By, SABINA IDRIZ
Many students and faculty members found themselves unable to access the majority of Drake University’s online systems. Blackboard, Drake email, MyDUSIS and more fell victim to an internet outage which was fixed on the after the day of the shutdown on Oct. 21.
This outage was the result of an error in updated software the week prior which caused an unnoticed performance issue.“We performed last weekend a routine upgrade to a piece of equipment that is redundant with another piece of equipment in our second data center in Minnesota,” said Chris Gill, Drake’s chief information technology officer. “We actually updated both those pieces of equipment to the most current version of their operating system and an unknown problem, a bug if you wanna call it that, with the software eventually caused the equipment to stop working the way it was supposed to.”
About a dozen Information Technology Services (ITS) team members worked to identify, diagnose and resolve the issue. “Our team worked all day Sunday to get everything back up and running,” Gill said. “We were working on the technical issues and there were probably four to five people involved in that, we were working on ensuring that everybody in IT knew what was happening so the administration team was keeping in regular communication with each other and then we were working on communicating to campus the best we could on what was going on.”
As both the Drake website and email system were down, ITS found themselves unable to inform and update the entire campus on what was going on. Information was shared on Twitter and through text message outage notifications. In the event of further outages, students or staff may follow @DrakeITServices on Twitter or text ‘DrakeITS2018’ to 226787. Those signing up for text notifications have to do so again each year to continue receiving them, as it does not renew automatically.
“Drake email is important because it helps me stay in touch with my professors and my extracurricular activities,” said Melanie Schnurr, a first-year student. “There’d be no real way for me to communicate with my professors outside of class without it.”
After this outage, the due dates for midterm grades and to drop a class without extenuating circumstances were extended a day. Instructors originally had until Oct. 22 to finalize and submit midterm grades, and this change gave them until 10 a.m. on Oct. 23. The deadline for students to drop a class also went from Oct. 24 to Oct. 25. It’s unclear if these deadline extensions are related to the outage, but students could not access Blackboard or their Drake email to submit any assignments or reach out to professors.
“Blackboard is helpful because my professors sometimes can put alternative sources on there to help me out and I can check my grades to see if I need to improve on anything,” Schnurr said.
The systems are working at the present moment, but future outages are not unlikely. ITS is working to prevent any further performance issues and quickly resolve those that do occur. While the ITS’s normal work days are Monday through Friday, they respond to outages on a 24-hour cycle.
In an email sent out to students on Oct. 22, Gill states “ITS is dedicated to ensuring that the services we provide are as reliable as possible. We will continue to do everything we can to prevent issues like this from occurring in the future.”
ILLUSTRATION BY LASHA STEWART