William & Mary

Preparing for Hurricane Florence

IT Engineers Ian Nofziger (left) and Carlo Primero (right) work to prevent any possible floodwater from entering the Jones Hall machine room.“Generator, check!” 
“Sandbags, check!” 
“Systems test, check!”

That’s William & Mary Information Technology working through the proverbial checklist of preparations for Hurricane Florence. The Category 4 hurricane is expected to collide with the North Carolina coastline and dump massive amounts of rainfall further inland. The direct impact on William & Mary remains unknown, but IT is getting prepared for the probable heavy rainfall and power outages. 

“Infrastructure is the top priority,” says W&M IT Director of Infrastructure and Security Peter Kellogg.  “We are particularly concerned with keeping the core routers up and running.” The core routers are the backbone of the entire W&M network. The equipment for the core is housed in three different machine rooms forming a triangle across campus (one in Jones Hall, one in Swem Library, and the other in Blow Hall). With redundancy built-in, if one building goes offline, the core can still operate between the two other locations.

Learn more about the W&M core routers and the recent Core Routers Upgrade.

To keep the core running throughout a storm, we need to ensure two things: keep the power on and the machinery dry. As for the power source, Facilities Management has been working to maintain the generators at all three buildings and recently topped-off the gasoline need to run them. If there is a sustained, multi-day power outage, the difficulty can be refueling the generators. The ability to refuel will largely depend on road conditions and fuel supplies after the hurricane passes. 

Keeping the machinery dry is a little more of a challenge.  Aging buildings are prone to water leaks. If we reach flooding stages, the machine rooms, which are on the ground floors in all three buildings, could potentially be flooded, causing electrical shorts or equipment damage.  Sandbags are being placed at doorways and known leak points to prevent water from entering the machine rooms.

W&M data is replicated between the machine rooms to prevent any data loss.  “Banner data is stored in both Blow Hall and Jones Hall,” Kellogg explains. “If Jones Hall goes down, Banner data can be retrieved from Blow Hall.” 

“If there is a catastrophic failure of all on-campus machine rooms, we can rely on our back-up tapes which are stored at an off-site facility to access Banner data.”  Although cautious, Kellogg does not believe that is a likely scenario for Hurricane Florence. Nevertheless, he is confident in the back-up tape recovery process, if it were to be necessary, noting there was a successful test this summer of the Q: Drive, which processes Banner jobs.

So, which applications will keep working through the storm?  Services hosted in the Cloud have will likely remain available.  This includes:

  • Blackboard
  • Box
  • Cornerstone
  • Duo
  • Email (both Office 365 and WMApps)
  • Office 365 Web Applications (like Teams)
  • Salesforce CRM (Target X, Marketing Cloud)
  • Symplicity
  • TribeLink

Services run by W&M will continue to be available, as long as the W&M IT machine rooms remain functional.  This includes:

  • Advance
  • Banner
  • Events Management System (EMS)
  • ID Card System
  • Network Storage Drives
  • Pyramed
  • Virtual Host Sites

In both cases, even though the service is available, it might not work for you if electricity or the Internet is not available at your location. 

And for when you venture back to campus, take a look at what you can expect for W&M technology systems after a power outage on campus.

W&M IT wishes everyone the best as we weather the storm together.