The National Mirror Service will supersede the HENSA services in August to become the primary mirror service for the academic community. This will be a new, improved and more integrated service brought to you by the Universities of Lancaster and Kent and funded by the Joint Information Systems Committee (JISC). The Director of the new service is Dr Tim Hopkins, Reader in Computer Science at the University of Kent.
The service will be based primarily upon the web, although access via FTP will still be available. It will hold up-to-date copies or 'mirrors' of popular software and data sites from all over the world which may be of interest to academia. This will save the user time online and save bandwidth as the mirror site may be in the UK but the originating site could be in the US. The National Mirror service will not only distribute software for all widely available operating systems and platforms, but will collect all forms of freely available, electronically stored material. This will include databases of textual and numerical data (including gathered data, bibliographic and reference material), audio material, static and moving pictures and web page based information. This information will be provided free of charge, without restrictions.
Within the new service, continued development of easy-to-use, time saving access tools will be very important. Much effort will be directed to developing indexing, searching and browsing interfaces which will track technological developments and integrate with other UK HE mirrors and institutional web sites. A user-friendly, intuitive interface is a key factor in the new service, coupled with comprehensive and efficient searching to enable users to find and download the data they require. To help the user save time, much of the compressed material will be automatically unpacked when browsing to provide access to textual information about content. This enables evaluation of the package before downloading.
A commitment has been made to develop a value-added service, dedicated to saving time for pressured academics, particularly with non-specialists in mind. While catering for the needs of computer experts, the primary aim will be to assist those, whose specialisations are in other areas, to locate, evaluate and obtain the information they require to perform their work. There will also be a help desk with a telephone, fax and email helpline alongside comprehensive online help.
The National Mirror Service intends to collaborate with other services such as CTI centres, to increase academic relevance. Liason with other centres such as the Resource Discovery Network Centre (RDNC) will ensure appropriate sources of subject-related data are investigated and supported. Ongoing discussions with other organisations such as The National JANET Web Caching Service will serve to highlight important mirrors and information trends. It may also be possible for links to be set up with other key community mirrors. By working together an integrated information distribution service can be created that will save the user time, money and serve their information needs.
The collection of mirror sites will encompass a vast amount of varied data for a broad spectrum of subjects in various formats. This means everything from specialised collections of subject software, images and data to support degree courses and teaching, to important software for programmers or the latest copy of Netscape or Internet Explorer for general web users. Also available will be bibliographic information, numerical data and reference material for researchers.
The Higher Education National Software Archive (HENSA) will continue to be available until the new service begins on August 1st. After that date most HENSA URLs will be automatically redirected to the equivalent resource in the new service.
HENSA Information Officer
Higher Education National Software Archive (HENSA)