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Internet outages on server disrupt life on campus

Internet outages swept Mills College the week of Feb. 8 due to a conflict between Mills’ two Internet service provider routers, according to officials.

Senior Director of Information Technology Systems (ITS) Bruce McCreary explained that one of the routers hijacked network traffic. McCreary described the problem as “a hardware logic error that caused the guest network provider to provide a bad path for our network traffic. It’s like a freeway worker sending cars down the wrong road.”

Though administrators say they are doing their best to get the Mills system in working order, students on campus are becoming worried.

“It’s been difficult getting my questions to teachers via e-mail and it’s just one week before exams,” said senior Abigail Orona.

Senior Annie Peterson found the outages inconvenient for a different reason.

“It was my birthday and I ended up not getting a lot of my messages! It was really frustrating,” she said.

Despite community frustrations, Network Administrator Babak Oskouian said shutting down the Internet was necessary to ensure the safety of the Mills network.

“There are ways of bypassing shutting down the Internet but it would be too much of a security risk. We had to stop traffic to the Internet to protect ourselves from viruses and cyber-attacks,” he said.

McCreary felt that, although the three outages were an inconvenience, the service provided by Cisco Hardware is satisfactory overall.

“The service is actually pretty good,” he said. “We call Cisco, they come and fix the problem. We’re pretty happy with the service we’ve had.”

But some students aren’t on the same page about the quality of Internet service on campus. Some believe the systems could use improvement.

“The internet here isn’t up to par with student needs. A lot of times it crashes if I have two or three tabs up,” said junior Heather Williams.

Junior Rebecca Shelton felt the same way.

“Even on the days when the Internet’s working it’s still pretty slow,” Shelton noted.

Although Internet problems have been an issue on campus, McCreary said such problems are largely unreported.

“We haven’t had any reports at the help desk and there haven’t been any complaints to ITS of any problems other than these outages,” he said.

McCreary would like more feedback from students about Internet services on campus.

“The most important thing to stress here is that if students are having problems of this nature they really need to get reported to the help desk. With that information we can look into it to see if there’s a real problem going on with our network as opposed to someone’s individual piece of equipment,” he said.

Oskouian said he is pleased with the service as well, though he mentioned that the department is thinking of upgrading from 50 to 100 megabits of bandwidth, a change that would improve Internet speed.

“In August of 2007, we had only nine megabits of bandwidth and we upgraded to 50. Our plan is to double that by this summer,” he said.

Oskouian declined to comment on the exact cost of such a change, but said it wouldn’t be much more than what the college is presently spending.

“We’re already paying $4,500 a month for 50 megabits now,” Oskouian stated.

Some students would welcome the change.

“It would be really nice because I notice that around 6 p.m. the connection gets really slow,” said senior Marit Coyman-Myklebust.