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Voice-mail system crashes; network experiences delays

It has been a rough week for electronic communication on campus.

Most recently, the University voice-mail system crashed for a total of 75 minutes on Sunday. That same day, a "broadcast storm" shut down Telnet and web browsers for the fourth time in five days. To top it off, problems with email prevented users from accessing their mailboxes and delayed deliveries by up to 10 hours last Thursday.

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On Sunday afternoon, Mitel Telecommunications, a Canadian-based company that monitors the voice-mail system for CIT, notified the University that an error had occurred in one of the four message drives that comprise the voice-mail system, said Tom Heller, voice-mail system manager.

Because the system is redundant – four drives mirror each other and can maintain the system even when one drive fails – the University should have been able to install a new drive without shutting down voice-mail, said Frank Ferrara, CIT Manager of Telecommunications.

However, when CIT personnel attempted to install the new drive at 4:30 p.m., the other drives crashed, shutting down the system for about 20 minutes. Puzzled, CIT called the California-based Octel Corporation that manufactured the voice-mail system. When Octel attempted to install the drive at 5:30, the system once again shut down.

Octel and CIT eventually declared the replacement drive defective and ordered a new one. The final voice-mail shut down occurred for 35 minutes at 8:15 p.m. while CIT installed a new replacement message drive.

"This is not supposed to happen," Heller said. "If the first drive had been pure, we would not have had an outage."

Network, email problems

Problems with the computer network also rendered programs such as Telnet and web browsers inaccessible on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, according to Peter Olenick, CIT manager of network systems.

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Oren Firestein '00 noticed the problems on Wednesday night when he was unable to access Telnet or web browsers, programs he needed to complete assignments for COS 217 and COS 226.

"There have been some problems in Dormnet in general when students run very old software," Olenick said, specifically citing Automounter, a 1988 Macintosh program, that initiates a "broadcast storm" which disables the network.

Until CIT finds and removes all copies of Automounter from the network, the problems are likely to persist, Olenick said.

The University email system also caused problems for CIT last week. According to associate director of information services Rita Saltz, some students and staff were unable to access their mailboxes, while those who did enter their mailboxes were often unable to exit them. "The main point is that it was not a single problem, it was a convergence of problems," Saltz said. She added that CIT has identified a "file-locking problem" on the Arizona server, and it is exploring the possibility of moving to new systems and servers in the near future.

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