Yesterday, students across Swarthmore woke up to find their email inaccessible and the Swarthmore website unresponsive. According to Robin Jacobsen, the Associate Director of Client Services at ITS, the school’s data center lost power after an oddly placed breaker in an art studio was hit. ITS currently believes a student was responsible for tripping the breaker. The data center ran on backup power until 4:30 a.m., when the batteries of the emergency backup system expired, forcing all ITS services to completely shut down.
Unfortunately, staff are usually notified of problems via email. In this situation, however, the power outage took out Swarthmore’s email service. ITS also usually relies on student complaints to quickly discover problems. Despite denying the entire campus email access however, not a single person contacted the external help desk with a complaint. ITS staff only discovered the problem when they appeared for work Thursday morning.
Once they discovered the problem, they had to restart the servers, a task which requires hours of diagnostic tests to ensure no material was lost or corrupted. The last server to be restored to active duty–the email server–came online at around 10:30 a.m.
Facilities will be investigating why a breaker in an art studio controls the power supply for the data center, and possibly making modifications to ensure the problem doesn’t repeat itself.