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Admin I.S. Newsletter
6/22/2005
Please note: next issue will be in August, topic: BannerWeb.

Feature Article:
INB: Banner On-Campus

Sungard-SCT's BANNER system is our mission-critical student and finance database. It houses current and historical records for students and alumni, as well as fiscal data for the College. In one way or another it touches virtually everything that goes on at Dowling.

In this newsletter we review some of the key resources you can use to master Internet-Native Banner (INB), which is the version of Banner that we use on-campus. In a future newsletter we will cover BannerWeb which is accessible from anywhere by anyone with a Dowling network account.

Hardware, Software, Networking

Banner is a very large database management system based on Oracle. It is housed on an IBM p630 server with external, expandable SAN storage that replaced older equipment last year. Since it is the College's primary, mission-critical system, we make backups on a nightly basis, and the system itself backs up on a minute-by-minute basis using "transaction logs".

Your PC interacts with the Banner server indirectly. Through a special program called "jinitiator" that runs through Internet Explorer, you open the network-delivered Banner 6 PROD icon on your desktop, and your PC connects through our local network to an intermediate server that manages the exchange of data between you and the Banner server. Having an intermediary increases security, improves throughput, and gives us the ability to provide redundancy.

Learning to Use Banner

Each functional area is responsible for training its own staff. Because Banner's reach is so vast, we have found that it is best to limit the scope of training to the modules relevant to each person's work. Here are the functional areas, and the primary "data owner" who should be your first contact for training and other "how-to" questions:

  • Finance: Julie Agnes x3137
  • Financial Aid: Diane Beltrani x3385
  • Student (Registration, Billing, etc.): Diane Kazanecki-Kempter x3271
  • Advancement: Rosemarie Guarini x3377
  • Human Resources: Ann DiMola 3373, Bea Carroll x3022
  • For a number of years we have used the first three modules; this year we are in the process of expanding our coverage to include Advancement, which helps us keep contact with our alumni, and Human Resources for various position control functions.

    How Do I Get In?

    For security reasons INB passwords are assigned and managed separately from other login credentials you may have at Dowling. If your job functions require it, your department coordinator will request that Administrative I.S. create Banner access for you. Once you are given your login name and password, you can click the Banner 6 PROD shortcut Banner 6 PROD on your PC desktop, or browse to this location to login (on-campus only). If you have difficulty logging in please contact the Banner Hotline at x5033, or the Help Desk at x3445.

    You should change your password as soon as you login... more on that shortly.

    How Does Banner Work?

    INB houses a large Oracle database arranged as multiple tables, each with many rows of data containing one or more fields. Oracle manages your password, and manages your permissions to view the various fields, rows and tables in Banner.

    You cannot see or change things that you shouldn't. For example, if you are permitted to update student addresses in the "Student Records" section or "module", this does not mean you are permitted to enter purchase requisitions in the Finance module -- each module's permissions are granted "as needed" according to the role you play in Dowling's organization.

    You access information using "forms" - screens that display fields from tables you need for a particular function. When you type the form name in the Direct Access field at the top of the screen (next to "Go"), Banner displays that form and opens the appropriate Oracle tables, and waits for you to enter data.

    We mentioned that you should change your password as soon as you login for the first time. The form for changing passwords is named GUAPSWD; please refer to ban-pswd.html for detailed instructions.

      

    Jeff Stover has created a helpful user manual for Banner beginners which can be accessed from our Intranet here -- you will need to use your network login name and password to read and/or print this document. As a new Banner user, you should walk through the guide while stationed at your PC, so you can carry out the exercises. You will learn some of the common functions used to manage student enrollment, while becoming familiar with keyboard shortcuts and the manner in which Banner operates. Note: this tutorial was created for Banner 5; during July we will update it with screenshots for Banner 6, which is the current version.

    Banner Documentation

    If you would like to delve into the depths of Banner 6, full documentation is located in the Exchange directory under bdoc6x. Open My Computer, K: (VOL1: on NW5), Exchange, Bdoc6x and double-click on bkshlf6x.pdf, the Banner6.x Documentation Bookshelf.

    Privileged Access to Banner

    In addition to INB and BannerWeb, there are two other ways Dowling users access Banner, but these are tightly restricted so that we can maintain the highest possible security:

  • ODBC: certain users who write and maintain Microsoft Access database links to the Oracle database that underlies Banner are granted ODBC access to the system. Stripping away Banner to directly connect to Oracle removes a layer of security protection, so we are very "protective" of this feature and grant access only when absolutely necessary.
  • SSH: those who manage the server, and those who maintain scripts and low-level programming, are granted encrypted "shell" access to the system.
  • Typical users of Banner do not need to access in these ways, but they are an essential adjunct to normal INB access that significantly enhances our ability to serve the Dowling community.



    News and Notes

    Accounts for Everybody! Whoopee!

    Did you know that virtually everyone at Dowling has an email account on Dowling's systems? Did you know that your Dowling account is the only reliable email for Dowling business? Please use it! And please encourage students to use their Dowling accounts. More details: for faculty, staff, admins, and for students.

    SPRING CLEANING OF VOICEMAIL

    When we installed the new voicemail system we had to make a choice: we could either allow your saved messages to be deleted without notice, or we could allow the saved messages to stay until you delete them yourself. We chose the lesser of two evils, which put the responsibility for cleanup on you, our end-users. Many of you have voicemail boxes that are nearly full (25 messages max). You must delete saved messages before your mailbox fills to capacity, which would create a very impersonal impression of "The Personal College." We remind you that if you have a "MUST SAVE" message you can forward it to mailbox 5999, and it will be E-MAILED back to you in a .WAV file so you can save it on disk. As always, if you need help please call Ron Rosso at ext. 3029. We appreciate your cooperation.

    Excellent Resource on PC Security

    Learn how to protect your home PC from intruders: http://www.dslreports.com/faq/security

    Big ISPs Block Internet Email

    An article by Brian Livingston says that many legitimate emails are being blocked by anti-spam filters used by ISPs. Surely we don't have this problem, do we? grin Actually, we don't -- IF you're sending from your Dowling account to another Dowling account. Because we're cautious about blocking legitimate incoming email, the problem is mostly with outbound email to other ISPs.

    What's a SURBL?

    Watch for news from your Dowling email admins about SURBL blocking (and here is another good link). We are testing our upgraded GWAVA software which can look deeply inside a message for spam websites, and block any email that refers to them. If all goes well we'll implement this new feature within the next several weeks.