Getting support

I'm pretty much "always on". In fact, in this job I have to be. So you'll find me accessible most of the time regardless of the time or day of the week - just email Andy Thomas or call +44 7866 556626. I do have an office in Huxley 6m46 but I'm not always in it - I might be in the Maths server room or over in the ICT data centre. I don't have an 'office hour' but you can try visiting 6m46 to find out if I'm there and if you enjoy really strong freshly-ground espresso, you'll be welcome.

Out of hours support

Personally, I take the view that work is part of my life and conversely, life is part of my work. So I don't differentiate between the two or try to draw an arbitrary line separating work from non-work; why worry about 'work/life balance' when you are actually enjoying doing both? For this reason I'm happy to provide support outside of so-called "normal" college hours since when a user requires support or something goes wrong, everyone is happier if help is available at the time it is needed or system failures are fixed quickly rather than be told to "...wait until next Monday morning". After all, kindness costs nothing.

Research at any institution is often no longer a 9 to 5 weekday activity and the Mathematics department at Imperial is no exception; a full 24x7x365 computing service is now expected in many other departments and in recognition of this, support is available in Maths outside of normal college hours although it is important to remember that this is not official and I will not always be sitting at a desk ready to answer the phone or emails at all hours! So there may be a few hours delay in responding to support requests at weekends, but every effort is made to remain in touch with what is going on with the Maths research IT services at all times and to provide timely support where & when it is needed.

Outside of college hours, email will be read at least every 2 hours but the phone is likely to be switched off at night between about 11pm and 6am so please leave a message if you call at that time. If something really urgent crops up that you'd like me to deal with quickly, you can email me at which is a high-priority email address also linked to a pager that will reach me at all times (including at night), or call me on +44 7866 556626.

Remote monitoring is used extensively in the Maths IT infrastructure to check all is well with servers, compute platforms, clusters, storage and power & cooling systems and alerts me via SMS text and email of developing problems so they can be dealt with remotely before they become a major issue.

For obvious reasons, problems that require me to come into college to sort them out may not always be be dealt with immediately if they occur out of hours; fortunately nearly all tasks can now be done remotely and the need to make an out-of-hours site visit is very rare. Occasionally where hardware failure is involved, things may not be fixed immediately if spare parts have to be ordered.

Major incidents out of hours

Maths research IT facilities depend on "upstream services" - power, cooling and the college computer networks. These are beyond our control and there is nothing I can do personally to fix these apart from reporting failures to those responsible for these; failures of any of these three services may affect research IT facilities in various ways and may not be put right very quickly. We have sufficient reserve power capability on uninterruptible power supplies in the Maths server room to ensure full operation for about 15 minutes in the event of a power failure but if the whole campus suffers a power cut, it is highly likely the college network and some Maths systems hosted in the ICT data centre will not be fully functional and this may affect some ongoing research.

In the event of a major incident, every effort will be made to restore services as quickly as possible - this includes visiting college to sort out any problems that cannot be resolved remotely. The current status of research IT services in Maths is updated regularly and during an incident, much more frequently every few hours at least.

Please note: all research IT services will be shut down completely in the event of an extended power cut, server room flooding or a complete failure of all cooling systems.

Andy Thomas

Research Computing Manager,
Department of Mathematics

last updated: 9.04.2020