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OIT finds flaws with ENS system

Joseph McMahon | Tuesday, February 5, 2008

The Office of Information Technology tested the Emergency Notification System Friday to mixed results, an OIT official said Monday.

The office sent students and staff members e-mails, text message and voice mails at 2 p.m. on Friday. There were some delays in the system, and some of the text messages failed to reach their intended destination, said Jay Steed, executive assistant to the chief information officer at OIT.

“We had successes and some opportunities that weren’t perfect,” Steed said. “There’s always room for improvement. We have some pretty high standards for delivery of these messages. That’s why we do the testing, to make sure we can get all the tweaks out of the system.”

Steed said the system will require improvements and he considers it a top priority to make the system flawless.

OIT is still compiling data from the test and is not ready to release specific numbers, although Steed said the office has an idea where the major problems occurred.

“It’s important for the University to communicate effectively and rapidly with the campus community, and we take it very seriously,” he said. “We want to make sure that it works as fast as it possibly can, so we still have to work out the tweaks.”

Steed said the University needs to revise the system it uses to send text messages to students.

“One of the things that we found Friday evening after the test is that there was an issue with text messaging capabilities,” Steed said. “We know that some of the text messages did not go out.”

OIT is currently meeting with Connect-ED, the vendor responsible for delivering the messaging services for emergency voice mail, text messages and e-mail to discuss possible solutions. “Connect-ED is saying that a number of text messages did not get delivered at all, and that had to do with a problem in their computer code,” said Steed.

Every person who volunteered cell phone information should have received a text message. Under the old system, students had to sign up for text messages, but Steed said the Connect-Ed “has since changed the model to automatically opt everybody in that has provided a cell phone number so that they would receive a text message.”

If students do not wish to receive a text message, they can choose to opt out of the system on the OIT Web site.

There were also delays in the e-mail system, Steed said.

“OIT is also working on the issues regarding sending out the emails to the Notre Dame community, because it was not as fast as we had hoped and planned for,” he said.

While OIT hopes the system will someday be flawless, Steed said there always will be some errors.

“At any given point a number of contacts won’t be reached because of data-entry errors or a third-party e-mail account no longer exists,” he said. “We always have a percentage of contacts that won’t be reached.”

Steed said he has seen no significant increase in the amount of people who volunteer their cell phone information, though he said OIT plans to put out advertising on campus urging students to provide that information.

“We’d love to see 100 percent participations with regard to cell phones,” he said.

Moreover, although the University had planned only one test of the system this semester, Steed said that the results might require OIT to perform another assessment.

“There’s a steering committee with Connect-ED and we will determine the next test date when we meet again next week,” Steed said. “We had hoped that we would only have to test once this semester to try to make sure we didn’t dilute the effectiveness of the system, but given some of the results we may look into having another test this semester.”