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Webmail system receives upgrades

Computing Services has revised the Mills Internet system. Changes include more bandwidth, larger Mills Webmail servers, a spam and virus filtering appliance, wireless improvements, as well as hints of downloadable podcasts from professors. First, Computing Services will increase bandwidth so that pages will load significantly faster. Although bandwidth was tripled in August 2005 from 3 gigabites a second to 9 gigabites a second, the 2005 upgrade did not meet campus demands.

“Students have been clamoring for this change and we hope to deliver before the summer arrives,” Acting Co-Director of Central Systems and Administrative Computing Tony Hale said.

Students expressed gratitude when they heard of the bandwidth increase. “It’s high time they up the bandwidth because of the increase in the student body. The Internet now is painfully slow,” sophomore Lauren Gochez-Wilson said.

Students living on the hill in Mary Morse such as sophomore Christina Tobie feel the current Internet services are especially lacking in their dorms. “A mallet and a chisel would be faster,” Tobie said.

Renee Jadushlever, Vice President for Information Resources, meets frequently with Computing Services to discuss the needs of a growing body of students and faculty.
“We are delighted that we are able to improve the spam filtering situation, increase the capacity of our e-mail server and make substantial improvements to the bandwidth during the course of this year,” Jadushlever said.

Some students are happy with the current speed, but the amount of wireless connections pose a problem for bandwidth.

“The wireless segment of the network has placed increasing strain on our available bandwidth due to multimedia streaming and other ‘high performance’ uses,” Hale said.

Bruce McCreary, Director of Computing Services, leads wireless developments.

“Every year, we try to increase the quality of wireless by implementing new devices. Last year, we worked on all of the dorms,” McCreary said.

This year, McCreary and his team are working on the wireless strength and capabilities of Stern and Rothwell Center, the Education complex, and Olin library. They hope these access points will become stronger.

McCreary stressed the importance of bandwidth.

One person can get about six gigabits of bandwidth using the Internet in their home. Mills has 200 to 400 people online at any given moment but only has 10 gps of total bandwidth. This means less bandwidth per person and slower service.

“We’re looking to go up to 40 megabytes like most schools have and we’re currently looking at bids from different vendors,” McCreary said.

Although the bandwidth has yet to increase, the capacity of the Webmail server has, meaning that Computing Services no longer has to restrain the flow of e-mails. Restraining the flow of emails protects the mail servers from overloading and crashing. Computing Services plans to expand the flow further.

“While we are not quite sure where we want to be in our capacity for mail, we are working diligently towards the goal of much bigger inboxes for our users,” Hale said.

Computing Services implemented a Webmail filtering appliance that scans for both viruses and spam. Users can now go to a separate server to view the mail that was qued. Computing Services says that spam had escalated by 500 percent in the last few years.

“Within 10 minutes of my announcement, I received 40 e-mail messages of gratitude,” Hale said.

Computing Services also hopes to launch the iTunes U service, which will allow students to download podcasts distributed by their professors, likely to be accessed via the Portal, Hale said.