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Microsoft Exchange to replace Mills webmail

Katie Condon

Mills will implement a new e-mail system this spring which, according to College Computing Services, will make online communication easier for Mills e-mail users.

In a notice to the Mills community on Nov. 2, Vice President for Operations Renee Jadushlever explained: “Our current e-mail server is unable to keep pace with the demands placed upon it by our users with inboxes or sent-mail folders that contain large volumes of attachments or messages.”

Jadushlever pointed out that when users access inboxes or sent-mail folders containing more than 1,000 messages, or a large number of messages with attachments, it impairs the server’s performance for other users.

Tony Hale, the director of the Dept. of Information Technology Services, explained that an inbox that contains 1,000 messages amounts to about 30 megabytes, which he says is the largest a Mills web folder should be. Hale also said that 690 users on the Mills system currently have folders larger than 30MB, which causes the Mills server to strain and sometimes crash.

The strain on the e-mail system left many campus computer users without e-mail access for entire days at a time. Because of the e-mail instability, some Mills students are eager for a change.

“The current e-mail system interface is unfriendly and archaic,” said junior Jennifer Smith. “I’m very good with technology and computer programs, but I can’t even figure out how to forward my mail to my other account, so that I don’t have to check more than one.”

Smith added, “I like the ’80s, but not on my computer screen.”

Junior Adrienne Austin said that she was satisfied with Mills’ current system. “I don’t have a problem with the e-mail system now,” Austin said. “I’m fine with a change, but I haven’t thought about it.”

The Department of Information Technology Services is in the process of providing faculty, staff and students with a new e-mail system that they expect to remedy campus e-mail problems. They are already installing a program called Microsoft Exchange on departmental computers.

According to Hale, the program is the industry leader for e-mail and calendaring. “With its implementation, we will be helping to take Mills into the 21st century of communications,” Hale said.

Hale added that the new system will have a much stronger infrastructure, which will enable the server to handle a greater volume of messages.

Microsoft Exchange will function for Mills e-mail users in one of two ways. For those who use e-mail through their desktops, Outlook 2007 will replace the current system. Webmail users will use a program called Outlook Web. Hale explained that access will function much like a desktop application.

A new feature that Microsoft Exchange will provide for users is calendaring, a tool that Hale said the entire campus has demanded for some time. The calendaring function will be collaborative, allowing users to share calendars and schedule meetings much more efficiently.

“I might use [the calendar],” Austin said, but she doubted that the calender option will be useful for her. “I use Facebook a lot; lots of people [post events], so I won’t use it as much. It’ll be nice for people who don’t use Facebook.”

Hale explained that the implementation of the new system will happen incrementally, with some users using Microsoft Exchange while others still work with the current e-mail system.

“An incremental ‘rollout’ is the best practice for a conversion such as this, though we are moving as diligently as we can,” Hale said.

Hale and Jadushlever both encourage Mills e-mail users to clean up their e-mail to help the server function better while the transition period is underway.

“If you have a large inbox, sent-mail folder or many messages with attachments, create a new folder (e.g., inbox-old or sent-mail-old) and move old messages into the new folder,” Jadushlever said in her notice.

Hale said that some Mills students are helping reduce e-mail system strain in the transition period. More than 70 users previously had inboxes that contained over 200MB of information, but now that number has been reduced to 45 users.