ITS Responds to Server Problems

By Amanda Richey, News Editor

Students experienced some extended issues in accessing MyFurman in September; what started as a simple miscommunication between servers became a larger issue with Internet browsers, requiring Information Technology Services (ITS) staff and student workers to respond on social media.

The problem started with an outage of a Microsoft server Wed. Sept. 16 that lasted approximately an hour and a half that evening.

According to Furman’s Chief Information Officer Fred Miller, the ITS department responded to this outage in a timely manner.

“There’s not one server; there are actually many servers behind MyFurman,” Miller said. “On Wednesday night we had a problem that had to do with our communication or something on Microsoft’s end. And we got a hold of them and they were able to fix it within that timeframe.”

The problem extended beyond the night of Sept. 16 because the malfunctioning information was cached into the browser, locking students, faculty and staff out of MyFurman. If someone tried to use the same browser that was open during the Microsoft outage to access MyFurman later in the week, an error box appeared with a reference number directing students to call ITS. Although small issues with the Microsoft server connection are fairly common, the browser-caching problem was new for students.

“Something about [the Microsoft outage] cached some information in the browser, and unless they restarted, tried a different browser or cleared the cache on their browser, the problem persisted,” Miller said. “There’s not anything we could really do about it other than hope that people would call in or look at the responses on Yik Yak.”

According to Miller and Mike Gifford, director of the ITS Center, 17 people called the department between that Wednesday and the weekend about accessing MyFurman.

“It’s just one of those things that happens,” Gifford said about the outage. “Other people posted on Yik Yak or word of mouth spread in the hall.”

To spread information on how to fix the problem student workers in the ITS department posted instructions both on Yik Yak and on Facebook.

“The students we have working down there—I can’t say enough good things about them. I get lots of compliments on their work,” Miller said.

As for plans to deal with possible complications in the future, the ITS department will produce a new strategic plan in the spring that will update server storage from its current system to a “cloud-first” approach. About half of the server connections that Furman uses are already on cloud while the remaining server connections are located in a data center in Montague Village. Storing all information in the cloud will unify the different servers that MyFurman uses, broaden bandwidth for both computers and mobile devices and replace aging infrastructure.

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