A clogged sewage pipe in the Smith Hall of Art Friday morning caused a flood in the basement of the Academic Center, where most of the University’s computing facilities are located. According to administrators, no critical systems – like the routing mechanism for 911 emergency calls – were compromised. But so-called non-critical systems like e-mail, the GWeb registration system and campus internet access failed. The University’s response was swift and effective, but perhaps this incident should have been avoided by better planning.
Internet access and GWeb were back up and running by Friday afternoon, but e-mail service was interrupted until early Sunday morning. The Oracle system used by the University to track its finances was still out of commission Sunday night.
GW has become dependent on its computing resources, especially e-mail. University officials recognized this new paradigm when they upgraded the e-mail system at the beginning of the academic year, greatly improving service. Because students, faculty and staff increasingly depend on GW e-mail accounts for academic, professional and personal use, important daily tasks are put on hold when the University’s e-mail system stops working, no matter what the cause.
The short time it took computer specialists to get the University’s computer resources back online is a testament to their professionalism. But perhaps the University should reconsider putting all computer systems in the same basement. Centralizing the servers makes administering the systems they supply easier, but it allows for a single event to compromise their effectiveness.
Using a customer service oriented approach, the University should do everything possible to prevent shut downs like the outage last weekend from happening again. If that means moving the servers to a different location or waterproofing the rooms in which they are located, the expense is worth it to students dependent on University services for internet-related services.