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OIS battles e-mail woes, but help is on the way

Frustrated with your e-mail lately? You're not alone. The folks in OIS who are working to keep the system afloat are even more frustrated. But a permanent solution is on the horizon.

Frustrated with your e-mail lately? You’re not alone. The folks in OIS who are working to keep the system afloat are even more frustrated.

In a bulk e-mail to the campus on Friday, Tim Pearson, assistant director of Information Services, explained the problems with the system and some of the actions his team is taking to keep it running.

“In the morning, when the load on the e-mail server is at its peak, the machine can barely keep its nose above water,” Pearson wrote. “If we add a backup process to that peak load, the poor thing goes under. Then a backlog begins to develop.”

The current system, Pearson said, uses 1980s technology. Some of the software it uses was written in the ‘70s. Parts of the system don’t communicate well with other parts and none of it is capable of handling the explosive growth in data, especially at times when large numbers of users are simultaneously sending and receiving information.

In his e-mail to the campus, Pearson wrote that OIS staff will manually pause some of the automatic operations of the system and switch those to off-peak usage times to try to mitigate some of the current problems.

“We’re constantly trying to find ways to squeeze the last drop out of the system,” Pearson said.

The good news is that the Groupware Task Force has been working diligently to select a new e-mail system and will soon have finalists to present to the campus for evaluation.

“The new system will include both an e-mail and a calendaring system,” said Angela Neria, chief information officer. “It will react to changes in demand easily and quickly and it will be able to accommodate growing demand over time.”

Neria said because a new e-mail and calendaring system is something the campus must live with for a long time, the task force has been careful and thorough in its examinations.

“It needs to be a good fit for the university,” Neria said. “That’s why it was so important to involve the various stakeholders across campus in the selection. We have to do it right the first time.”

Neria added that when the new system is chosen, decisions will then need to be made about the best time to implement it.

“We want people to understand that whatever time is chosen for the switch, there will be plenty of opportunities for training. It is very important to us that everyone is well prepared for the transition,” Neria said.

Pearson said he hopes the additional measures OIS is taking will improve the current operation of the e-mail system, but until a new one is in place, problems may still occur.

“It's still possible that the load on the server will cause poor performance from time to time,” he wrote. “However, future incidents should be less severe and of shorter duration.”

A permanent solution, he said, is only months away.

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