The big news this year was the implementation of charging for transatlantic bandwidth from August 1st. Universities have had to reorganise their policy on Internet use and think about ways that they can save money whilst still providing the resources that students and lecturers need. The charging for all incoming traffic through the transatlantic gateway means that costs will be incurred when getting information from not just North American sites but almost all overseas destinations outside Europe. For the most part, this year won't be too much of a strain on the pocket. It has been stated that the JANET Web Caching Service is free in the first year and the HEFCs are subsidising usage for Higher Education Institutions up to an extent. But next year when the Cache could be a charging service and the subsidy disappears it will be a different matter altogether .
This year universities have been given the time they need to set in motion any plans for saving money before they are faced with the more realistic bill next year. Some universities will be setting up local caches to process requests before they go to the National Cache. This will mean there are two chances to find a locally stored copy of the information or web page that you need before making the trip through the transatlantic gateway. Setting up your browser to find a cached copy of the information that you want is one way of saving money.
The other way of saving money is to go directly to sources in the UK that copy or 'mirror' the information that you need. HENSA is the UK's higher education mirror site. The information is mirrored overnight at the low peak time so up-to-date mirrors are available from all over the world. Mirrors also hold information that can't be cached and can offer valuable additional services such as searching.
HENSA holds software and other data, which notoriously takes a long time to download from sites abroad. By downloading software using the HENSA site you are saving money as HENSA is a free service and there is no need to use the transatlantic link. Just as important, you are saving your time as HENSA's network of several servers ensure a faster download. HENSA holds over 80 mirrors of software, data and information. The platforms supported are Windows 3.11, 95/98 and NT, Apple Macintosh, Acorn Archimedes, Palmtops and the Unix platform including Solaris, SunOS and Unix clones for PCs such as Linux and FreeBSD.
HENSA doesn't always just replicate the mirror but tries to provide a more user-friendly interface to the sometimes unintuitive ftp file structure of a mirror. Users have the opportunity to open .zip, .tar and .exe files and look inside and retrieve any information files that may help them to decide whether it is the program they require, before downloading. The HENSA search engine has been developed in-house so it is tailored specifically to the way the collections are organised. This is so the maximum information and matching results are returned. HENSA also provides help to users in the form of userguides on-line and an email and telephone helpline.
Among the many HENSA mirrors are Netscape, Microsoft, Adobe, 3Com, Gnu, Apache, Linux, and FreeBSD. Other non software collections include the Classical Midi Archives, the Uunet archive and Request for Comment documents. HENSA provides information and software from browsers and programming tools to database programs, screensavers and other subject based academic software. The academic subject software section is produced in collaboration with the CTI centres.