Network Switch Outage – What Does it Mean for Me?

At this point you have heard there is a network outage being scheduled for your area. You’ve heard you won’t have access to the Internet and email. You may have heard other things like you’ll be completely shut out of your computer, you won’t be able to work for a day, the building may crumble down around you while you wait. BREATHE.

Let’s address the basics of what is happening and how it will affect you and your work.

  • Outages will last anywhere from 30 minutes to 60 minutes. In full disclosure, our team has identified two closets that could take 90 minutes but most will take 60 minutes or less. These outages are not an all day event.
  • Applications that do not use the network will work. If you have writing (MS Word) or designing (InDesign, Photoshop) to catch up on or a presentation to work on, this is a good opportunity to “unplug” and take advantage of no distractions. Ahead of the outage, you need to save any online files locally. The OTS Call Center can help you with this.
  • During the 30-60 minute outage, these things will not work from your computer:
    • Internet connection (no web browsing, no access to online research sites, no streaming music)
    • Intranet/campus network (no email, no R/M/S/T drives, no printing to network printers, no MyUB portal, no PeopleSoft, no TaskStream)
    • UB desk phone
    • Network connected printers (if you have a printer directly connected to your computer, you will still be able to print)
    • Wireless devices in that same area but you could take your wireless-enabled laptop or phone to another floor or building and be connected
  • During an outage, you can relocate to any OTS-supported labsCheck that page for hours.

Here’s what you need to do before and after your area’s outage: very little.

  • Save any open files.
  • Save drafts of emails you’re composing.
  • End any phone calls you’re having through your UB phone.

When the 30-60 minute outage is over, OTS staff will circulate through your area checking for problems. We want to make sure you can access your UB email, get on the Internet, and that your phone is working. If any of this does not work immediately, we’ll start troubleshooting with every techy’s favorite step: reboot your computer. Likewise, classrooms will be checked to ensure instructor stations are functioning properly.

All outages are being scheduled in cooperation with departments. We are hoping most can be scheduled during business hours and expect that some must happen in the evening or weekend. We have contacts from each building and department to share information about the outage, including reminders as we get closer to your scheduled time.

What is a network switch?

Ever think about the technical wizardry that connects you to the Internet at work? If you have setup your connection at home through your cable company, you might have a concept of a box that plugs into the wall with your devices connecting to that box either with a cable or wirelessly. After that connection is made, those devices can access the Internet.

On campus, it’s slightly (a lot) more complicated than that for many reasons. One reason is the sheer volume of devices on campus and another reason is because you access things from your desktop that are only accessible from a campus connection.

The concept is similar to your home connection in that there is a box–or two–that make those connections possible. One of those boxes is called a network switch. A switch allows us to consolidate all connections in an area into one closet, and connects them to the network and Internet. A switch looks like this:

network switchA switch like the one here would connect 48 devices to the campus network and Internet.

Throughout campus, on almost every floor of a building, there is a closet with network equipment, including a switch or switches. For each connected device (think: computer and printer) on that floor or in that area, there is a cable that comes into the closet and makes its way to one of those openings on the front of the switch. There’s another cable that comes off the switch and goes into another box, effectively putting that switch–and all the devices connected to it–on the campus network and the Internet.

Here’s an example a basic network closet at UB. It has one switch. The blue, yellow, and green cables each represent a connected device on that floor.

network closet

With the network switch replacement project starting, we hope it’s helpful to share information about the role this hardware plays in allowing you to do your online work. This is a bare bones explanation of how our Internet connections work and a switch’s purpose at UB. There are many components and configurations that sit between your computer and the Internet. That detail would bore most of us but maybe we’ll have someone write about that during this project for those who love that stuff.