By Robin Gericke, Staff Writer
A problem with Wi-Fi is rarely simple, and the problems with the campus Internet are no exception. However, Asbury’s Information Technology Services department (ITS) is currently working on putting new systems in place that will make Internet difficulties less frequent and easier to resolve.
Scott Irwin, Network Manager of ITS, said that the issues with the Wi-Fi, which include connecting to the wireless network and accessing resources and the Internet, “are all very different aspects of a large network infrastructure like we have here at Asbury.”
ITS has already made major improvements on the campus network. During the fall 2014 semester, there were problems in the dorms due to outdated wireless equipment that was not strong enough to handle the large amount of devices students brought to campus.
“We temporarily addressed this issue, in conjunction with Student Development, by purchasing a small wireless access point for every dorm room,” said Irwin. “Once we worked through some initial configuration issues that we uncovered as a result of this type of dense deployment, things worked much better for the Spring 2015 academic term.”
The most important thing for students to know is that if a problem isn’t reported, ITS won’t know about it.
Over the summer, ITS installed new wireless systems in Johnson and Glide- Crawford. They plan to update the remaining residence halls over the next few years.
“We are excited about being able to provide a better and more stable experience for all residential buildings,” said Irwin. “So far this model has worked well in these buildings, and we have not heard of any issues with the actual wireless network experience.”
Irwin explained that the problems reported this semester are firewall and network issues, not with the actual wireless network points.
“The majority of the frustrations experienced the first couple of weeks into the Fall 2015 semester were a result of an over-taxed Network Firewall,” Irwin said. “The equipment was simply struggling to handle the increasing number of network devices and the types of data usage those devices were trying to use.
As of last week, ITS has finalized the configuration of new, more powerful firewalls, which Irwin said will “improve the login and Internet experience and help improve the security of our campus network.”
Wireless printers and Chromecast streaming devices are also consistently problematic. “These devices, if not configured properly, will broadcast their own wireless network and cause interference that does cause problems,” said Irwin. If students have a wireless printer, it needs to be configured at the Help Desk.
“We are working on a way to allow devices such as the Chromecast, Roku, Xbox and other devices without a web browser to access the network without the need for direct network authentication,” said Irwin.
The most important thing for students to know about the campus Wi-Fi is that if a problem isn’t reported, ITS won’t know about it.
“We have had several instances where we uncovered a problem and later found that this was affecting some students for a few days. Not all problems are network-wide, or affect everyone,” Irwin said. “We are actively working to improve our monitoring systems to stay ahead of issues, but we can’t always be ahead of everything.”
Students can look forward to an easier way to report problems to ITS.
“We are anticipating the release of an Asbury ITS Status page much like Google and Apple have for all their cloud-based services,” said Irwin. This new page will allow students to report problems more easily and clearly without calling or emailing the Help Desk. Students will also be able to see if ITS is already aware of the problem. “We hope to have more details available in the coming weeks and to release it for use to the community.”
Irwin encourages students to think of their neighbors as a possible solution to some Wi-Fi frustrations. “All your actions on the network do affect other users. If you are excessively streaming and using a lot of bandwidth, then you are adversely affecting your neighbors’ experience,” Irwin said. “Thank you to our campus community, and to all the students, faculty and staff for being understanding and cooperative as we try to provide a solid campus technology experience for everyone.”