Last week was not a happy week for the tech department. Our new monster firewall that was to increase our bandwidth from something less than 1 gig to about 10 gig decided after two weeks of performing flawlessly to simply stop working one evening. The crippled Internet access meant that staff and students could not get to resources during the school day and that kids could not use their Chromebooks from home since Internet access through them is authenticated through our content filter that sits inside our firewall.
My valiant techs spent the weekend trying to find and cure the cause of the firewall failure, finally resorting to reinstalling our old firewall in order to re-establish at least some connectivity. All last week, we brought down the network for a few minutes late in the afternoon and again for a couple hours late in the evening working with the firewall company's engineers and programmers to test possible fixes. Each notice to staff and students about the pending outages was accompanied by faint glimmers of hope that this time the fix would take.
It was not until last Friday that we were fully up and running again. I have yet to get a comprehensible explanation for the failure, and more importantly, a plan to keep the failure from recurring. But I am sure I will. If I don't I will be happy to let anyone who asks know the brand of firewall we made the mistake of buying.
Over my 25 years as a tech director, I have had to manage a number systems failures, but none quite as long lasting or far reaching as this one. As technology has moved from a curiosity to a mission-critical tool in schools, the impact of the loss of functionality has grown exponentially. And this latest firewall problem demonstrated that the impact is not only on staff members during school hours but on students 24/7 as well.
But here is what I find remarkable. At the beginning of the week, the emails and phone calls I received were quite rightly critical and often angry. Hey, people couldn't get things done they needed to do. Who could blame them for being unhappy? But by the end of the week, when an announcement was sent out that the last attempt to repair the technology failed and another would be made that afternoon and/or evening, I began to receive email of sympathy and thanks for those in my department who were working so diligently.
I ask myself why the change? I believe it is because my staff has the reputation of good customer service, genuine care for the people it serves, and a true sense of educational mission. Our educational community believed we were doing our damnedest to get things going again.
It's quite nice being on the receiving end of empathy and I am happy my staff's past actions made that the outcome.
And that the firewall is functioning again. At least for the time being.