Remote access to Library resources and personal filespace

Accessing Library Resources when off-campus

Did you know that if you are off campus you are still able to read all of the Library’s online books, journals and other resources, so that wherever you are in the world you can be studying this rich, varied and growing part of our collections?

To ensure that you can always access these materials when not on campus you need to be aware of the correct way to do so, as there are two different ways to read these electronic materials, depending on where they are located online. Read below to learn how to tell which online route you need to take.

The two routes to Library Resources when off-campus

Shibboleth/Institutional Login

The vast majority of our digital collections are accessed in the same way, whether or not you are sitting in one of our campuses or anywhere else in the world. This route is called Shibboleth, or sometimes Institutional Login. The only thing you need to take this route is your University of Aberdeen computer username and password.

Upon accessing the website of a digital collection you may be asked to use this information to show that you have permission to read the materials. If you are not asked, have a look for the Shibboleth or Institutional Login option somewhere on the page.

When you take this route you are normally asked three very simple questions:

  1. In which country is the University you are studying at located?
  2. At which University in that country are you a student?
  3. What is your computer username and password at that University?

shib steps img (002)

Having answered these questions you will be able to read any of the materials that the university has subscribed to on that site. Unfortunately, though, we do not have access to everything on the sites that you will visit, so even though you have taken the correct route it may still not be possible to read something you have located.

Access via IP Address – Using the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure

Some digital collections do not use the Shibboleth route and only permit access according to the physical location of the computer being used to read the material. These can often be niche and well-focused digital collections that have chosen not to use the Shibboleth route mentioned above. The University of Aberdeen has no control over whether a website chooses to not use the Shibboleth route.

These digital collections only give access to computers that are located on one of our campuses and the website can tell if you are on campus by viewing the IP Address of the machine. But there is a way of legitimately “fooling” them into thinking you are on campus when in fact you can be anywhere in the world that has access to the internet. This route is called the Virtual Desktop Infrastructure. (VDI). Further details on using the VDI are given below.

How to tell which route to take?

If you know the name of the site on which you are trying to read some online materials you can use Primo to determine the correct route to take when off campus. Follow the steps below to learn how.

  1. Within Primo select the Find Databases option near the top of the page.
  2. To locate connection details about that collection you can search by name or browse through an alphabetical list
  3. Click on Show Info for that collection
  4. Locate Authentication Route details:
    • If it states “Shibboleth/UK Federation and IP” you will only need your computer username and password to access it
    • If it states “IP” you will need to use the VDI option when off campus

Guides to using each of these routes when off campus

Shibboleth/Institutional Login

Consult the Library Guide Accessing Electronic Information

Using the VDI

Consult the guidance available on the IT Service Toolkit:

Video briefly explaining the operation of the VDI

Online Guide detailing the steps needed to use the VDI

Once you have set up VDI access you will be able to navigate to Primo from within it and then conduct your searching and linking to digital materials as if you are on campus.

If you have located resources when using the VDI that you want to save for use later you will need to save them to your own personal file space on the servers at University of Aberdeen, your H Drive. The VDI restricts you to saving materials there. So, if you want to access them later from off campus you will need to use another route which is very simple to operate, the University’s Virtual Private Network (VPN). Read on below to learn and about using the VPN.


Access your personal network filespace from off-campus – Remote the VPN

The H: drive is your personal area of file storage on the University network. It provides you with 10GB of secure filespace and is the most secure location to store your course work and files. It appears as HOME on any classroom PC you sign into and is backed up by IT services on a daily basis.  

To access your saved work, simply sign into any networked PC and click on the desktop icon This PC, then select HOME.  

But did you know that Remote VPN provides you with remote access to your H: drive? It also provides access to web-based resources via your personal device, whether on campus, at home or in a wireless hotspot. All you need is an internet connection and a valid University of Aberdeen username and password. 

How do I access it? 

Read on, to find out how to access important files saved to your H: drive, when working from home.  

  • Open your browser and navigate to https://sma.abdn.ac.uk/  
  • You will be asked to read and accept the security guidelines outline in the VPN disclaimer – click Accept  
  • Log in using your username and password (if you are presented with a security warning click ‘Allow’) 

Using the VPN 

  • Staff will see a Home button and a User Apps button, providing links to network shared drives and also a link to their Home filespace (H: drive). Students will see a link to their Home filespace (H: drive) 
  • Click on the Home filespace button. A new window will open, displaying your Home filespace and file structure 
  • Click on a folder in the pane on the left of the window to view its contents. It is recommended that you copy any files from your H: drive, to your computer before editing them.  
  • Select a file and click Download from the top menu bar. Depending on the browser, the file may automatically download to your Downloads folder or, a pop-up may appear with the option to save the file where you want, in which case navigate to the area on your local hard drive (in your computer) that you want to save your file to. 
  • Work on the document as normal.  
  • When you are done, save your changes, close the file and return to the VPN to upload the document there. You can do this by dragging and dropping the file from your computer’s local drive onto VPN’s DROP FILES HERE area or by selecting Upload from the top menu bar. 

Remember to log out of the Home filespace and the VPN home page itself.  

Note: Before you begin, make sure you have an up-to-date antivirus software and that your Windows or Mac updates are current. 

For more information and help, contact the IT service desk by emailing servicedesk@abdn.ac.uk, phoning 01224 273636 or dropping in at The Sir Duncan Rice Library (Floor 1).  

Eleni Borompoka, eleni.boro@abdn.ac.uk

Ewan Grant, e.grant@abdn.ac.uk

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