Research Lab Administrator's Handbook

The research lab administrators (lab admins) are a crucial part of the technical support infrastructure in Faculty of Applied Sciences and School of Computing Science.

  • The lab admin is a volunteering fellow graduate student in the specific lab.
  • The lab admin of a research lab is the first contact for this lab's users.
  • The lab admins are the liaison between the research lab users and the helpdesk.

This page will answer most frequently asked questions for the current and prospective lab admins.

Please email helpdesk if your questions are not answered here.

This page is actively maintained; please help us to enrich it.

Be proactive; but also remember: "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!"

Let's know each other



If you are not a Lab Admin


Who is the lab admin of the research lab I am in?

In general, your supervisor and/or the lab director(s) will inform you who the lab admin is, before you are granted access to the lab.

If the lab admin is not reachable, please contact helpdesk.


I would like to become the lab admin of my lab, what should I do?

Thank you in advance for the consideration.

  • Firstly, you need to thoroughly understand and follow the regulations and policies of the School, the faculty and SFU.
  • Secondly, you need to have some basic knowledge about the SFU network and managing the workstations in the lab.
  • Thirdly, please talk with your supervisor about this. The lab admin is appointed by the lab director(s).
  • The last but not least, there are times you need to spend your own time to help fellow lab users.

By becoming lab administrator, you must understand and conform to the FAS Lab Administrator Policy.


Where I could get more information about my lab?

First place you should visit is the official web page of the lab.

The second place you should visit would be the official wiki page of this lab. Please note: most likely this wiki page is secured and only the members of the lab have access.

If you need more information, please contact the lab admin.


If you are a Lab Admin


What are the tasks for a lab admin?

Here is a short list:

  1. Welcome the new users to the lab, make sure they have access to all the resources for the lab.
  2. Install research specific applications on the lab computers.
  3. Consult the fellow lab users, collect information and make recommendations of new applications/equipment.
  4. Coordinate the deployment and de-commission of equipment in the lab.
  5. Contact helpdesk when issue is lab specific, e.g. when the issue no longer only affects a single user or a single workstation.
  6. Secure the lab upon the users' departure.
  7. Keep the information about the lab up-to-date. e.g. maintain the lab's wiki page, layout, label all the computers and other equipment.

There are might be some other lab-specific tasks, please contact the lab director(s).



As the lab admin, whom I could ask for help?

You could always contact helpdesk :)

And please state that you are the lab admin so we could put your request on the fast track.


I am away from the lab for a few weeks, what should I do?

As the lab admin, if you leave the post for more than a couple of days, please

    . inform your supervisor and the lab director(s)

    . inform the fellow lab users

    . inform the helpdesk - since during your absence, we will take care of the lab


I am graduating, can someone else take over as the lab admin of the lab?

Thank you for your hard work.

Please inform helpdesk and talk with your supervisor. We will try our best to make the transition smooth for you and the other lab users.


Task oriented questions for Lab Admins: User Management

How to manage maillist for the lab?

As the lab admin, it is your duty to keep the lab's official maillist up to date. If a legit user's email is not on this list, she/he will have no access to certain lab resources.

You may use SFU's Maillist web app for this.

After you are authenticated to the maillist app, you may work on the specific maillist - the lab's official maillist.

  • please add the new users as they come (no alias of any kind)
  • please remove the old users as they depart
  • please add other associates' emails to the list as directed by the lab director(s)

IMPORTANT: please always click button "Save changes" to save your updates; otherwise, all your changes will be LOST.

If you are not sure what is the official maillist is, please contact the lab director(s) and/or the helpdesk.


Please note: If the maillist web app does NOT allow you to manage the lab's official miallist, please ask your supervisor making you the manager of this specific maillist.


There are new students come to the lab, what should I do?

When there are new users/visitors come to the lab, the lab admin of this lab needs to do a few things:

  • Contact the lab director(s) to confirm the users belong to the lab.
  • Introduce yourself to the users and give them a brief tour of the lab.
  • Confirm with the users that they have activated their SFU accounts; make sure they have access to the lab resources.
  • Put the user's SFU email address (not the alias) to the lab's official maillist.
    • If this user is a visitor, a undergrad or a postdoc, please inform helpdesk - there are other configurations must be done.
  • Send a list of Q&A pages (include the lab's wiki page) for the new users to go through.


There are former students have left the lab, what should I do?

When there are users/visitors leaving the lab, the lab admin of this lab needs to do a few things:

  • Contact the lab director(s) to confirm the users have left; and confirm if the users will be on the lab's official maillist.
  • Gather the new (non SFU) email address of the departed users.
  • Email helpdesk about the departed users - there are some important things we should do.
  • Delete the user's SFU email address from the lab's official maillist.
  • (optional) If the users agree and with the lab directors' approval, put the user's new email address to the lab's official maillist.


Task oriented questions for Lab Admins: Equipment Management

What kind of documentation and bookkeeping should I do around the lab?

Here are some basic tasks:

  • label all the computers in the lab, this will help us identify the computer with ease.
  • maintain the lab's wiki page about equipment history; if the lab does not have a wiki page, please email helpdesk to setup one. (If the lab has an old wiki page on an old server, you may have to manually migrate the contents to new server.)
  • maintain an up-to-date lab layout with desk-user-computer assignments on it. Microsoft Visio format is recommended on a Windows computer. If you like to have Visio installed on your computer, please email helpdesk.


We need to get new computers for the lab, what should I do?

In general, the lab director(s) will put purchase through.

On the other hand, please collect the requests from the fellow lab users about the hardware & software requirements and report to the lab director(s). With accurate inputs, the new computers will be more suitable for the lab.

And please note, the helpdesk would like to know the purchase plan - there are lots of planning to do on our side too. An advance notice will speed things up a lot.


A few important suggestions here:

Please avoid computers designed for home use. e.g. Dell XPS line

Please avoid computers designed for gaming. e.g. Dell Allienware line

We recommend purchasing all components at the same time, from a single vendor/manufacture.

If the system may need to handle more than 1 GPU, please be sure to choose proper motherboard, chassis and GPUs.

Please avoid puchasing small chassis systems. The bigger, the better.

Please be sure to choose the GPUs which blow the exhaust out of the chassis - not just spread them around in the chassis.


Important: if the new computer will be in the server room:

Please be sure the chassis is rack-mount ready. No excpetions.

Please be sure the computer is IPMI ready. No excpetions.

Please be sure to use ECC memory modules for this computer.


We have new computers come for the lab, what should I do?

First, please ensure helpdesk is aware of this.

You may also assist helpdesk on these fronts:

  • the assignment of the desk-computer-user
  • provide information about the details of each new computer, e.g. which network it will be on
  • retire/decommission old computers - please ensure all the data (on the local hard disk) have been backup to network storage.
  • re-arrange furniture as needed due to network and/or power constrains.


What names I could use for the networked equipment in our lab?

Here are the basics of the ITS' naming standard:

. all Computing Science hosts must be named with prefix "cs-"

. for a research lab host, the acronym of the lab must be present in the name right after the department prefix

. the maximum length of the hostname (before the DNS suffix) is 14

For example, the name of a computer in our grad open lab would be: "cs-grad-??".

Due to the extra complexity, alias will not be given to any new CS/CMPT hosts.

The existing hostnames will not be touched until the re-configuration of the system. The existing/current names will be retired and the new names must comply with ITS' naming standard.

If you have comments and concerns regarding the naming standards, please contact the ITS directly.


We have old equipment occupies the lab space, what should I do?

Please inform helpdesk to clear them out of the way.

Warning: please make sure the following

  • the lab director(s) have confirmed that these equipment should be surplused
  • all the data (on the local hard disk) have been backup to network storage.
  • for sensitive data, please inform us so we could safely destroy them to prevent security breach.


There is no enough power outlets in the lab, what should I do?

Please email helpdesk and wait for assistance.

We understand the needs for powering up personal computing devices, but we also want to ensure the safety of the community of SFU. Please allow us to find ways to safely accommodate the lab's needs.

Each lab has limit number of power circuits, each regular circuit could handle up to 15A current. Overload any circuit is dangerous and prohibited. Power extension cords are for temporary use only.

Here are some of the workarounds:

  • move some of the systems to our server room. Please discuss with the lab director(s) and the helpdesk. (A rack-mountable chassis is a must.)
  • virtualize some of the systems to reduce the physical need for outlets.
  • re-arrange the furniture in the lab to utilize the circuits - must be approved by the lab directors.
  • put extra power circuits in the room. There will be cost associate with this approach. Please discuss with the lab director(s) and inform helpdesk.
  • expand the lab to another room. Please discuss with the lab director(s) first.

Please note: daisy-chain power bars is prohibited, no exceptions.


The supplies for the printer in our research lab are running out, how can we get more?

First of all, please inform the lab users so people are aware of the situation and get prepared.


If the paper is running out in the lab,

please email helpdesk so we could contact the lab directors for account info. If you know who will pay for the paper, please put the name on the ticket.


If the toner cartridge is running low, we have 2 scenarios:


1. If the printer is on the service contract with Ricoh.

please call the 1-800 number on the device for refill.


2. Otherwise,

please email helpdesk so we could contact the lab directors for account info. If you know who will pay for the toner cartridge, please put the name on the ticket.


Since the refilling process does take some time, please make the contacts early.


Task oriented questions for Lab Admins: Systems and Software

We need some collaboration tools for our research, what should I do??

SFU IT Services have a few native collaboration tools available for the community.

Please check out this page.


The users would like to have different OS on the lab computers, what should I do?

The helpdesk will do the system upgrade; but before we do this, please do the following:

  • Please check to see if there is any idle workstation in the lab has the prefered OS on it so it could be assigned to this user right away.
  • Please ensure the users' supervisor(s) and lab director(s) know about the OS changes.
  • Since the re-installation of the OS will wipe out everything on the local hard disk, please ensure all the data (on the local hard disk) have been backup to network storage.


I was asked to install a piece of software (which I am not familiar with), what should I do?

Please evaluate the software and make the decision. Here are some guide lines:

  1. Please check the system to see if the specific software package had been installed on the system already.
  2. It must be a licensed application (freeware, free for academic use, etc.). Please check the license agreement carefully.
  3. It must be malware-free, advertisement-popup-free.
  4. It must be related to the research.
    • If it is not directly related to the research, it must be capable of assist the researchers to reach their research goals.
  5. Are there any (better) alternatives?

If you are not sure, please contact helpdesk for clarifications. The specific piece of software may have been on our white-list.

Please note, you may not install any software like these:

  • unpaid shareware
  • pirated software
  • any application contains malware
  • any application presents the danger to the network (for special research projects, please ask permissions well in advance.)


The users in the lab cannot print, what should I do?

In general, a user should be able to print to the lab printer after the account has been added to the lab's maillist. The only thing the user should do would be to just add the specific networked printer to the printer list.

If the user suddenly cannot print any more, the most possible cause would be: the IT people have upgraded the printer drivers on the print server thus these drivers must be loaded to local system (Windows).

To resolve this issue, please logon as yourself (- which is the local administrator of the system) to the computer in question. Then simply remove the lab printer from your printer list and re-add it again. This will trigger the installation of the new driver. After it is done, please logoff and ask the user to go through the remove/re-add the printer which should work now.

If the system failed to load the new driver, you may try the following steps to resolve the issue:

make sure you logon as yourself (local administrator)

goto Control Panel -> Hardware and Sound -> Devices and Printers

remove all network printers

left click any remaining printer, from the top tabs, click "Print server properties"

within the newly opened dialog box, click tab "Drivers"

select an old/suspicious driver, click "Remove..."

now, MUST SELECT "Remove driver and driver packages"

now, click "Delete"!


do this for all the suspicious drivers.

PLEASE NOTE: there are some drivers cannot be removed properly. Contact us if this happens.

Now, try to re-add the networked printer.


Some applications prompt user for updates, what should I do?

The IT people in SFU are working hard to ensure all the systems are secure and up to date. The software updates are investigated and approved for installation constantly.

In general, reboot the computer may trigger the installation of the updates.

If this method does not work, please contact helpdesk.


Task oriented questions for Lab Admins: Special Notes

Special topic: Please don't do "johnny don'ts" do.

Please always follow these guide lines (no exceptions):

do not share your account (which has administrative privilege)

do not promote a fellow user to an administrator

do not leave the administrative logon for user to use

do not daisy-chain power bars - fire hazard!


This page  needs your input; so please email helpdesk. TIA!

Last updated on 2022.11.14