“There isn’t an Internet problem,” said Harlan Jorgensen, Director of Computing Services. “The perception is that it’s an Internet problem.”
Since the start of the school year, many students have been experiencing frustrations with computers either disconnecting from the Internet or not being able to connect to the Internet at all.
According to Jorgensen, the issues students have been experiencing have to do with being able to connect to wireless routers located all over campus. The Internet itself has never been down.
In fact Northwestern’s Internet bandwidth capabilities have greatly improved since last year. Computing services workstudy student, Jacob VanDe Griend, said bandwidth refers to how much Internet traffic a system can handle at one time.
Last year, the school’s Internet bandwidth was running on 150 megabits per second. Last March, NW invested heavily in upgrades to expand the school’s bandwidth to 300 megabits per second.
“Think of bandwidth like a hose and the Internet as the volume of water that can come through the hose,” VanDe Griend said. “We got a bigger hose so more water can go through.”
Not only did NW increase the Internet’s bandwidth capabilities, but last year, the school also brought in a professional company to assess where the school needed to install more wireless routers. According to Jorgensen, NW has added more than 30 wireless routers in the past year. A wireless router is a device that wirelessly provides access to the Internet.
According to Paul Smith, Associate Director of Computing Services, NW has 141 routers located on campus.
The increase in bandwidth and the increase in wireless routers means that NW’s Internet system is capable of more than it ever has been in the past.
So what is the problem?
“If someone is having problems connecting to the Internet, we are finding that usually it is a problem with an individual’s computer,” Jorgensen said.
VanDe Griend said that computing services is seeing three main problems with computers not able to connect to the Internet. The first issue is with the misconfiguration of NW’s anti-virus software, Sophos. If this software is not installed or running correctly, it thwarts the computers connection with the Internet.
The second problem is with the NAC Agent that all NW Internet users must install on their computers in order to access the Web. The NAC agent enables NW to monitor who is connected to the school’s Internet. The software also checks if the anti-virus software is running. If the NAC agent software fails to work correctly, NW students cannot connect to the Internet.
Many students’ computers do not have the correct wireless Internet encryption installed on their computers. NW rewrote the wireless encryption this summer.
“The encryption we have now is a lot harder to crack,” said VanDe Griend, who helped install the new encryption. “This encryption is a lot more up to date and secure. A better encryption also allows better bandwidth.”
Many computers did not automatically connect with the new encryption. E-mails were sent out by Computing Services about the updated encryption, but many students have yet to hear about it.
VanDe Griend said that he encourages anyone who is having issues connecting to the Internet to bring their computer to Computing Services on the first floor of VPH. And while the length of time Computing Services may have to keep a computer varies, most problems don’t take long to fix.
“Getting the new wireless encryption only takes one minute,” VanDe Griend said.
If problems connecting to the wireless Internet continue to persist, Smith advises that students buy an ethernet cable. Ethernet cables allow computers to directly access the network so that even if the wireless routers are not working correctly, the Internet can still be accessed. Ethernet ports are located in every dorm room.
Smith said he knows students can get frustrated with the wireless connection to the Internet, but he wants to remind students that Computing Services is working as hard as possible to ensure a positive experience with technology on campus.
“I want to eliminate as much technology stress as possible from students’ lives,” Smith said.
Smith, Jorgensen and VanDe Griend encourage anyone who is having problems with their computers to either E-mail the computer help desk at firstname.lastname@example.org or bring their computer to Computing Services.