ITS is now offering University faculty and staff the Atlassian Confluence documentation platform as a free of charge, centrally funded service.
On May 15, when ITS Middleware Services announced the general availability of this collaboration tool, it was no ordinary announcement for the group.
“We don’t typically have service announcements like this,” said Patrick Casey, Director of Linux Middleware/Hosting Services.
Straightforward, simple tool
Most of the services or tools that the group offers have a steep learning curve. These tools are sought after by specialized groups rather than the broader campus community. Confluence, though, is a straightforward, simple tool. It might appeal to and be adopted by faculty and staff members who aren’t already or typically Middleware Services’ customers.
So, what exactly is Confluence? It’s a flexible, collaborative documentation platform where you can create, organize and discuss work with your team in real time, as you would if you’re editing simultaneously with others on a Google doc. You also can easily revert back to previous versions, again, like with a Google document.
Much more than a wiki, Confluence includes diagramming capability and rich formatting without requiring markup language. It is also highly indexed and searchable for quick finding of pertinent information.
How to obtain the service
Faculty and staff can get individual and/or group spaces in Confluence by completing the online help request form at help.unc.edu/help/olhr/ or by sending a Remedy ticket to ITS-MIDDLEWARE.
Confluence access requires the use of a campus IP address, whether wired, wireless or via VPN. Users will also need to use two-factor authentication to access Confluence. It is intended for use with only non-sensitive information and is not rated for storage of sensitive data.
It’s unknown how many individuals or groups on campus currently use Confluence. The College of Arts and Sciences and School of Medicine use it, just to name two campus entities. Schools and departments have been paying for their own individual licenses of Confluence. These costs range from tens to several thousand dollars per installation depending on the licensed users.
Middleware Services’ Tony DeLuca handled the heavy lifting on the project, with assistance from Benjamin August.
ITS is not prescribing usage of this specific service for campus. Rather it is available if Confluence meets a campus individual or group’s need.
“This is just another tool in the tool box,” Casey said.
At least for starters, Middleware Services is the group that will support Confluence users on campus. The group has provided support documentation at help.unc.edu. In addition, Atlassian, the software company that owns Confluence, also offers helpful documentation to users.