Emory Wi-Fi ‘Unplugs’ Over the Weekend

An internet outage this past weekend caused widespread connectivity issues for users on Emory Wi-Fi networks, including EmoryUnplugged and EmoryGuest.

The issues began early Friday, Sept. 8, and continued for users until the evening of Sunday, Sept. 10.

Issues on Sept. 8 were caused by a power supply failure, according to Director of Network Services Wayne Ortman. Irma did not cause any of the outages, Ortman said.

During the outage, users could access some websites, but the speed was drastically slower than usual.

The initial problem was identified and resolved later that day, but a software failure resulted in similar connectivity issues early Saturday, Ortman said.

The malfunctions were related to the component that allows devices on Emory networks to share Internet Protocol (IP) addresses. Ortman declined to state specific components that malfunctioned to protect the security of Emory infrastructure and prevent hacks.

All components of the infrastructure have both a primary and backup method, but “the problem was that neither the backup or primary circuits were fully working as designed,” Ortman said.

The restoration team found a temporary “software workaround” for the problem and the network was restored again Saturday night. However, Ortman’s team feared that the workaround might not sustain itself when then-Hurricane Irma hit the metro Atlanta area, so they decided to revert back to the primary platform that was not working, even though the temporary workaround was functional.

The crew then worked to find a permanent software patch for the primary platform, restoring full service around 4 p.m. Sunday, according to Ortman.

“More or less, [the issues] are all loosely [related], although there were multiple root causes,” Ortman said.

Some students left campus to find an internet connection.

Owain Thorogood (20C) said he took an Uber ride to a Starbucks in Decatur, Ga., to finish his online financial accounting homework.

“I think we have such a large endowment, and Emory University is a really big institution and you would think that the Wi-Fi would be … consistent,” Brandon Hirsh (20C) said.

Ortman said that he does not believe the issue will repeat itself.

Emory began consulting with a third party to increase overall stability of its networks, according to Ortman.

Ortman said he believes outages at Emory are comparable to other institutions of similar sizes, adding that his team frequently meets with representatives from peer universities.

After the Wheel spoke with Ortman Monday afternoon, Assistant Vice President of Community Suzanne Onorato sent an email to all students stating that some people had contacted Campus Life regarding challenges with Wi-Fi but assured that the internet has been an issue statewide. When the Wheel asked her to clarify why her account was different than Ortman’s, Onorato did not reply by press time.

Michelle Lou contributed reporting.

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