More users, more problems

By on October 16, 2012

On any given day, Bobcat Net hosts Internet access to 22,409 devices. With so many people connected to the network, when the Internet access malfunctions, many will notice.

On Oct. 8 at 4:11 p.m., a combination of a technical error and a human error caused Bobcat Net to crash, according to Information Security Officer Brian Kelly.

Kelly said the error occurred while changes to the firewall were being made in order to support Quinnipiac’s new website.

“It is as simple as making a typo,” Kelly said. “We made a mistake, hit save and boom.”

An additional error occurred when a loop appeared in the network. A loop is when the network recognizes a single device as being in two different places at once. This causes confusion within the network.

By 6 p.m. that Monday, nearly 70 percent of the network was down.

“We knew what we did, and we knew how to fix it,” Kelly said. “It just takes time.”

To fix the network, Kelly and his team of six others were required to manually reconnect small portions of the network piece-by-piece until the entire network was running again.

The first portion of the network to be fixed belonged to the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. When connection was lost, the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) was in the process of filming a segment of 150 pollsters calling people about the presidential election. Without Internet connection, it would have been impossible for polling to take place and for PBS to film its segment.

Once the Polling Institute was connected, the next parts of the network to be fixed were the areas on campus that classes are held.

“It’s a corporate network; it’s designed to facilitate teaching and learning and run the business of the university,” Kelly said.

In addition to the business aspect of the network, Kelly said Internet connection in the residence halls is important, but the priority is to restore academic and business portions of the network first at times like these.

The network difficulties may have caused problems for the nearly 5,000 students living on campus who rely on Bobcat Net, Kelly said. Many students use the network for both leisure activities and school-related work.

By 7:27 p.m. that Monday, Internet connection was restored to the entire university.

The network is monitored continuously to ensure there are not any unseen issues. The continued monitoring has resulted in the network running efficiently 99.8 percent of the time during a given year, according to a data program that Kelly uses to keep track of the Bobcat Net.

Over the past 10 years, Bobcat Net’s bandwidth, or amount of data that moves from one place to another in a given amount of time, has increased by nearly 900 percent, according to Kelly. Ten new Internet switches are also being prepared to replace older switches, which will result in an increase in network speed.

Despite the improvements, Kelly said that most people only realize the network the 0.2 percent of the time it is not working. When the network is working well, no one notices, but when the network crashes, an entire student body notices, Kelly explained.

“It’s like the lights going out,” Kelly said. “You don’t think about the electricity until it’s not there.”

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