Photo by Katherine Bauer
BY PHONG LY
College is full of surprises, whether it is a surprise exam right after a long break or a paper you didn’t know about that’s due the very next day. Drake students received a surprise coming back from fall break: the printers were not working.
Tate Johnson, an environmental science major, said he noticed the issue on Tuesday night of fall break when he was trying to print out a reading assignment for a class he had the next day.
“I was trying to print some stuff, and all the printers in the library were not working,” Johnson said. “I even came back to my dorm to try the printer there, and that didn’t work either.”
Johnson wasn’t the only one struggling to get his printed document. Sophomore Paige McCaslin said she couldn’t even get her practice test uploaded on the printing website (PaperCut).
“I couldn’t get it uploaded onto PaperCut for some reason,” McCaslin said. “I had to come back and switch from double sided to single sided for it to work.”
Similar incidents have been happening to a number of Drake students in the past two weeks since fall break, which, according to Johnson, created a lot of “confusion” and “frustration” among Drake students.
Jerel Krueger, the assistant director of campus technicians, said that the printer malfunction was the result of an unsuccessful upgrade of the printing system.
“One of the minor pieces that allows us to release from any printer on campus was experiencing some minor difficulties,” Krueger said. “It was pretty transparent for users and only pops up once in awhile but our vendors recommended we upgrade the PaperCut system.”
According to Krueger, Drake’s printing system involves a couple of different vendors. There is Laser Resources Iowa (LRI) services, which helps maintain and manage the printers on campus. There is the PaperCut management system, which is the system that monitors printing and charges students and different departments appropriately for the things that they print.
Krueger stated that Drake server engineers did work with PaperCut and LRI to test the upgrade to make sure things were functioning correctly, and the testing was “largely successful.”
“Everything looked promising in our test so we went forward over fall break with the upgrade on our production server, which is the server we actually use for the system,” Krueger said. “But when you have a lot of users put in the system, it behaved unpredictably in a way that was not revealed in our test.”
Krueger emphasized that testing for load is a great challenge in Information Technology (IT) and that the Drake IT department did everything in their power to make sure the system would transition smoothly.
“You can test the system exhaustively,” Krueger said. “But you can never accurately simulate how a system is going to behave under an actual load when you have thousands of users using it.”
Shawn Madsen, assistant director of server administration, and Joseph Scavo, a system engineer, explained how they didn’t see the problem until after the students came back from fall break.
“The average number of printed documents per day on campus is around 30,000 pages to 35,000 pages,” Scavo said. “During fall break, the number was 5,000 pages.”
“The upgrade took place on Monday, so the problem didn’t have an opportunity to show up until the students came back,” Madsen said.
Even though this was affecting a large number of students coming back to campus, they were not the first to report the problem.
“Our staff and faculties actually use the printers a lot more than the students,” Madsen said. “We heard mainly from them about the printing issue.”
According to Madsen, the staff is still having issues with the printers because they don’t use web print through PaperCut like students do but usually send the file directly to the printer. Also, faculty and staff printers have more complicated functions like punching holes and stapling. Madsen said a small part of the vendor’s software is still not working and the vendor still has not been able to fix it.
“They have been very responsive, and I’m sure they are working diligently to resolve this issue,” Madsen said. “I think this issue is a lot more complicated than the vendor expected.”
Madsen spoke with confidence that the printing services are restored completely for students. Otherwise, he encouraged students to come to IT Support Center and let them know what isn’t working.
“If any more problems arise, we invite students to contact IT support, and we will do anything we can to help them,” Madsen said.