IWU’s weekend internet outage, behind the tech scenes

By Farah Bassyouni Oct 14, 2022

                                                                                  Photo: Taken by Argus Staff

On Friday October 7, at 6:42 a.m., Illinois Wesleyan University students received an email that the campus’s internet was down. Some classes were canceled, some were not.  More emails were sent with anticipation that the internet would be restored by the end of the day. The internet outage continued throughout the weekend and was back on Sunday morning. 

The reason for the outage was a hardware failure, but the internet never went out like this at Illinois Wesleyan, or at least, never for this long. 

“The first few hours were getting in touch with a vendor to replace the hardware, and then it was just waiting for the hardware to arrive,” Michael Zehr, Director of Network and Infrastructure Services, said. 

The campus has a firewall, which provides security between Illinois Wesleyan and the internet, and something broke, causing it to fail. After realizing the problem was beyond IWU’s capability for troubleshooting, a call was made to the manufacturer about replacing the hardware. 

“I hate to say it but sometimes computers break,” Zehr said. 

IWU’s Information Technology Services are currently doing after action reports to come up with mitigation plans and recommendations to avoid another incident like this , or at least reducing the time the campus is affected. 

Rumors spread across campus of a potential data breach or spending a million dollars to fix hardware. “Our firewall definitely does not cost a million dollars,” Zehr said.

Zehr said there was no data breach or security issue, because no one could even get into the system, and that the hardware replacement was covered by warranty. 

“There was no cost besides the inconvenience of having no internet for the entire weekend,” Zehr said. 

IT also keeps a risk registrar for disaster planning and an internet outage due to hardware failure was not likely. 

“We are obviously unhappy because it’s our job to provide service, but we are looking at remediation steps and have several paths to specifically avoid the firewall failing,” Zehr said. 

For the rest of campus, the weekend was either a great inconvenience, or a different way of spending time at IWU. 

“It was interesting to work without the internet. There was this stretched out creativity,” Jessica Mrase, Director of the International Office, said. At 4:00 p.m., flyers were printed and handed out at the International Office and the rest of the Center for Liberal Arts, informing people that “the internet will be down all day.” 

The Argus team also used their “stretched out creativity” to make most of the weekend. 

A few members of the staff found less conventional ways to access the internet. “I put on my shoes and walked over to ISU, the fastest Wi-Fi I’ve ever had,” Liam Killian, Artistic Director said. “I had to go to Panera to do my work because they have free Wi-Fi there,” Jayden Erie, Features Editor, said. 

Other members of the staff were unphased by the lack of Wi-Fi. “I had a movie night with friends using my DVD collection,” Steve Watts, Managing Editor, said. “I live off campus, so I didn’t even know the internet was down,” Isabella Parish, Editor-in-Chief, said.

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