XEDA's productivity tools attract more users

Campus electronic communications got easier in 2005 with the launch of Xeda, a centralized system of servers that houses some UC Davis computing accounts and is designed to improve office productivity. In summer 2006, the Office of Administration moved its employee accounts to the system, and today more departments are following suit--Xeda now has 3,200 users, more than double the amount of one year ago.

Xeda is designed to make it easier for its users to share work calendars and set up meetings online; simplify the management of systems and resources; and cut overhead costs. Users also gain access to their email and other online information from anyplace with an Internet connection.

Paul Singh, administrator of Xeda services, believes administrators are attracted by its security, centralized management, and the advantages of using its advanced system tools.

When a group joins Xeda, its employees gain access to Microsoft's Active Directory and Exchange services. Active Directory manages user accounts and the relationships between accounts as a network, while Exchange provides tools such as email, calendaring, and contact information. (Xeda is ADEX spelled backwards; the acronym comes from Active Directory and Exchange).

Xeda's network of servers is formally called a "forest." Each server (or "tree") has a specialized task, and all the servers can freely interact. The forest is secure enough that it can be accessed from anywhere with an Internet connection. Xeda also has built-in redundancy, meaning that if one server goes down, others will automatically take over.

The three main services of Exchange are email, calendar sharing, and file sharing. Calendar sharing, which simplifies the scheduling of meetings, is the most popular among users.

"It's a lot easier to propose a meeting [by s haring calendars] than it is to send several emails proposing dates, coordinating disparate emails and then choosing among the dates," said Paul Drobny, technology manager for Student Affairs (some of its units use Xeda). "The Xeda calendar gives the meeting organizer everyone's availability at a glance."

The value of the scheduling tool increases as more campus users sign on and add their calendars to the service. Information and Educational Technology, the Office of Resource Management and Planning, and the Office of Administration all use Xeda. Because of their participation, Drobny added, "a growing number of university employees are potentially part of the calendaring system."

Subscribers are given 150MB of email storage as a default, and can get more. Email can be accessed with Entourage, Outlook, or any mobile device with Windows Mobile. The subscriber's department pays for the service.

Among the Student Affairs departments that use Xeda, Drobny said, "there's little doubt of the value."