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HVRHS looking at December IT failure

FALLS VILLAGE — Housatonic Valley Regional High School had information technology problems on Tuesday, Dec. 21, forcing an early closing.

HVRHS Principal Ian Strever reported on the situation at a special meeting of the Region One Board of Education Tuesday, Jan. 18.

In an email Jan. 20 Strever said the problem was discovered when staff tried to log in around 7 a.m. on Dec. 21.

“Usually our systems would notify us of a problem earlier than that,” he wrote.

“We had school the following day, and again, the biggest issue was the phone service, not the teaching and learning, necessarily.”

Strever told the board on Jan. 18 that the IT failure “presented a communications and safety concern.”

Investigation by the HVRHS IT department found that the primary firewall failed “catastrophically.”

The Connecticut Education Network system that provides services to HVRHS failed to notify the school. The secondary firewall “did not pick up the load when the primary failed.”

Strever said the IT department had been having problems with a server that has resisted diagnosis, and when the firewall failed, that server was not working properly.

To cope with the emergency, “we deployed several Verizon MiFi cards that allowed us to continue some critical communications, although we have not yet joined all business systems so they will auto-connect when needed.

“We have two emergency cell phones and Google voice numbers that are to be used in the event of a telephone outage. These have never been used in the past and were not put into service this time mainly because of our focus on restoring network service. It has been suggested that we start using these whenever we have an emergency drill. “

Strever said the communications failure “should have been a relatively minor blip in the day but the cascading chain of events had a disproportionate effect.”

As of Dec. 29, “our IT department had replaced the primary firewall and tested it for performance. The network is running optimally now, and IT is reviewing the event to understand the issues involved with internal infrastructure as well as service delivery that may have played a role in the interruption.”

The Region One schools’ winter break was Dec. 23-31.

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