Graduate Theological Union

Connection Problems

What is happening when I try to connect to a database?

This is an explanation of the connecting process from remote locations; that is, from off-campus.

Part 1: The Proxy Server

When you click on the "off-campus access" link our Research Databases page, the link tells your computer to route you to that database via our GRACE server. GRACE has a special software program that looks up your name and barcode number in our patron database, and verifies that you really are a GTU student. This process is called "authentication" and the program on GRACE is making GRACE act as a "proxy server." Once you are authenticated, you are then sent to the server where the database resides.

The proxy server software is upgraded when the entire GRACE system software is upgraded (about once or twice a year). GRACE software cannot be adapted to new browser versions until the browser actually appears. For this reason, brand new versions of browsers will sometimes not work with the proxy server software -- it just depends on what changes were made in the browser to make it new. Eventually, the proxy server software does get upgraded, but some lag time is inevitable. GRACE is a system that we purchase -- it's not a home-grown product -- so we can't simply write new programs to fix problems with the proxy server.

The GRACE proxy server will not work if you are using a proprietary browser such as the AOL browser or the SBC Yahoo browser. If you have an account with one of these ISPs, you can still use a more commonly-used browser. We recommend that PC users try Internet Explorer, or Firefox, and Mac users try Safari, Netscape, Opera, or Firefox. Log onto your AOL or SBC account as you usually do, but then open a copy of one of these more common browsers to get onto the Internet and connect to the database.

Part 2: The Database

Databases are created by other organizations. The GTU Library does not own those databases, it merely licenses access to them. For example, the information in the ATLA Religion Database is created and owned by an organization called the American Theological Library Association.

Oftentimes, a third party licences the database information, and then repackages it with its own interface, and then licences the GTU Library access to that information. In the case of the ATLA Religion Database, a company called EBSCO licenses the ATLA Religion Database from ATLA, and then includes it in the EBSCO product. When you do searches on the ATLA database, you will see the FirstSearch logo on the screen.

In the particular case of the ATLA database, some of the information is on the EBSCO server, and some of it is still on the server at the American Theological Library Association headquarters. More specifically, the full text articles resides on the server at the ATLA headquarters. When you do a search, get a list of results, and click on the "full text" link, EBSCO sends your request to ATLA. It appears to you that you are simply clicking on a link, but in reality, your request is being routed through three different servers before it finally gets back to your computer. Each time it moves between the servers at each organization, information about your computer has to be passed back and forth. You can see with all this data exchange happening, that firewalls or even too much traffic at your ISP's server (which can cause you to be assigned multiple I.P. addresses during a single session) can cause one server or another to lose track of you. This is what may cause your connection to fail.

If you are behind a firewall or second proxy server (for example, a proxy server at your place of work) that does not allow you to receive cookies, does not have the correct IP address range of the database server in its configuration file, or has reached its virtual host limit, then this may also cause your connection to fail.

Each organization that licenses a database develops its own technical ways of sending out information. For example, the ATLA server does not support Netscape version 6.0 or the AOL proprietary browser for any operating system.

Part 3: Cookies

Cookies are small pieces of information that are stored on your browser, identify your computer, and help information find its way back to your computer. Many database servers use cookies to keep you logged into your session. The ATLA database uses cookies as you move from page to page in the full-text journal article. If your cookie is not being accepted correctly by the database server, this will cause you to lose your connection, even if you connected successfully at first.

Here are some reasons a cookie might be set improperly:

  • The date on your computer is set incorrectly. Cookies rely on dates and times, and expire after a set time. The cookie is placed on your browser assuming one time, but your browser has a different time. To fix this, reset the correct time and date on your computer.
  • If you are using virus protection software or another application that blocks cookies, this will cause your connection to fail. The default for some anti-virus software, for example, is to accept NO cookies. You will have to change this to the "Medium" setting for accepting cookies with "no alerts," or disable the software while you are connecting to research databases.
  • If you are behind a firewall or some other organization's proxy server (see Part 1 above for an explanation of proxy servers), cookies may be blocked. This often happens for people trying to connect from a computer at work.
  • Cookies files can become "corrupted" (that is, start working incorrectly). You can delete the cookies in your browser and try reconnecting to the database.

Part 4: Other Settings

Many other settings on your computer could cause the connection to fail. It is not possible to list them all. If you can connect from one computer at one location, but not from a computer at a different location, then the problem is with your computer or the network that your computer is on.

Pop-up window blockers can interfere with your connection. If you are having a problem connection, try turning the pop-up window blocker off.

Here are some settings you can check for the Internet Explorer browser version 6.0. go to the Tools menu.

  • In the "General" tab, in the Temporary Internet Settings box, select Settings > Every Visit
  • In the "General" tab, in the History box, Clear History.
  • In the "Advanced" tab, under HTTP 1.1, check "Use HTTP 1.1, and uncheck "Use HTTP 1.1 through proxy"