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Network problems explained

November 5, 2010

As many students and faculty of Monmouth College may already know, the school’s network suffered a severe malfunction last week and the setback took several days to fix. What many people may not be aware of is what type of malfunction actually occurred or how it was caused.

According to Vice President for Institution-Wide Initiatives, Jane Jakoubek, the problem was with the school’s Storage Area Networks, or SANs. The school has three SANs, each of which serve its own purpose. One SAN runs the internet, another runs both campus e-mail and the F drive, while the third SAN is an administrative database which stores school records such as students’ grades.

The only SAN that reportedly failed was the one that runs e-mail and the F drive. Each SAN has a series of 12 hard drives that work as a team, according to Jakoubek and is designed so that if at least 10 hard drives are working, the entire system will function while the malfunctioning drives repair themselves and catch up with the rest of the system. This was when the main problem occurred.

“A drive went bad and in the synchronizing stage the other drive failed,” said Jakoubek. “It took a while to fix because there were two incompatible drives.”

If the college encounters a problem with the network that it cannot fix, varying degrees of technicians are brought in from Hewlett Packard (HP) to do repairs, beginning with a level one technician.

“The system would lock up and crash as we tried to fix it,” said Jakoubek. “We needed level four assistance. We’ve never even gone past level two before.”

A level four technician is the highest form of assistance at HP, and even they were initially stumped by the problem.

“HP told us that they had never encountered a problem like this before. It was an unprecedented problem for them,” said Jakoubek.

Fortunately for students and faculty, the only things lost during the network failure were some incoming e-mails during a 10 hour period. According to Jakoubek, the staff will be getting together to figure out what could have been done better should something like this happen in the future.

During the student government meeting on Tuesday Nov. 2, it was noted that it could take another five days for the system to fully recover and work properly.


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