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SMC updates e-mail security protocols

Lynn Sikora | Monday, September 13, 2004

Saint Mary’s students and faculty found themselves without e-mail access Thursday night due to system maintenance that included a thorough security audit.

The scheduled outage went from 5 p.m. until 2 a.m. Friday morning. Standard maintenance is performed every Thursday night, but this time the focus was on security.

Director of Information Technology Keith Fowlkes said the security updates were necessary for combating viruses on the server.

“We did a once over on the systems to make sure they’re secure,” Fowlkes said. “The extended security outage will prevent attempts by hackers.”

Before the security updates, the system had been exposed for a short amount of time to Internet hackers and viruses. The extended security audit allowed Saint Mary’s main server to be brought up to date with protection against unwanted glitches.

This is the first time the e-mail has been down since a power outage in July.

Network and system administrator Doug McKeown said the server and e-mail are now running as was previously planned, and the conditions have improved over the past few years.

“E-mail is up and running above 95 percent of the time which is up from 70 to 75 percent when I came here two years ago,” McKeown said.

The server is currently under the allotted information quota and is running on “pretty good hardware” according to McKeown.

Many updates are not invasive, and don’t normally interrupt student, staff or faculty work.

When a matter is more pressing, a notification is sent in advance by e-mail, but not everyone receives the notice in time.

Sophomore Helen Casey believes e-mail outages have become more frequent this year.

“It seems more professors are relying on students to e-mail assignments, and you can’t always bank on the e-mail to be up and running,” Casey said.

Other times students are left confused when experiencing problems outside of the hours specified in the e-mail.

Junior Jenny Parker said the unplanned outages can become frustrating.

“They make it more inconvenient than it needs to be,” Parker said. “It’s hard when we get an e-mail saying it will be out during a certain time and then it’s out beyond those specified times.

“I know updates are important, but sometimes they just cause problems.”