Opening of year marred by network difficulties

Opening of year marred by network difficulties

Matthew Arenas, Staff Reporter

RB started the new school year with an extremely slow Internet connection.  The school’s server was not working properly and it left students and staff befuddled.  Technology Coordinator Mike Connors and Technology Specialist Dave Fischer, RB’s IT Team, had no indication of any problems in the connection prior to the beginning of school.  Connors said that a lack of usage of devices before the beginning of the year left he and Fischer with a lack of system data as to how the system would work under the pressure of around 800 private student and staff devices that connect to the network every business day.

Under pressure, Connors and Fischer took steps to diagnose and fix the issue.  Their first attempt to fix the connection was to question the school’s Internet provider Comcast as to whether the system issues came from Comcast’s end or not.  When Comcast indicated that the network was functioning properly on their end, this meant that the network problems were a local issue.

“We took it in stride,” said  Fischer about working on the Internet issues.

Connors and Fischer worked on the problem systematically, troubleshooting the system, diagnosing possible problems, narrowing down those issues and then applying appropriate fixes.  After each fix, they then had to sit back and wait for the next school day to come around to see if the fix worked.  For several days, no fixes seemed to alleviate the issue.

“You could be annoyed with your browser not working,” Fischer said, “but being annoyed doesn’t help anything.  You’re only going to fix something by working on it.”

During this time, Connors and Fischer worked out bugs in the school’s firewall, the part of the network that looks out at the Internet and filters what can be displayed on devices connected to the school’s server.  As this was happening, the school server had to connect to the school’s back up provider, AT&T, which provided the service Opteman.  Opteman allowed the school to have temporary Internet, though not at the same capacity as the main provider would.  In response, Connors and Fischer blocked YouTube and other popular sites so that the school could maintain a reasonable connection speed.  Without those filters, one person watching a video could have slowed the connection for the rest of the entire school.  While the lack of Internet affected both teachers and students, the effects were survivable.

“It was kind of annoying when I had thought I had to go to the Brookfield Library [to work online]. Luckily [the Internet connection] was fixed before the due date of my project,”  said sophomore Emma Beener.

After several days of work, Connors contacted Comcast again to try to fix the problem.  Comcast sent a representative to the school and reconfigured Comcast’s equipment.  On August 27, the school’s Internet was back up and running.  Ultimately, Connors and Fischer indicated that Comcast was at fault for equipment that was not working properly, causing network strain.  Still, the issues were resolved and currently the school’s bandwidth is almost double that of last year, moving from 60 mbps to 110.