SIUC Information Technology Department makes changes to improve webmail

By Gus Bode

SIUC e-mail 7/28 at

Factoid:For more information on changes to the system go to www.infotech.siu.edu/

Information Technology has made changes to the SIUC e-mail service on campus by improving the system’s virus protection, spam filtering, and e-mail management capabilities.

Advertisement

The e-mail service system was down two weeks ago due to the upgrades being made. According to Al Allen, assistant director of Campus Systems and Information Technology, all of the existing mail had to be copied into the new system.

The idea to change the system was proposed to Information Technology Director Don Olsen, who approved the project. Allen said the change was a “major project for us.”

According to Olsen, all of the money for the upgrade came from the Information Technology Department. By planning ahead for the year, the department was able to save the money to put forth the project. Olsen said the biggest cost was purchasing the software.

“The first thing we had to do is back all of the existing mail and its related information back out to some device-like tape,” Allen said. “Then we needed to take all that information and migrate it over to our new mail systems. There were hundreds of thousands of items that had to be copied, so it took some time for us to do that.”

Most major upgrades are performed during the summer and Christmas time because there are fewer number of students on campus.

After the mail system was up, it needed to be tested to make sure nothing was lost. Workers changing the system were dealing with 17,000 to 20,000 active and inactive users.

According to Allen, there are three main reasons the system was upgraded.

Advertisement

One was to provide an improved set of tools so users can better manage their e-mail.

Another was to set up new products that deal better with spam and viruses that come through e-mails.

“We wanted to bring a new set of products in to better deal with the increasing levels of spam and the viruses that were coming into our environment attached to e-mail,” Allen said. “We, in essence, changed those products and upgraded them to more commercially available products.”

The third reason for the change was to allow for increase in traffic load.

“The last several years, we’ve been doing incremental upgrades on our e-mail systems that were necessary to allow them to handle the increase in traffic loads,” Allen said. “We had come to the point that we would be better served by implementing a different type of architecture that was able to handle growth into the future much better than what our current environment could cope with.”

Due to spam and advanced use of viruses, SIUC Information Technology believed it was time to approach these issues in a new way.

“We’re trying to get a better handle on reducing our exposure to those kinds of events by improving the tools that we had that, in essence, are in place to distribute that kind of information,” Allen said.

One of the major changes being made, and one that users will immediately notice, is the new system’s way of alerting users to spam. Instead of modifying the subject line with spam stars, spam will be put into a folder automatically.

“We don’t have to mess with the subject line anymore,” Allen said. “The system automatically creates a spam folder, and anything that it sees as a spam it will put in that folder.”

According to Allen, users who do not want their spam set up in a different folder can arrange how they want their folders handled.

Changing the e-mail system was not the only work that took place. According to Allen, getting the information out to the public is one of their biggest challenges.

“It’s always a challenge trying to get information out to everyone about changes,” Allen said. “I’m not sure that we’ve ever been successful in getting the information out to everyone that really needed it.”

Although it is a challenge to get information about changes to the public, there is a way that users can become aware of advance in changes or when the system is going to be down.

“If, for example, we’re performing maintenance or we’re doing a change that’s going to affect people, we always announce those through an e-mail list that anyone can sign up for who wishes to,” Allen said.

According to Allen, users who sign up to be on the ITALERT-L listserv list are guaranteed to know in advance any activities that are being planned.

Allen said he believes it is important for all users to read about the upgrades and changes made to the system and for users to fully understand what changes are being made.

“The real important issue that we, in general, want to promote is that there are ways for people to receive alerts of changes that are going on,” Allen said.

Allen said users of SIUC e-mail should be aware that the system is new and it will take a couple of weeks to work everything out.

“[Users] should know that our system is new, we’re still making some customizations and learning a lot about how it works,” Allen said. “It’s a pretty extensive systems. We’ll probably be doing that for several weeks yet.”

Advertisement