What is IBM BigFix, and what is it doing on my Penn State computer?

IBM BigFix is the choice of many Penn State information technology (IT) departments when it comes to efficiently managing computer systems through remote access. As an added bonus, it helps to save the University nearly three-quarters of a million dollars annually in energy costs by putting desktop machines in locations such as student computer labs on energy-efficient standby mode when they are not in use.

John Tyndall, digital learning environment manager in Teaching and Learning with Technology (TLT), said IBM BigFix is currently used on more than 41,000 computers and servers at Penn State. TLT oversees the service for the entire University as part of Systems Management @ Penn State, which offers utilities and tools for managing computer systems to IT units.

Once enabled, IBM BigFix makes it easier for an academic unit’s IT staff to manage basic functions such as computer life-cycles and replacements, and deploying unit-wide software upgrades.

Enhanced computer security is another benefit. Given the need to protect sensitive data and research for end users across the University, IBM BigFix makes it easy for IT staff to quickly identify security vulnerabilities, threats, and risks and quickly remediate issues.

IBM BigFix also can be used to install pre-approved software onto a computer. Tyndall said this is helpful for faculty who find they need a particular software when they are away from easy access to their IT staff. “If I’m in a coffee shop in London and realize I need Word or PowerPoint,” he said, “I can easily install it myself, thanks to IBM BigFix’s Self-Service tool.”

Tyndall added that the product has its own screen-sharing tool, which enables an IT professional to view a remote user’s computer screen and facilitate correct use of the software.

Tyndall said it can also help when a laptop, which could be full of research and other confidential information, is stolen. “There are some great stories where we’ve had stolen laptops and used IBM BigFix to install location software on the laptop remotely,” Tyndall said. “This enabled the proper authorities to get the laptop back to us.”

If you have concerns about a centrally controlled piece of software on your computer, the good news is the IT people you know in your department are the ones in charge of it and determine how it is used.

To find out if you have BigFix on your computer, look for the small blue b-shaped icon on your computer or check with your IT staff. For more information, visit the Systems Management at Penn State website.

Last Updated January 09, 2018