Many students have been frustrated by trying to connect to Grinnell’s wireless Internet this semester. The problem, it turns out, is with the Cisco NAC software. Cisco is the product that handles authentication and certification to the college’s network. It will be replaced in January.
Sahar Nahib ’13 has been suffering from connection problems as of late.
“It might be my computer, but it takes a very long time for me to get connected to the Internet,” Nahib said.
According to Sydney Ryan ’14, one of the helpdesk Technology Consultant Coordinators, this is the first time that many students have reported similar network problems.
“It hasn’t happened before as far as I know, at least not here,” Ryan said.
Technology Consultants have seen many problems with Cisco this semester, including Mac complications, authentication slow downs and just weird behavior. A common problem is that Cisco takes a long time to authenticate.
“What this means is that once you enter your password, the network is very slow at ensuring that your username and password are valid,” Ryan said. “As well as checking that you have a valid anti-virus program and that your [Operating System] is up to date, both of which are required to get on the network.”
The exact causes of the problem with Cisco are unknown.
“It’s really not the college’s problem, but Cisco’s,” said Chris Lee ’15, who works at the helpdesk. “And the thing is that the problem is not really fixable by us.”
At this point, there are not many things that students can do to speedup their login time.
“Occasionally other wireless devices, like wireless game controllers, can cause enough interference within a dorm room to effect wireless connectivity,” said David Ellis, Network Service Manager of Grinnell College.
In order to combat these problems, ITS has taken a few measures to resolve the problems. They have tried to relax the network requirements by removing some of the less necessary checks that Cisco performs.
“This seemed to help a bit, making the longest authentication times down to half an hour or so,” Ryan said. “Obviously this isn’t ideal, but since we are getting rid of Cisco next semester anyways, it isn’t the highest priority on our list.”
Cisco NAC will be replaced in January with a similar product from Bradford Networks that is “fast and far less intrusive,” according to Ellis. Detailed information about this new product is forthcoming, and the campus will be notified by then.