Assistant News Editor
After the Eggner’s Ferry Bridge over Kentucky Lake collapsed on Thursday, Jan. 26, Murray State’s main campus and the Paducah and Hopkinsville extended campuses experienced an Internet outage.
Linda Miller, chief information officer, said approximately one hour after the bridge collapsed, she received a phone call from Tommy Phillips, manager of network services, who told her not only of the collapse, but also of the Internet outage.
Generally, staff members who work with the campus’s Internet receive updates via text messaging and email to inform them of any kind of problems. Thursday, however, the back-up system the University put in place approximately six months ago came online so quickly that the system did not recognize a difference and therefore did not send alerts.
Miller said the reason Murray State’s campuses lost Internet connection was because the fiber optic cable Windstream, the company the school uses for the Internet, ran underneath the bridge that was struck by the 312-foot transcontinental vessel.
The processes Miller and her staff had to go through were very complicated, she said.
“The good thing is that Tommy Phillips has been working for the past year to get our redundant Internet running,” she said.
The redundant Internet, Miller said, is a back-up Internet that is implemented when the initial Internet is out.
“Our redundant Internet is what carried us through,” she said. “It’s basically a completely different path we take outside to get off campus so that we’re not running on the same poles, we’re not using the same path that the primary line is on.”
The back-up line is significantly less advanced than the primary line, Miller said. Email especially was one aspect of the system that became clogged.
The Internet ran on the redundant line until approximately 6:15 on Saturday.
Miller said she was happy with the way the team performed in getting the Internet up and running so quickly again.
“We’re really happy with how well everything performed because until you try something like that under load, when you’ve got students trying to submit assignments, faculty trying to do things – our bandwidth needs are huge – and until you try to suddenly take everything down to this smaller type than you don’t really know what’s going to need your priorities,” she said.
Phillips said that he, too, was happy with the way the back-up line performed.
“We only put this back-up Internet connection in six or eight months ago,” he said. “As far as lessons learned, it was a good exercise in going through that was helpful because we don’t get a chance to practice that sort of thing … until you’re in that scenario, you don’t get the chance to sort of test different things.”
University President Randy Dunn applauded teams led by Miller, Phillips and Brian Van Horn in Continuing Education and Academic Outreach in working under such pressure to get service restored on the main campus and the regional facilities at Paducah and Hopkinsville.
“It was a very stressful time for them Thursday, Friday into the weekend and I think everyone’s really stepped up to get this back to as normal as possible given the difficulties that they’re still working through with getting full service reestablished,” Dunn said.
Phillips said he hopes the members of the community and Murray State Internet users to inform him when something is in their area that is mission critical that uses their Internet connection.
“If we have that knowledge, then we can communicate with them and with our bandwidth management device and make sure that it gets the appropriate bandwidth square foot so that it’ll function pretty much no matter what,” he said.