Since the fall semester, Sacred Heart University has been experiencing several network connection issues.
The Information Technology (IT) Department attempted to fix them while they were happening and over winter break. However, with everyone back on campus for the spring semester, it’s clear that these technical issues have not been completely resolved.
Shirley Canaan is the Vice President of IT.
“Networking is comprised of hundreds of systems working together to get data to and from cyber destinations with Wi-Fi being the last leg on that journey, so if any component fails, the Wi-Fi often fails,” said Canaan. “The cause could be anything from an authentication server protecting your account from a cyber invader to, as recently happened, a truck knocking down the utility pole that carries our internet circuit.”
Saburo Usami is the Executive Director of IT Infrastructure at SHU.
“In August, when we discovered the corrupt database on the authentication server, we had to rebuild that server, so in the meantime, we built the BigRedNet network to bypass that system temporarily,” said Usami. “It decreased the security of the connection somewhat but got people online quickly.”
IT has decided to keep BigRedNet as a precautionary measure, but they advised users not to use it for online banking or business that requires credit cards, account numbers or personal information.
Dr. Mark Congdon Jr. is an assistant professor in the School of Communication, Media & the Arts at Sacred Heart.
“In the fall, campus IT attempted to solve this issue proactively by adding additional WiFi options, but I’ve found, at least in Martire where my office and classes are held, that they don’t work when the main Sacred Heart network goes down,” said Congdon.
There were also communication issues between the authentication server and the WiFi controller. IT worked with the hardware manufacturer to patch the systems so they could work together properly and now both are operating without any faults.
“The typical individual may have a phone, tablet, watch, smart TV, game console and an Alexa all in their dorm room,” said Usami. “Each device relies on a number of subsystems – such as DeviceNet registration – to work, so anything that causes problems to any part of the network may result in the WiFi going down.”
IT notified the SHU community recently of some improvements they’ve made to the infrastructure to avoid disruptions going forward. These adjustments include upgrading servers that oversee the network and creating redundancies in the servers to keep downtime at a low in case SHU’s own provider goes down.
Sophomore Isabella Sardina discussed how the campus internet issue affects her both in and out of the classroom.
“The WiFi issue has disrupted my learning and affects my ability to do schoolwork, like taking notes in class,” said Sardina. “This issue also impacts how I contact my family which can be extremely disheartening, especially with the stress of school.”
IT also announced that they’ll be adding antennas to all buildings to enhance the signals for Verizon, AT&T and T-Mobile carriers which should help situations like this.
“When the WiFi is out, it impacts my classes because some of my students cannot submit online assignments, causing me to extend due dates,” said Congdon. “This puts me behind with grading and getting students caught up to the current work we’re doing.”
There was also an upgrade made to Blackboard that will now auto save test progress and notify students if they lose connection. When the system is reconnected, all their work will be restored.
Senior Divalee Iglesias is a former employee of The Factory, SHU’s technical support facility on campus.
“One of the most prevalent issues we received calls about was the WiFi, which was especially complicated for us because there’s a procedure that has to be followed,” said Iglesias. “Sometimes we have to put ourselves in The Factory’s shoes, have patience, and understand the difficulties they’re facing to locate the problems.”
If the connection does interfere with class and schoolwork, IT suggests some ways to deal with it. This includes using classrooms with hard-wired desk computers when classes are not taking place, communicating with professors, and turning off the private address setting on personal devices.
“The IT team is committed to providing the tools that students need to successfully complete their studies and that faculty and staff need to do their jobs,” said Canaan. “We very much regret the interruptions and will continue to update you on our progress as solutions are implemented.”