GW experiences computer glitches

GW computer systems recently experienced significant slow-downs and network problems because of an exponential growth in e-mail use on campus, according to Guy Jones, director of Technology at Networking Information Technology.

In recent weeks problems with GWIS have increased, putting more demand on a system that has been strained in recent years.

Webmail is always down, always, freshman Bridget Grage said. It’s so annoying.

Senior Carrie Bauchwitz also encountered difficulty getting online to complete class assignments.

I’ve been unable to post my listserve (assignments) for my English class because the server’s down, she said. The server’s always down, so I can’t get (online). Plus, none of the computers ever even work.

P.B. Garrett, director of Information Technology Services, said the number of calls to the Information Systems and Services Help Desk increased dramatically during the past weeks.

We are now getting approximately 250 calls per week, with our highest number at about 350 (calls) in one day, Garrett said. Students, faculty and staff are calling asking what is wrong with the system and when will it be fixed . The GW community is feeling quite frustrated right now.

The problem lies with the configuration of the GWIS system, Jones said. The original system was created seven years ago in a federated format in which one computer performed all functions for the network system. Since its creation, the GWIS system continuously has been upgraded into the current GWIS2 system to handle the growth of the GW community. This system model, Jones said, is not adequate for the current use.

The old model of having an academic computer doing e-mail is just not scaleable, he said.

GWIS2 has about 30,000 users, Jones said. Though he said he believes the number of users has plateaued, the number of e-mails from each user as well as the size of these messages have increased greatly during the past several years.

As system capabilities increased, network users have been able to send additional files such as Web pages, Power Point presentations and music in MP3 files via the Internet, all of which require several times the capability of normal text files. The federated configuration of GWIS means that any large file sent through the system can slow the entire system down, Jones said.

NIT spent about $200,000 last week and will spend another $100,000 this week to increase system capacity. These solutions, Jones said, are only Band-Aids for the overall problem that will enable the community to use the system through the end of the semester.

The larger solution involves reconfiguring the entire system, a process that will cost about $1 million, Jones said. The process will begin this summer, and will take three to 12 months.

Information Systems Coordinator Adam Stone said the new distribution system will have several advantages. With the new system, each branch of the network will have its own backup, so system slowdowns should not occur as frequently. System maintenance will be able to occur without shutting down the entire system, as has been happening in the past year. Additionally, the system is expandable, so increasing capacity should not be a problem, Stone said.

Until system problems are fully addressed, Garrett advises students to be patient.

ISS is addressing this issue, and there will be a town-hall meeting to inform the GW community as to the strategic plan on how it will solve this problem, she said.

The ISS town-hall meeting will be held Thursday in the Marvin Center Ballroom on the third floor from 4 p.m. until 5:30 p.m.

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