Webmail Woes

Andrea Ford

Like many University students, Ashley Ruhling is fed up with spotty e-mail service.

“We are very heavily reliant on e-mail for communication for everything from classes to students activities,” the sophomore said. “The downside is that when it doesn’t work, it’s a major inconvenience.”

In recent weeks, periodic outages in Webmail, the campus e-mail system, became common. The outages, which lasted for several hours, cut off one of the most frequently used communication sources on campus.

According to Steve Fugale, UNIT executive director and chief information officer, several factors have contributed to the outages.

The first issue is the rapidly increasing volume. Over recent months the volume of e-mail has grown exponentially. Fug-ale explained that the growth results from a general increase in e-mail usage, mass distributions, larger file sizes and unsolicited commercial e-mails, known as spam.

Inefficiencies in user administration are also contributing to the problem, as unnecessary accounts were taking up valuable space. The purging of accounts belonging to former students and staff was being practiced inconsistently, but has now been made a top priority, UNIT officials reported.

An additional concern is the actual system platform. UNIT is now working on updating the system and maximizing the efficiency of the hardware configuration. Fugale stressed that UNIT’s efforts are to encourage the use of e-mail, not to limit it. “We recognize the value of e-mail capabilities and we don’t want to discourage or restrict it at all,” Fugale said.

“We are aggressively addressing these problems.”

“We are often being told that Webmail is down for maintenance, but we don’t always see the improvements, which is frustrating,” sophomore Katie Pugh said.

Many students also expressed annoyance over the disappearance of the “Unread Messages” box on the University’s home-page, which now reads “Personal Mail.” When this feature was active, users could tell if they had new messages without logging into Webmail.

Fugale explained that UNIT has temporarily disconnected that feature, which was problematic to the already strained system because it required communication between the homepage and e-mail, adding to the loading time of the page. However, UNIT does intend to reactivate the feature soon.

In addition to the administrative agenda for addressing e-mail concerns, Fugale listed some recommendations for users to help limit the occurrence of serious problems.

The University community must be conscious of mass mail distributions, which UNIT already tries to monitor attentively. Sending such mailings at the appropriate times may help eliminate problems.

Individual maintenance of personal accounts would help alleviate some of the problem.

“Look at your inbox and get rid of things you don’t need. Deleting unneeded files and emptying trash would be a major help. The rest is up to us,” Fugale said.

He added, “We are working 24 hours a day and will be providing announcements to keep everyone updated.”