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Increase in vPC use crashes library computers

Campus Correspondent

Published: Thursday, November 15, 2012

Updated: Friday, August 23, 2013 17:08

Students have been feeling the agony of Homer Babbidge’s computers not functioning properly for the past few weeks. A lot of the issues are due to the sudden increase in the new virtual PC (vPC) use.

The library computer system is projected to take hours to fix, but it will most likely take days to fully assess and correct the problems, according to Jeremy Pollack, the director of IT in the school of business and Tony Molloy, the director of IT for the university libraries. The main problem with the system is the hardware, which was addressed this past weekend when library computers went down. Over the weekend, the network card failed, which caused a cascade of problems.

Both Pollack and Molloy identified the issue; however, they proceeded to email the vendor repeatedly. The main issue stems from the sudden growth of the system used by students and faculty.

The library computers have switched over to the vPC system, which is a virtual computer lab that can be accessed from anywhere. Personal laptops and even iPads can access vPC and use UConn software. However, the sudden surge in vPC use has created a lot of problems, specifically in the hardware that IT services were not prepared to repair. Some problems include being unable to log onto the program, internet servers being down and many other simple tasks.

“We know we have problems with the system,” Molloy said. “We certainly acknowledge there is a problem occurring. This past weekend we have had technicians working on it and any other resources we can use. We diagnosed the problem with three different vendors.”

Molloy explained that the project was put into place back in Fall 2011, and this past fall, they decided to extend it further due to its popularity. However, so many people suddenly using it faster than anticipated has led to many of the problems. Molloy described the problems as “growing pains” with the project. Technicians will be assessing the hardware problems in the coming days and over winter break.

Another complaint from students is that the USB drives in the library computers will not accept their thumb drives or memory sticks. This is due to the fact that there is an additional step in order for USB’s to function properly on the computers according to Molloy. The library has student aids to help students and faculty work through this extra step.

“We are trying everything in our power to help students,” Pollack said. “At the time we were in the middle of quadrupling the hardware but with so many people using it, it has led to problems. We need to make sure that the small issues don’t become big issues. Some of these problems within the UConn network no one has seen before.”

Pollack explained that a lot of the problems seen earlier in the year were outside of their control and were problems within the UConn network. The two power failures that occurred earlier in the semester caused major issues and made a mess behind the scenes.

Another project that is currently being worked on is an upgrade for a wireless expansion specifically for the dorm halls. Both Molloy and Pollack explained it will not be an easy expansion, and will cost an estimated $700,500.

“We are actively trying to make a better tech life for students and we understand how frustrating it is [system failure],” said Pollack.

Molloy expressed a desire for feedback on the system, even if it’s negative, as they want to hear what students and faculty have to say. They also plan to have a focus group for the system toward the end of the semester. The vPC system has three different support teams. One is for networking, one is services and the last is for storage. These are all owned by Dell.

There is a new project currently in the works called a parallel system. It is a system that will be set up outside of Storrs, but students and faculty can still connect to it in case the server on the main campus crashes. The purchase was finalized although there were no estimated costs given. They are currently researching a proper building location.

More information on the vPC system at UConn can be found at vpc.uconn.edu.

 

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