Cause of nationwide system outage under investigation

DRONE+PHOTO+COURTESY%2F+Jeff+Roberts

DRONE PHOTO COURTESY/ Jeff Roberts

Shelby Adkins, Editor-In-Chief

On Dec. 3, 2020 Park University experienced a nation-wide system outage that took out their administrative systems, phones, MyPark systems and more. The cause of the outage, which took over a month to fully restore, is currently under investigation.

According to Brad Biles, Park University’s director of communications and public relations, answers as of now are scarce.

“While the investigation is making progress, we do not have all the facts or, most significantly, the conclusions that would address the heart of the incident,” Biles explained in an email.

The system outage resulted in problems accessing administrative systems, MyPark, Citrix, eProcess and phones according to Park University’s website, an outage that was not fully restored until Dec. 30.

“While it did take time to restore the network, I am not certain it took an inordinate amount of time,” Biles wrote. “Unlike, say, a power restoration, a network restoration involves the arduous task of examining every file on our system to ensure it is intact.”

Although Biles felt the restoration process was not out of the ordinary, many students expressed their concern about the length of the process.

Posts from Park University on it’s Facebook page were filled with comments from students asking what caused the outage in the first place what fail safes were in place for this event.

“Regarding the measures in place before and after this event, Park University is continually learning, adapting and evolving, particularly when it comes to resiliency,” Biles explained. “We wouldn’t ever go into specifics, but, just like a college student, we always aim to be smarter today than we were yesterday.”

Biles also spoke to the university’s resiliency in time of crisis.

“Part of our resiliency meant that much of Park University’s daily operations were unaffected by the event. Students continued to have access to classes and faculty online, the Park University team developed workarounds for several major elements of the network to benefit students and we had a fantastic virtual graduation ceremony,” Biles wrote.

But, this was not the case for all students. For Park University Professor of Public Administration, Laurie DiPadova-Stocks, the outage had a large impact on her student’s ability to complete their final assignments of the semester.

“I was teaching two courses in the Canvas shell, both classes had ebooks,” DiPadova-Stocks explained in an email. “With the network shutdown, students were unable to access their books, and it was near the end of the term. This posed difficulties.”

DiPadova-Stocks explained that the lack of access to ebooks forced some of her students to rent the books on Amazon in the final week of the semester.

“The university is working hard to minimize costs of textbooks, and free ebooks are promising. That said, the network shutdown showed vulnerabilities in this regard,” She wrote.

Many professors and students experienced hardships through this network outage, but for professors like Park University Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Criminal Justice, John Hamilton, the impacts were minimal.

Hamilton expressed his largest obstacle of this event was in submitting final grades and preparing for the next semester.

“We are also trying to get prepared for the next semester in regard to the planning of classes and enrollment for the next semester because we have to begin to decide, which classes to we hold and which classes do we not hold because of enrollment or other issues.”

Due to the administrative systems being down, Hamilton and other department chairs did not have access to things like enrollment information to make decisions about courses for the next semester.

However, Hamilton felt this could have been a bigger mess if the university had not already been looking at something like this occurring.

“While I don’t have all of the details of what occurred, I have learned enough to know that the university has been forward thinking enough to look for issues that might occur with IT that could cause these kinds of shutdowns,” Hamilton said.

He further expressed his gratitude to Acting President Shane Smeed, for the university’s handling of the system outage.

“Acting President Smeed kind of had this fall into his lap about the time he was being handed the reigns of the university, and I was pleased with his response,” Hamilton said.