Saturday, February 14, 2009

My previous note, with the lovely Obama-like posterized rendition of my face, is unavailable because the UW Madison university-wide file storage space, MyWebSpace, has gone down as of Friday morning and won't be back up until Sunday. A two-day outage of a such a service might not seem like a big deal to an outside observer, but let me put it in context: I have stored dozens if not hundreds of supplementary class files for a 400-person introductory mass communication course on MyWebSpace, intended to be used as students complete writing assignments. The first of three big writing assignment that my students are completing this semester is due in section next week; this means that most of them probably budgeted time over the weekend to work on it. A two-day outage of the file server over the weekend thus comes at the worst possible time for my 400 students.

A bit of background: I began moving files to MyWebSpace in order to gain more control and flexibility about how and when they were delivered, rather than relying on library "electronic reserves" schemes or on my department's own web server (which has been subject to its own complicated technical and administrative difficulties over the last semester).

None of these three scales — the departmental IT resources, the library IT resources, or the university IT resources — has proven reslient enough for my needs. (I know that servers fail and hard drives die, but I expect such critical resources to have nearly-instant backups or mirrors at the ready.) It seems that my next option is to either scale down — say, repurposing an old Mac as a personal file server for my classroom needs — or to scale up — moving items to Google's domain, for example. Either way, the department and the university lose the opportunity to "brand" the eductional resources produced and distributed under their institutional umbrella.