Students and staff have consistently had problems accessing the myMcGill portal throughout January due to a higher than expected demand on the system. According to Doug Jackson, the Director of Information System Resources, myMcGill has been experiencing problems since the first day of the this semester.
“The portal has been going in and out of service for the past two weeks,” said Jackson. “Each day, the system has been easily down a minimum of one to two hours.”
Jackson explained that the hardware housing the portal simply could not cope with the high number of users.
“When the system was first put together, we anticipated an average number of 3,500 users at one time,” said Jackson. “However, that number increased to 6,000 last Fall and increased again this Winter.”
The system collapsed primarily because of high usage during the course change period, a shift that Network Communication Services (NCS) – which provides campus-wide access to the Internet and McGill central systems – was unprepared for.
“Initially, we assumed that about five per cent of the student population would access the portal at any given time,” Jackson said. “However, it turned out the portal is much more popular than we first anticipated.”
Jackson added that improving the system afterward proved to be a difficult task.
While NCS did not receive complaints during myMcGill’s downtime directly, the Information Technology helpline did receive several.
“Everyone uses myMcGill – students, academic staff, and administrative staff,” said Jackson. “Complaints were heard from all constituents.”
Currently, the portal is up and running again, as the number of users normally drops after the course change period. Jackson, however, is looking for a more permanent solution to myMcGill’s capacity problem.
“We’ve been working on a project since last Fall to increase the number of users the portal can handle,” said Jackson. “Unfortunately, we could not finish the project by the beginning of January.”
The project is still in the works and will be launched in late February, during reading week, when the number of myMcGill users is low.