Mary Harrison, staff writer

Berry’s campus WiFi system experienced several problems with wireless connectivity at the beginning of this school year. While most issues are now resolved and long-term solutions are being investigated, users still need to report issues with internet to the Technical Support Help Desk (help desk).

The help desk sent out an email on Aug. 20 alerting Android phone users running an Android Operating System (OS) 11 and later to connection problems with the main Berry WiFi network. The email directed students to instead use the EZConnect network, the primary alternative for devices that cannot connect to the Berry network. Previously, only devices such as gaming consoles and TVs had to use EZConnect. 

John Wills, manager of the Technical Support Help Desk, emphasized that the change is not on the college’s end. 

“Google made changes,” Wills said. “We didn’t make any changes, Google made changes, and now we’re kind of stuck on trying to fix it.”

According to Taylor Fite, student director of the Technical Support Help Desk, Berry’s Network Operations team is investigating a permanent solution to the Android OS connectivity issue through updating and expanding its wireless infrastructure. 

“Access points need to be updated, and they’ll probably put in new ones,” Fite said.

Additionally, Wills said that residents of the Townhouses experienced WiFi problems earlier this semester due to equipment/software issues, which have since been resolved. The school’s wireless printers also had difficulty connecting to laptops at the beginning of the semester, although his team has since developed a workaround.

Other connectivity issues reported to the help desk so far are not abnormal, according to Fite, and many are typical at the start of a new school year. 

“If you’re going to experience it, you’re going to experience it,” Fite said.

Memorial Library’s Active Learning Classroom (ALC) is the most reported area, caused by as many as 60 students using the same access point.

Despite lagging speeds, Fite discourages students from using the BerryGuest network. 

“Try to avoid using BerryGuest, because that’s just not secure,” Fite said. “People could easily hack into their computers and phones through [that] WiFi.”

Trouble-shooting a slow WiFi connection can be difficult, according to Jason Murphine, Director of Information Technology (IT) Infrastructure.

“Wireless is one of those weird things because it’s dependent on the wireless access point, which is dependent on all the network infrastructure,” Murphine said. “And then it’s dependent on your phone, the PC, or the laptop or the tablet, that part of it that we don’t have control over [especially when it is not a Berry-owned device], that coupled with the materials. There’re a lot of variables involved with it. It’s not just as easy as plug it in and make it work.”

Personal wireless printers and WiFi hot spots generate signals that slow down Berry’s networks, Murphine said. To prevent interference, students should turn off hotspots when not using them and ensure that WiFi and “HP Direct” are turned off on any personal printers.

The college prioritized improving the WiFi earlier this year, according to Murphine. His department purchased a new wireless survey tool and began surveying buildings at the beginning of summer. 

“We’ll go through and we’ll take the survey tool and walk through each building and go to every square inch that we possibly can, and we’ll be able to take readings from that and determine where we need to add access points.” Murphine said.

There are currently 880 wireless access points around campus. Murphine estimated that the number will grow to nearly 1,000 within the next two years.

Critical survey areas are determined by calls, but Murphine said the logistics of scanning each space will take months to work out.

The global computer chip shortage also slows down Berry’s efforts to upgrade and expand its WiFi system. 

“Our lead time on actually getting equipment is double and triple what it used to be due to the semi-conductor shortage,” Murphine said. “The semi-conductor shortage is really wreaking havoc on everything.”

Students, faculty and staff can help IT solve issues with wireless by submitting detailed requests to the help desk. 

“If anything is wrong with the WiFi or network, we want to know about it,” Wills said.

Users should provide as many details about the incident as possible: the exact location they were in at the time the issue occurred, including the building, floor and room number; the time of day; the device; and the type of activity that caused an issue with the device, like streaming Netflix or opening a Word document. If comfortable, they should also provide their device’s media access control address. When given specifics, help desk employees can see wireless activity as far back as two weeks prior to assess what was going on at any given time, according to Murphine.

“Calling in or sending a note to the help desk is really crucial,” Murphine said. “Obviously we have tools to go through and, see if an access point is having issues or need to be rebooted, but, we rely actually quite heavily on the students and the faculty and staff to just call in and say ‘hey, I’m having issues, can you help?’”

Students should report issues by calling the help desk at (706) 238-5838 or emailing computing@berry.edu. The help desk is located on the first floor of Memorial Library.

Posted by Campus Carrier

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