Last week, the mail server became unreliable for around three days. On a college campus, where email is extremely important, and one of the most widely used forms of communication, any undependability slows the productivity of students, faculty and staff. In our fast paced society, even three days is a long time for campus organizations, faculty researchers and professor-student contact to be without instant communication. This problem was exacerbated because Webmail users were not notified of the glitch.

For people who use the Webmail site to check their mail, the server failure was immediately apparent – the page was unreachable. For those who check their email with alternative programs such as Gmail or Microsoft Outlook, the interruption was not immediately recognizable, allowing them to believe that the mail system was operating normally. This causes more problems as people send email that is not delivered in a timely fashion. The university must provide email for the students and faculty and should have done their best to notify all users of the interruption.

While hopefully this will not be a recurring problem, there are a number of things Information Technology Services could have done to mitigate the damage and frustration caused by the slow-down. Putting a sign up in ITS or Wilson Commons would allow most of the students to know there was a problem and plan accordingly. Telling students when to expect a return in service, if known, would be even better. Communication is very important in problematic situations such as these, and there was very little of it here.

The greatest irritation though is that this is not the first instance of server failure. At the beginning of every year there is the annual failing of the registration server, when residence halls fill with cries, outrage and a few choice words from the student body. Yet not once has this problem been preempted. Failure is expected every year. The only difference is that we don’t expect it to happen to our precious email.

Server outages do happen but when it comes to something of this magnitude, we expect more communication than simple word of mouth.



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