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Information Technology Services

Going Digital with Joey Brenn

  • Closing Port 25 prevents outbound SPAM

    by Joey Brenn | Nov 04, 2013

    Information Technology receives alerts from our internet vendor, AT&T, about suspicious activities seen coming from our network.  The latest one concerns a system on our network that has been compromised and is sending out SPAM email messages.  These are not new occurrences but we have gotten quite a few in recent weeks and our efforts to find the machine in question has been fruitless.  The machine appears for a short period of time and then disappears from the network.  It seems to come on to our network during evening times and stays for about an hour or so.  In order to comply with our agreement with AT&T and to be good citizens of the Internet, we have blocked all outbound SMTP Protocol (Port 25) from leaving our network unless it is going through our email servers.  This did not affect our email servers and in no way impacts the flow of normal email.  This move prevents us from getting placed on the SPAM sender databases, causing us an interruption in email flow.  If you have any questions, please send an email to jbrenn@claflin.edu.

  • Does Redundancy Matter?

    by Joey Brenn | Oct 31, 2013

    Did you notice a problem on Tuesday that affected the campus phone system?  Not one complaint or inquiry was made concerning the telephone system during the problem period.  I was on the phone with one of those marathon conference calls when the incident occurred and I received one of those automatic trouble ticket emails.  It caught my eye for some reason, maybe it was because it said the circuit was down and the automatic ticket was created by our telephone vendor, ICore Inc.   While it does not occur often, it does occur occasionally and I was not worried because we have a total of three separate circuits to cover all of our inbound and outbound calls.  I was finishing up my call and when I received another ticket notice in my email, this one said that the problem was with the local carrier.  Again I didn’t notice anything wrong with the call I was on.  I hung up the phone and within 5 minutes, a third email came in about the problem being a fiber cut on the local vendor end of the circuit.  This worried me, having been through the last fiber cut in Columbia which left Claflin University without the Internet circuit for 36 hours, I decided that I’d better just go look at our phone router box and see which circuit alarm lights were on.  I walked over to the Data Center and looked at the box, all three circuits were down with the yellow alarm light glowing brightly.  I was a little shocked so I double checked myself by looking at each one more closely and all three were completely down.  How could this be when I was on the call for the last hour and during the time that each of the previous emails came in?

    When we were planning for the telephone system, one of the things that we insisted on was using the Internet connection as a fail over circuit should we ever lose or over subscribe any of the wired connections.  This is called a redundant circuit with a different outbound path and it worked perfectly.  I never noticed the change in the circuit when the switch bridged the call from the failed dedicated Verizon circuit to using our Internet circuit.  It is just one of those things that you plan for but hope your never need but in this case it worked perfectly!  Redundancy is sweet and worth the extra time and money, especially when it simply works and nobody notices.

    What do you think, is redundancy worth the time and money if nobody notices when it kicks in?

  • Wireless on Campus is Improving

    by Joey Brenn | Oct 23, 2013

    We have been getting a lot of questions about the wireless on campus, particularly from the Residence Hall students.  Our most common question is about how the wireless really slows down from about 4pm and onwards.  This occurs because most of the students have returned to their rooms to do homework, work on projects, catch up with friends, or simply browse the Internet.  So is the wireless slow?  The correct answer is, “it depends.”  It depends on quite a few factors all of which culminate into a slow response on wireless devices and in many cases on the wired network as well.

    The good news is that Information Technology has spoken with quite a few students about exactly what is slow and we have been hard at work looking at solutions and making the necessary purchases to make things better.  So what are we doing?  Let me count the ways!

    1. Kleist Hall has new wiring installed for 4 new access points, one on each floor.  So instead of the original three, we will be moving the center ones (located in the laundry rooms) to the right wing hall way and install a new access point in the left wing hall way.  This will give us a stronger signal on all floors and improve through put.
    2. SRC South will see the installation of a new wireless vendor called Aerohive.  Aerohive treats each access point as a switch and this building will see an increase in the number of access points to address the density issue in this building.  The number of access points will be increased from the current configuration of 6 to 30.This configuration means that each suite will have its own access point and there will not be any weak wireless signal in the building.  In addition, we are installing new switches to provide a 1GB connection between each access point and the building switch.  The building switch will then have its own fiber connection back to the Data Center.  This is the model that we have chosen going forward and we believe it will make SRC South the strongest wireless on the campus.  That is until the new residence hall opens next fall!
    3. Highrise is getting quite an upgrade on the entire networking infrastructure which is long overdue.  First, we will be increasing the number of access points in the building by 12 bringing the number of wireless access points in the building to 44.These will be placed in the middle of the hallways on both sides of the elevator and the existing access points will be spread out to the corners.  This will increase the wireless density in this building and will address some of problems experienced by individuals after 4 pm, particularly the ones closest to the windows in the corners of the building.Secondly, we will be replacing the entire suite of network switches with a larger, more dense core switch.  This will mean that each wired connection in the building will be a 1GB connection directly back to the switch.  The entire switch will then have a 10GB connection back to the Data Center.  This will be the first building in a series planned to move all buildings to a 10GB connection back to the Data Center.  Through put to this building will vastly improve and is expected to be the model for all other buildings going forward.
    4. We will then increase wireless access points in several other areas of the campus where we have seen demand or received complaints of weak signals.  I will write about these at another time.

    This sounds good but how much longer do you have to wait?  Not long, we waited until we received all of the equipment and supplies before we decided to tell you the good news.  You may have already seen the Information Technology technicians installing the new access points, running wire, terminating ends and testing the wireless.  We will complete these items as quickly as we can so students can start enjoying them immediately and we can start measuring the results.

  • Technology Planning Committee Appointed

    by Joey Brenn | Oct 11, 2013
    A new committee has been appointed called, "The Long Range Technology Planning Committee".  This committee has been tasked with exercising oversight over institutional technology planning and  assessment and monitoring implementation, revisions and extension of the Long Range Technology Plan.  The following individuals have been appointed to this committee:

    Mr. Joey Brenn, Chair, Dr. Lionell W. Sabb, Mr. Abu Khan, Dr. Kuhanandha Mahalingam, Dr. Isaiah R. McGee, Ms. Marilyn Y. Gibbs, Mr. Jaquez O. Gilliard, Mr. Muhammad I. Hossain, Dr. Nan Li, Dr. Nicholas Panasik, Mr. Marvin R. McClean, Mrs. Tamika N. Bowman-Williams, Mr. Eric B. Morris, Ms. Princess K. Brown

    Together, this committee will be planning technology over the next five years with the plan being reviewed and adjusted annually.  The resulting plan will then be adopted by the Long Range Planning Committee who will then include it as part of their plan for the university.

    If you want to have a say to the committee, then please see one of the individuals above and they will bring it before the committee for consideration and inclusion within the technology plan.  To encourage participation and questions, can send an email to LongRangeTechnologyPlanCommittee@claflin.edu

    We look foreword to your comments and suggestions as this committee plans technology moves into the future.