As a college student interning here at Stratus, I’ve been exposed to the world of downtime — something not a whole lot of college students can speak to.  As a typical college student with the four year undergrad tuition fees (a little more than $33,000 per year in my case), I’ll admit we don’t tend to think of the possibilities of downtime with our everyday necessities — Facebook, Twitter, or connection to our school’s network for example. We don’t think about the possibilities of not having instantaneous access to all of these things, until something does go down.

Well, I got to experience my very first real downtime event last week when my school’s server went down for nearly six hours. Just like any business network, our network is our lifeline at school. From doing research for our mid-term papers, to signing into Twitter, we’re constantly connected to the server. The reality is these incidents of downtime affect us as students in more ways than we’d like to think – or in some students’ case, more than they know about.

Let’s break down what happens when a server experiences unexpected downtime on a college campus by taking you through that dark day of downtime I experienced last week. It was a typical Tuesday just like any other. I was in my public relations class, reviewing that day’s lecture, when the professor attempted to click an external link within her PowerPoint presentation. She got an error message from her browser, and with a puzzled look on her face our professor closed the PowerPoint and attempted to reopen it to see if that would solve her problem:

ERROR! Cannot connect to the server.

We silently cheered to each other as the professor decided that due to the unexpected downtime she would call class early that day. We couldn’t have asked for it to play out any better…that was until our professor decided to tack on another additional writing response due next class to make up for the missed class time. Unable to decide if this downtime had been a good or bad thing I tried to stay productive and write a paper for another class in the library…

ERROR! Cannot connect to the server.

Again?!?! I was shut out of the research databases thanks to our servers’ downtime, and in frustration I left the library all together. Well this is perfect, I figured both incidents of downtime were a sign to use my afternoon to be unproductive for a-while and catch up on some Call of Duty…

ERROR! Cannot connect to the server

You have to be kidding me – a whole afternoon of any sort of productivity (recreational or educational) gone thanks to downtime.

I am just one student. In all, 2200 students and another few hundred faculty and staff were affected by the server downtime. Our productivity for that afternoon was completely shot.The school’s image was damaged from both inside and outside the campus. From angry phone calls made by parents whose students complained about the lack of connection, to the angry words from students across the campus – our IT department and the college struggled with the downtime. With tuition, room and board, and the other miscellaneous fees totaling over $43,000 per year it’s about time universities took the time and invested in preventing server downtime instead of wasting time and money trying to recover from it.