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Connectivity

Feedback on the SU Administration system outage

Friday, April 26th, 2019

During the last week of April most of our staff and students were affected by a serious outage of core IT-related administrative services and systems. The outage’s impact was widespread and it was handled with high urgency. Almost all of the University’s administrative processes were negatively affected, due to the dependencies on the core Student Information and Financial Systems, which were both unavailable.

The affected business processes included, but were not limited to: applications by prospective students, all financial transactions and processes, all student and academic administration processes, approvals of facilities work orders, meal bookings and orders in residences, business intelligence services, amongst others.

Services that were generally unaffected by the outage include: delivery of online learning content, email, Internet and communications, Office365 collaboration services, physical access control and security services, amongst others.

We wish to thank our colleagues and students for their understanding and apologise for the frustrations that had to be endured. We would also like to thank the technical teams at IT for their dedication and the long hours put in to restore services.

When the outage manifested
The IT Division became aware of the incident at the beginning of the business day on Wednesday 24 April 2019.

When the outage was resolved
Services were gradually returned to operation overnight and were fully operational by 09h00 on Friday 26 April 2019. The outage consequently lasted at least 48 hours.

Assurances
We want to assure the campus community that no data nor transactions were lost during the outage, although we do not discount that some examples may come to light during stabilisation of services.

Next steps
1. Targeted communication with specifically affected functional and faculty partners will continue as necessary.
2. The next phase will be a thorough investigation to determine the root cause(s) of the outage.
3. The IT Division, in collaboration with its functional and faculty partners, will also review the handling of the incident and use the lessons learnt to refine its standard operating procedures and its communications with the campus.
4. Once the causes of the outage have been established, the IT Division will account to the campus community in a summary report that will also enumerate any actions and initiatives to minimise the risk of a re-occurrence.

Please be assured of the importance and urgency with which the IT Division attempts to prevent and respond to such disruptions. Please report any further problems with any service on our ICT Partner Portal.

What is TENET?

Wednesday, April 3rd, 2019

On 19 March campus practically came to a standstill when our internet service provider TENET experienced problems due to load-shedding. The issue stemmed from a failed generator at UCT and many students and staff were confused as to why we were impacted by something that happened at UCT. 

What is TENET?

“TENET” is the short name for the Tertiary Education and Research Network of South Africa NPC. Its main purpose is to secure, for the benefit of South African universities and associated research and support institutions, Internet and Information Technology services. 

All public universities and science councils qualify to participate in TENET’s governance as members and currently, TENET provides Internet and related services to more than 300 campuses of 85 institutions. These campuses are connected via high-speed access circuits, and multiple smaller sites via ADSL lines and a shared connection between Telkom’s ADSL network and the TENET gateway in Johannesburg.

The core of the NREN network that TENET operates is the South African National Research Network (“SANReN”) that has been deployed over the past ten years by the Meraka Institute of the CSIR under contract to the Department of Science and Technology (DST). SANReN comprises a national backbone, multiple metropolitan rings, and extensive long-haul circuits to reach important research installations. (More detail on the metropolitan rings and also the Cape Town metropolitan ring in particular.)

For international connectivity TENET uses multiple submarine circuits: 

60 Gb/s on the SEACOM submarine cable that terminates at the SEACOM Landing Station at Mtunzini (and is extended from there redundantly to the SANReN backbone node at Durban), and at TENET router in Amsterdam; and

50 Gb/s on the WACS submarine cable that terminates at the SANReN backbone node in Cape Town and at TENET’s router at Telecity, London. 

If you are interested in the bigger picture and want to know what South Africa’s Internet actually looks like, MyBroadband has a handy and detailed explanation.

[SOURCE: www.tenet. ac.za]

 

Filesender – a secure service for sharing large files

Tuesday, February 5th, 2019

SANReN has implemented the latest version of Filesender, a web-based application that allows authenticated users to securely and easily send web-based large files to other users. 

Below are the guidelines for accessing the service and what values it adds to your day to day operations.

What problem does the service solve?

You need to send a file larger than a couple of megabytes to someone and the e-mail comes back: “attachment too big” or “mailbox too full”, that’s where FileSender comes in handy.

How do I use the service?

Upon logging in, you are presented with a user-friendly interface. You can set the file to be available for download for a certain period so that it automatically gets removed when the file reaches its expiry date. You have an option to drag and drop your file when uploading it to the application. You also have an option to get a link to the file after uploading it or send it to a recipient as an e-mail.

The service is integrated with the South African Identity Federation (https://safire.ac.za/), which provides a pool of institutions you can authenticate from to use the service. If your institution is not registered on SAFIRE as yet, you can log in with a social media account if you are from an eligible institution.

Where do I access the service?

You can access the service on https://filesender.sanren.ac.za

Drop us an e-mail on sysadmin@sanren.ac.za for any queries regarding the service.

Access to SUNLearn and other systems

Monday, December 3rd, 2018

Over the past weekend a number of system failures were experienced. IT staff were called out and attended to the problems from Saturday. The most serious problems included:

• No access to SUNLearn (due to authentication system problems), resolved
• No access to exam venue lookup application on my.sun.ac.za, resolved
• Sun-e-HR authentication problems, resolved

The authentication system errors also had an impact on other systems on Saturday morning. These errors primarily affected access from outside the University campus.

The SUNLearn access problem was a serious concern for students preparing for exams, and was only solved by Sunday afternoon. Although now resolved, a temporary workaround for the exam venue issue was implemented: a list of exam venues was attached to a notification on SUNLearn.

IT apologises for the inconvenience caused by the system failures. For any inquiries please contact the IT Service Desk at 021 808 4367 or log a request on the ICT Partner Portal.

 

Stricter rules for VPN

Thursday, June 21st, 2018

Many of our staff and students use FortiClient to obtain VPN access to the Stellenbosch University network when they are not on campus. To maintain a safe and secure network, we have to put measures in place for our services to minimise the potential exposure to the University from damages which may result from unauthorised use of university resources.  This is particularly important when it comes to access via VPN to our network.  

From 6 August 2018 new VPN users have to register for VPN usage. If you have used VPN (FortiClient) since 1 January 2018, you are considered a registered user by default and don’t have to reapply for access. However, if you are a new VPN user, please follow the process described below.

If you need VPN access to the SU network via FortiClient, the following simple process is applicable: 

  1. The head of your department needs to send an email to help@sun.ac.za motivating why you require VPN access for work purposes.
  2. You will receive an email confirming your registration with instructions on how to install the FortiClient needed for VPN usage. 

VPN (Virtual Private Network) is a way of connecting your off-site computer directly to the University network and allows you to access internal resources such as other computers, network storage, websites, journals using the applications already installed on your off-site computer. VPN provides an encrypted connection which helps to ensure that sensitive data is safely transmitted and prevents unauthorized people from eavesdropping on the traffic, allowing the user to conduct work remotely.

A secure VPN connection to the SU network with FortiClient is not necessary for standard, web-based services. These include email, library resources, SUNLearn or the SUN-e-HR website. All of these services are already accessible via the internet without a VPN connection.

More information on the use of VPN and FortiClient at SU is also available on our service catalogue.

 

 

 

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