOnline will provide the following notifications in the event of a service interruption outside of the regularly scheduled service windows, or in the event the service interruption is expected to last longer than the regularly scheduled three-hour time frame.

  • Immediately upon UMassOnline's identification of a potential service impacting event:
    • email notification to authorized technical, operational and business contacts from UMassOnline describing potential event and impact;
    • email communications with authorized technical, operational and business contacts to discuss scheduling options (if applicable).
  • Two weeks prior to the date of the planned service interruption:
    • email notification to authorized technical, operational and business contacts from UMassOnline describing event (day/time, and reason for interruption), impact (affects on system availability/performance, and benefits of activity) and duration;
    • notification of scheduled service interruption posted to relevant log-in web pages describing event, impact and duration, including:
      • Vista log in Pages (UMass Campuses only)
      • Inside Vista - added with Domain Administrator credentials, which pushes the announcement out to all institutions
      • Confluence - UMassOnline Technology Support
      • Via Email - Sent to DL's
  • One week prior to the date of the planned service interruption:
    • email reminder to authorized technical, operational and business contacts from UMassOnline describing event (day/time, and reason for interruption), impact (affects on system availability/performance, and benefits of activity) and duration;
    • Blackout for that service date is created in AlertSite;
  • Day prior to the date of the planned service interruption:
    • email reminder to authorized technical, operational and business contacts from UMassOnline describing event (day/time, and reason for interruption), impact (affects on system availability/performance, and benefits of activity) and duration;
  • Upon successful completion and testing verifying systems are working normally after service:
    • email notification to authorized technical, operational and business contacts from UMassOnline verifying work completed and its impact.

Unplanned Service Interruptions

A service interruption outside of the scheduled service windows or a planned service interruption may occur due to issues beyond UMassOnline's control. In addition, systems failures may interrupt service without prior notification. UMassOnline will always seek to work with campus technical, operational and business contacts to identify the most convenient times for service interruptions, however UMassOnline reserves the right to interrupt service if deemed necessary to address technical issues.

  • Immediately upon UMassOnline's identification of a service impacting event, UMassOnline will:
    • notify via authorized technical, operational and business contacts describing event and known impact;
    • post notification to campus log-in web pages describing event, known impact and estimated duration. (UMass campuses only)

References

A note was sent out to the EDUCAUSE CIO and Online Learning Constituent Groups seeking advise and references for approaches to define service windows. Replies offered several insights that might be applicable for UMassOnline.

Touro University Nevada:

This has been (and continues to be) an issue for us. All our Programs have somewhat different calendars and we have both hybrid and fully on-line courses/Programs. We also provide some services to another campus in our system. Currently, if we have an "emergency" situation, we try to provide at least 48 hours advanced notice of down time. Downtime is after 9 PM local (to the physical institution). For "emergent" or "urgent" situations, we provide at least 2 weeks (preferably 3 weeks) notice or take care of it during our "routine" maintenance window. For "routine" maintenance, we have an announced monthly window on a Thursday night (I forget which) after 9 PM when the maintenance is done.

The above suggests differing notification schedules based on the severity of issues. From this the SLA should include a communications and notification plan (Incident Management).

Current Status

Calendar of Scheduled Service and Maintenance Windows

Blackboard Learn

  • UMassOnline holds each Wednesday, from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. as a service window where access to Blackboard Learn may be degraded or interrupted.

Helix

  • UITS holds each Saturday, from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. as a service window where access to Helix may be degraded or interrupted.

UITS Network 

  • UITS holds each Saturday, from 4:00 a.m. to 7:00 a.m. as a service window where access to network services providing access to UMassOnline services and systems may be degraded or interrupted.