The server that controls meal plans and BUC$ transactions at Binghamton University failed last Friday and was not back to full functional capacity until Tuesday.
Known as the Blackboard Transaction server, it failed due to a small power outage on campus.
The power outage led to a subsequent failure of the software system from Friday morning until on-site technical teams were able to bring it back up to partial capacity at some time Monday night.
“[It was a] completely weird occurrence, a perfect storm of problems,” said Bob Griffin, district marketing manager for Sodexo. “Nothing like this has ever taken place.”
Over the course of this disturbance, Sodexo cashiers were forced to cope with registers that were on the fritz. Certain registers could only process certain items, and no balances were shown on the registers. This resulted in some tumult for dining halls on campus.
According to Griffin, the delay between the time of the outage and the time that the servers returned to functionality was the result of a misunderstanding of the teams trying to fix the problem.
“The hardest part for the team was figuring out where the problem was,” Griffin said. “For most of the time we were acting under the premise that the hardware was the problem.”
It was not until late in the day Monday that teams working on the issue discovered that the operating system software was the real problem, after new hardware parts had already been delivered in attempts to fix the server.
Once the problem was located the teams were able to fix the problem relatively quickly.
Meal plan data and students’ transactions were recorded offline while the server was down, so meal plans should not have been affected by the problem.
“At no time was anyone’s data and money affected by the problem, that is why we keep memory encrypted in the backup system,” Griffin said.
While students may not have been able to see their balance at the registers or check online either, the numbers were still there and were recorded over the course of the last few days.
Although lasting problems are not likely, the downed systems proved to be an inconvenience for some.
“I was trying to check my balance, but it didn’t work,” said Joe Shamah, a senior majoring in computer engineering. “You could log in, but you couldn’t check your transaction history.”
The same technical teams that were dealing with bringing the server back up are now looking into ways to prevent problems like this from happening again in the future, even if this may have been a fluke.
“Alternate systems are being looked into and a decision will be made by the University, Sodexo and Blackboard,” Griffin said.