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          Slow going: sluggish internet speeds linked to five students' excessive bandwidth usage

          Lauren Hennen

          Issue date: 3/19/10 Section: News
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          Students work at a computer lab in the PBL building. Recent network problems have in part been attributed to bandwidth issues.
          Students work at a computer lab in the PBL building. Recent network problems have in part been attributed to bandwidth issues.
          [Click to enlarge]
          For many CWRU students, mid-February of this year was a time marked by a number of issues with the university network, most noticeable among those being slower internet access. After investigating the complaints of students and other campus internet users, Information Technology Services (ITS) determined that the issues with the university network stemmed from an unusually heavy flow of internet traffic caused by a small number of individuals using a large portion of the university's available internet bandwidth.
          Problems with the university network initially arose between Feb. 11 and 16 due to a major IT outage involving a failed cooling unit, said Kirsten Nagel, communications specialist in ITS.
          "This room housed some of the key network information, and the failed cooling unit caused the room to get extraordinarily hot. The equipment started to operate at 50 percent of its capacity to avoid damage," said Nagel.
          The temperature in this room, normally held at 65 degrees, climbed to over 100 degrees. The resulting drop in capacity of the impacted network devices caused many campus internet users to complain of slower email and internet access. ITS quickly responded to the issue, making repairs on the cooling unit and installing environmental monitoring systems to better track temperature fluctuations of key network devices. Still, Nagel said, issues with internet access on campus persisted.
          "Even after everything, there were still performance issues with the network," said Nagel. "So we started looking into all of the potential causes of these issues."
          After further investigation, ITS discovered that the network performance issues were due to heavy internet traffic being created by a small number of individuals.
          "They looked at a 24 hour period, and in that time the top 25 users [of the internet] were using more than 75 percent of the available bandwidth," said Nagel.
          During that same 24 hour period, Nagel said that five student users were consuming over 27 percent of the available bandwidth, or roughly 122 megabits per second (Mbps) of an available 450. Together, these five users sent out over a terabyte of data in one day.
          "This wasn't a snapshot of their use at one particular time, it wasn't just downloading one file," said Nagel, "These numbers were taken as a 24 hour average."
          The use of a large portion of the university's bandwidth over an extended period of time manifested itself through the slow network connectivity many students experienced in mid-February. This overconsumption of university bandwidth is in violation of Case's Acceptable Use Policy, said Nagel.
          "What [these students] were doing was interfering with a reasonable use of the community," said Nagel. "We understand that if you're using something like Adobe Connect, the sharing will peak for a shorter period of time. We've also seen students being affected with malware or other viruses that can cause a lot of traffic without the student knowing, and we work with students in those situations, but that wasn't the case here."
          As a result, Nagel said that the involved students have had their network access privileges suspended and are being advised on Case's Acceptable Use Policy. ITS is currently advising students to keep their usage rate below 1 Mbps.
          Though Nagel said that ITS does routinely monitor university network usage for spikes in the amount of available bandwidth being used, they suspect that the recent episode of excessive usage may be linked to the changes in the Case policy regarding the use of the DC++ protocol.
          "We suspect that some of this may be due to the DC++ ban that's been put in place. We can't confirm it, we can only suspect," said Nagel.
          This ban on the DC++ protocol may be leading students to search out and utilize other peer-to-peer file sharing protocols, such as BitTorrent. However, students should be careful to monitor their use of the university network to access this protocol, said Nagel.
          "Nowhere in our policy does it prohibit BitTorrent use, but we are saying that if you use it, you've got to stay within certain limits," she said.

          Please note that all students pictured above have no involvement or association to the slowdown of the campus network.
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            posted 3/19/10 @ 11:07 AM EST

            What actions are being brought against the students to prevent this from happening again?

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            posted 3/22/10 @ 12:14 AM EST

            No doubt cracking down on network abuses is a good thing, but ITS is there to provide staff and students with a secure and reliable network service, and this didn't accomplish that. (Continued…)

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            posted 3/22/10 @ 1:45 PM EST

            Names!! Give us names!!

            That would be an easy way to prevent this junk in the future.

            Details   Reply to this comment

            CWRU student

            posted 3/22/10 @ 10:46 PM EST

            I would like to make it clear that the students pictured above, in the photo that has been associated with this article around campus, have absolutely NO involvement or connection to the slowdown of the network. (Continued…)

            Details   Reply to this comment

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