The University of Helsinki IT Center provides a supporting service for researchers and research communities few know about. Yet the university’s IT Consultation Solutions specialists have successfully tackled complex research-related IT challenges since 2012. So what is the IT Consultation Solutions service and how can your research benefit? IT consultation specialists Janne Markkanen, Jonne Viljanen and Ville Virtanen explain how the service works.
What is the IT Consultation Solutions service and how does it support research?
Markkanen: Our clients usually have a research-related IT challenge for which they need support, but are unsure as to where to turn for help. Our expertise lies in providing the best and most efficient solution to each client’s particular problem.
Research data is understandably of paramount importance to researchers. With this in mind, data storage capacity and storage-related issues come up frequently, and due to the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) we have had more inquiries concerning sensitive data and its management.
Virtanen: It is often the case that our clients contact us with a particular problem, but as we begin to work on it, we discover other technological issues that they were not even aware of. This leads us to finding solutions on several fronts simultaneously and, as a result, helping our clients in unexpected ways.
What kind of research-related IT challenges have you come across?
Viljanen: A good example of this would be the Umpio project where our client needed a data storage service for sensitive information. We were able to utilize the university’s systems to provide an agile solution, which met both the IT security and service definition standards while being cost-effective.
Markkanen: Verifin – one of our clients – needed a user interface for their database. The aim was to provide a real time search tool, which could help identify the possible use of CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) weapons and provide instructions for paramedics as well as rescue and laboratory personnel.
This project began as a relatively small endeavor that gradually began to expand into other domains of expertise. We worked jointly with external developers as well as our software development support and server maintenance teams in planning the optimal operating system for the database and have now successfully implemented a proof-of-concept. The project will continue in 2019.
How can researchers contact IT Consultation Solutions for support with their IT challenges?
Markkanen: Researchers can contact us via Helpdesk. All you need to do is describe the consultation issue in your own words and we will take it from there. There are no such things as silly questions.
What does the future hold for the service?
Viljanen: We are currently looking into different ways of developing the service and finding solutions to IT challenges more efficiently by e.g. extending technical expertise to data storage solutions at the university. We are constantly working on finding ways to help our clients in optimal ways.
Markkanen: We are also looking into how we can reach our clients quicker and how to shorten response times. We aim to find solutions to everyone at the university from hard sciences to humanities. For us it truly is a privilege to work with our clients at the university and support them. It is also fascinating to discover the different kinds of research done at the University of Helsinki.