MCR Computing

University Computing

The University Computing Service is responsible for the provision of computing resources to support research and teaching throughout the university. The Cambridge University Data Network (CUDN) is the name given to the set of networks and facilities supported by the Computing Service. Read on for a brief introduction to those services.

Essential services | Web hosting | Other services

Essential services

All students are entitled to accounts for access to Computing Service systems, and these are almost essential to ensure that communication is possible with your college and department (it is usually assumed that people will have a Cambridge e-mail address). The most important services are:

  • Hermes - The main university e-mail system
  • PWF - Public workstation facility, a university-wide system providing file storage and software
  • Raven - An authentication server, to identify members of the university to websites (including parts of this one)

It is very important that you have Hermes and PWF accounts. Your PWF username and password is required for access to two of the three computers in the MCR, the college computer suite (in the library), computers in the University Libraries and in some departments. New students should automatically receive information about these accounts, and you can usually then collect your passwords online (from a computer on the university network). If you do not have any Computing Service accounts, you should complete an application form (available to download as a PDF) and take it to the Computing Service Reception.

Existing students may not have Raven accounts (the service was introduced in 2004). Assuming that you already have a Hermes account, you can collect a Raven a password online. Sidney post-grads in particular should ensure that they have a Raven password, because this is required to sign up for guest nights.

Web hosting

There are several ways of making your own website available on university servers. There are several advantages of this - primarily that the service is free and that you can elect to restrict access to members of the university for all or part of your site - but there is the disadvantage that your site must conform to (quite extensive) university rules. Some of the most popular locations are:

  • PWF - anything placed in a public_html subfolder of your PWF filespace is served from the PWF webserver at the URL (where CRSID is your Hermes username, usually your initials followed by one or more digits). Files in public_html/cam_only are only accessible from This is very convenient as everyone should have a PWF account, but the hosting is relatively basic.
  • CUS - This may be of interest to those who have a CUS account (see below) for other purposes; it has few major advantages over the PWF.
  • SRCF - The Student-Run Computing Facility provides a far more comprehensive web hosting solution than the PWF, with PHP, CGI, SSI and MySQL support and a generous (and flexible) amount of filespace. This is a university society, and the only downside is that you will have to apply to become a member - but this is free and you only need to send an e-mail.

If you do make your own website you should be aware of some rules. The key rules are that you must not supply any material that might be illegal or cause offence - you should avoid making any material available for which you do not the copyright. Your website should also not claim or imply that it officially represents the university, so you must not use university logos or crests without approval.

Other services

VPDN Remote Access may also be of interest to some users. VPN, or Virtual Private Networking, allows a connection to be made to the university network (CUDN) from outside Cambridge. This is possible over any other Internet connection (D is for dial-up). Unfortunately the configuration is slightly complicated, and varies significantly between operating systems. There are significant advantages, though - it allows you access to the Hermes SMTP server (so you can easily send e-mails without changing your configuration), Cambridge-only pages of many college and department websites, and external information sources (for example journal websites) that restrict access to subscribing institutions. To set this up, first check the summary of the different operating system requirements. You should then apply for an account from the Computing Service, requesting a CISCO client if necessary, and follow these more detailed instructions. If you have any problems you should check for Windows updates - firstly with Windows Update (install all service packs and critical updates), and then searching for L2TP/IPSec updates.

To apply for this service, you should complete an application form (available to download as a PDF) and take it to the Computing Service Reception.

Computing information last modified by SP on 13 October 2009