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November 28, 2014
 
 
 
 
 

CDL Mobile Support Policy for CDL Licensed Resources

August 2010

Policy Highlights

  • CDL will activate mobile-optimized interfaces for CDL licensed resources that are accessible through mobile browsers and are authenticated using IP addresses, beginning with the EbscoHOST platform.
  • Applications, as well as web pages requiring authentication other than IP, are not supported by CDL at this time.
  • The ongoing method to communicate availability and details of activated mobile-optimized resources to the campuses is currently being determined.
  • Using rewrite proxies on mobile devices to provide IP authentication is the closest to the current remote access user experience. These work reasonably well on iPhone. For other platforms, please see the notes below.
  • Other authentication methods (Client VPN or Standard Proxy) and authentication to local campus wireless networks may require additional user training and technical configuration by the campuses.
  • As it's understood that users will try to access the standard (i.e. not optimized for mobile) web pages for licensed resources from their mobile devices, this will be supported to the degree that the behavior can be reproduced on a desktop machine.

Background

As part of a multi-path CDL project to assess the current mobile landscape, the Resource Wranglers investigated issues regarding mobile access to licensed resources. This effort has involved scanning the available mobile options for licensed resources, testing some basic scenarios using mobile-optimized and standard web pages, identifying known issues and best practices from a supportability standpoint, and making this information available for campuses to work into their mobile strategy however they see fit.

Initially, the team's intention was to look at both apps and mobile-optimized web interfaces. This was quickly scoped down once we realized that apps had a number of issues that involved licensing, authentication, maintenance, tracking and version control. Additionally, there was some debate at ALA about the future of apps as a viable strategy given the resources needed to create them, as well as the availability of applications for multiple platforms. For those reasons, and given our short turnaround time, we focused on web access only.

In conjunction with the research done by CDL’s User Experience group, additional use case scenarios involving users attempting to access non-mobile optimized resources (external links for known item searches) via handheld devices came to the forefront. This is something that users are currently attempting to do, and given the use of UC-eLinks and direct linking, users automatically access the non-mobile optimized versions of resources.  We determined that we should, at least, have a basic understanding of how well these resources work (or how they don’t work) on the most popular mobile platforms.

Current Strategy

The CDL's current strategy for mobile is one of passive support – specifically, providing access to mobile optimized web-based interfaces where available, providing limited support for non-mobile optimized resource interface functionality on mobile devices, and having a basic understanding and recommendations for methods for enabling IP authentication for users on mobile devices.

Our testing determined that providing IP access via rewrite proxies such as EZProxy and WebVPN was the easiest solution out of the gate, as configuring a mobile device for standard proxies require a level of training and user action beyond the current experience of users, and client VPNs are highly dependent on the availability and support for software that is compatible with mobile devices. However, we also discovered that not all rewrite proxies work with the popular forms of mobile devices. Specifically, WebVPN only appears to work consistently with the iPhone, but EZProxy works (with platform-specific caveats) for iPhone, Android, and Blackberry. For campuses that enable mobile users to register and login to the campus authenticated wireless (which, unlike the guest wireless ranges at some campuses, is an IP range provided to the vendors), the issue of authentication is removed from the configuration; however, this does require that campus IT have a process in place to support this configuration.

Even with authentication issues addressed, there are known issues with many regular licensed resource websites when used on a mobile browser. Users need to have Javascript and popups enabled in their browsers, and even with that, some interfaces may not act or display as expected. For this reason, the user expectation must be set that use of non-mobile-optimized interfaces is unknown territory, and like other non-mobile optimized web sites that users may access, these sites may have problems with access, display and performance. From a support perspective, we can note these issues; however, the level of CDL support provided comes down to whether the reported issue can be replicated from a desktop machine using the same method of authentication as used on the mobile device.

Distribution and Communication

CDL has activated EBSCOhost mobile optimized web pages. Given that EBSCO’s non-optimized pages have significant problems across all platforms, we recommend that any mobile access to EBSCO be provided via the mobile optimized site only.

For this and future mobile activations, mobile optimized URL's will be communicated to campuses via distribution of SCP cataloging records. Campuses can opt-in and display mobile interface links in their cataloging record.

Future Investigation

Future areas of investigation include further research into how best to deliver and display mobile options to users, gaining a better understanding of applications, media and their likely target user groups, and how to better share information about mobile issues between personnel at campuses and CDL.

 

Please provide any feedback and/or direct your questions to cdlsupport-l@www.cdlib.org.

Last updated: December 14, 2012

Document owner: Holly Eggleston