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Campus file servers lag

Mills College Weekly

Mills students are downloading excessive graphics, songs, and movies from the Internet, causing campus file servers to run 50 percent slower than last semester.

Following a central systems slowdown, administrative computing services sent e-mail warnings targeting students suspected of downloading information, or file sharing. According to the e-mail, students cannot download between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. After 8 p.m. students are allowed unlimited access to file sharing, said director of central systems and administrative computing, Marshall Northcott. Students who fail to comply could lose access to their personal computers.

“When I got the email, I was scared because I felt like they singled me out and I didn’t want my computer to be taken away from me,” said freshwoman Katie Mathis, who now more cautiously downloads episodes of “Saved by the Bell.”

At the beginning of the academic year, students who attended a mandatory workshop were told the appropriate times to use the file servers, but many students, like Mathis didn’t remember this instruction.

The main issue behind the college’s efforts to curtail daytime file sharing is currently the need for space and speed on the file servers, which everyone on campus shares.

Downloading music and movies onto student Ella accounts, is much more risky for Mills students than downloading items onto personal computer space since computing services has the right to search students’ Ella files for downloaded items.

According to Northcott, other colleges and universities have dealt with this issue by installing programs that don’t allow certain types of files through the servers at all. This approach immediately helps student users of file servers.

However, other schools have approached file sharing in a less extreme manner. Some schools have invested in “band width-shaping products” which prioritize server use, Northcott said. These products allow students to download movies and songs, but at a much slower rate, while business transactions and educational uses receive faster speed and space priority.

Northcott estimates that approximately 20 to 30 Mills students have been caught file sharing. If the servers continue to slow, Mills may have to follow other institutions and adopt products that prioritize use of the file servers.