Water dampens Webmail

The University shut down Webmail, research computer systems, GWeb registration functions and other computer networks after water flooded the basement of the Academic Center Friday morning.

All systems were back online at 10:07 a.m. Sunday morning.

A sewage backup started in Smith Hall of the Academic Center, causing water to rush into the B1 and B2 levels of the Academic Center through the ceilings, said Jeff Baxter Communications Coordinator of Information Systems and Services.

The machine room, which houses central computing systems including GWMail, GWIS2, Webmail, Banner System, Oracle financial systems and the World Wide Web machine, is on the B1 level, Baxter said.

Machine room systems also handle grades and payroll.

All power to the machine room was shut down at 9:30 a.m. Friday, taking all systems administered from the room off line, Baxter said.

It was raining water, said Guy Jones, Chief Technical Officer.

Facilities Management workers were immediately called to remove the water and cover the systems with plastic.

Units could not be shut down fast enough, and technicians were forced to unplug non-critical systems to prevent further damage, said Andrew Gallo, a computer engineer for Network Information Technology.

We’re gonna have a lot of work to do rebuilding, Gallo said.

Some students with less than 30 completed credit hours whose last names are between Ric and S were unable to register for classes during their scheduled time Nov. 10 because systems were not operating after 9:30 a.m.

Not too many students were denied registration because most students register very early in the morning and our systems didn’t shut down until 9:30, Baxter said.

The University revised the registration schedule to give students another chance to register for classes Monday morning, according to a message posted Saturday on the University’s Virtual Help Desk.

Parts of the network were restored Friday at 3:20 p.m., Baxter said.

The Banner systems, which allow students to access their class schedules and financial records, were the first to be restored, he said.

Some GW Web sites such as GWeb and the University’s homepage could not be accessed until Friday afternoon.

Turning on a wet unit results in an even longer delay in e-mail service, Jones said.

E-mail and the Oracle financial system were the hardest hit by the water, Baxter said.

GW system advisors and people from Sun Corporation, a computer technology company, are assessing the problem, Baxter said.

System administrators want to make sure they are fully prepared before starting the systems again, and are investigating if there has been water damage to the computers, Baxter said.

If there has been water damage to the computers, workers have to be very careful before restarting the systems, Baxter said.

It is an insurable loss, said Barry Dempsey, director of Risk Management and Insurance.

Facilities Management cleaned the rooms affected by the flood and tried to assess where the water was coming from as quickly as possible, Baxter said.

All offices in the basement had extensive damage, including personal belongings of staff members and cubicles, Baxter said.

Students said they were frustrated with the shut down, saying the loss of e-mail hampered study plans.

I couldn’t do my paper this weekend, freshman Emily Ivers said. I had an e-mail from my professor explaining the topic that I couldn’t get to.

Ivers, who said the paper counts for about one-third of her grade in that class, and thinks GW should reconsider where it puts network computers.

That’s why you don’t put computers in the basement, she said.

Freshman Stephanie Song said she agrees. Song said she was unable to complete her homework because she could not retrieve an e-mail from a teaching assistant for one of her classes.

Song said the outage did not affect her weekend otherwise.

I sent out an e-mail to a listserve, and now no one can check to read it, sophomore Bernard Pollack said. It’s down so often so it’s not something I’m really surprised about.

-Tim Donnelly contributed to this report.

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