Update: Intermittent slowness with Windows Managed PCs

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[21 February 2014]

Update: Between 3.30pm on Wednesday 19th February and 5pm on Thursday 20th February we experienced periods where MyFiles was either unavailable or slow to respond. This also affected some staff desktop PCs, causing them to run slowly. This problem has now been resolved. Student files, and PCs in lecture theatres and study spaces were not affected.

There has been a separate, but similar, issue resulting in occasional slow running or pauses of software applications on some staff Windows PCs. This is detailed below. This has not affected all staff, but unfortunately it has severely inconvenienced some and is still ongoing.

However, we have been planning and testing PC configuration changes to address this, and starting from Monday 24th February we will roll these out in a phased manner.

Neither of these incidents are related to the problems seen earlier this year with the SAN storage. The SAN and services reliant on it, such as Blackboard and SITS, are performing as normal. 


Background

Over the last few weeks there have been reports of intermittent “slowness” on Managed PCs. Recently these reports have increased.

Symptoms

The symptoms reported include a slow-down of software which relies on the Windows documents paths (eg My Documents, Favorites, Desktop etc). Examples of software affected include Office, Internet Explorer, Windows Explorer and Adobe Reader and these products may become unusable for approximately a minute.

We believe that during periods of the working day (once or twice) the volume of activity on the staff MyFiles (the student service is not affected) causes some Windows devices to see the connection as either very slow or not present, and this triggers Windows to switch to ‘Offline’ mode. Once the period of intense activity has passed then the connection to MyFiles switches back to online mode.

Actions

In an effort to remove this behaviour we are testing disabling the offline files facility for desktop devices, where this facility is not needed, laptops are excluded from this change. If testing proves successful we will roll out this change.

There is no physical or software fault with the storage infrastructure but, as soon as possible, we plan to add additional capacity to cope with peak demands. We have also asked our network team to check that staff are not experiencing any restriction of bandwidth. However, this is very unlikely to be an issue according to our current analysis.

Current Usage

The interaction between a Managed System and the storage infrastructure is affected poorly when Myfiles (O: drive) is used for large scale research data and a store for Performance data. This is not a use it was designed for. Our web pages give guidance on where you should store data.

If you have a need to write data such as streamed AVIs, ITunes libraries, Research Data archives, image backups from PCs and Virtual Machine hard disks, please speak to us and we will try to guide you to find a suitable store location.

Note there are some circumstances on when it may be best to store some data locally on your PC for fast access is given in our documentation about Managed Systems. Please refer to:

bristol.ac.uk/it-services/advice/managedsystems/performance.html

We understand that impact on the performance of PCs causes considerable frustration to staff and we apologise for this and are working hard to resolve the problems.