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Slow server pushes CTS to revamp e-mail

By Marissa Rosenbaum
On February 5, 2009

In response to student frustrations about glitches in Duquesne Webmail, Computing and Technology Services is developing a new mail provider for students and faculty similar to existing commercial accounts, such as Gmail and Yahoo Mail."Our intent is to move students into technology that they are more accustomed to," said Sheryl Reinhard, director of operations and systems for Computing Technology Services (CTS). "What [external mail providers] can offer - for example, in terms of mail storage, etcetera - is far more than we're funded to provide."

Executive Director of CTS John Ziegler expects the new mail service, called "Microsoft Live," to compensate for that. However, "Microsoft Live" will not be available to CTS until Feb. 9, and it may take time before it becomes accessible for students.

According to Ziegler, the solution has only been around for a year, and there will be a testing period that CTS hopes will clear the service for University-wide use.

"This will take a lot of time experimenting, the benefits and cons are not laid out yet, and other universities need to be examined," said Ziegler.

CTS will be consulting with other universities and experimenting with the software so they don't overlook any testing or possible errors. According to Ziegler, many other schools have switched to this solution, trying to establish a network of communication through e-mail accounts.

"E-mail for life is what more institutions are looking towards," said Reinhard. "We're working towards the possibility of keeping everyone feeling more connected: parents, alma mater and maybe even prospective students."

But Ziegler said CTS wants to make sure it can handle problems if they arise, before implementing the software.

Over the last few months, many Duquesne students have experienced the frustrating "server timeout," "server error" or even a completely blank screen when accessing their Webmail accounts. With this software, students can merge all pre-existing accounts into one, and will also have more storage and a larger server to work with.

Patrick Cocoran, a senior history major, has two other e-mail accounts besides Webmail. He said he has been frustrated with Webmail, especially since he has been waiting to hear back from potential employers. One time, Cocoran said, Barracuda Spam Quarantine filtered out an important e-mail concerning a class he needed to take. But Cocoran showed optimism about the new software.

"It'll be more reliable - more direct communication between jobs, students and teachers," Cocoran said.

Besides the obvious physical changes, Ziegler said students will keep their same account names. Ziegler said he is not sure how long this process will take, but advised students not to reply to any e-mail asking for a password or ID number in the meantime.

Also, Ziegler said transferring files in other ways, through Blackboard's digital drop-box for example, will help Webmail run more smoothly, since e-mail attachments increase volume and slow the system down.

"Our goal is a better and faster service, but ultimately one that can be supported," said Reinhard. "We hope to learn by the investigating process and support-wise that we can produce a stable environment.

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