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IT addresses Zimbra issues, updates servers

Ashley Charnley | Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Saint Mary’s Information Technology (IT) department is “absolutely” working to address the issues currently involved with Zimbra, Saint Mary’s e-mail provider, Doug McKeown, senior technology engineer at the College, said.

Students have been frustrated with Zimbra’s performance and IT recognizes the issues.
McKeown discussed the many factors involved in switching to a new provider as well as the issues with the Zimbra.

The switch to Zimbra was made in 2007 when the College’s previous provider crashed, McKeown said. The decision had to be made quickly, and Zimbra was an inexpensive, progressive package that was still new.

“Any piece of software is going to have problems,” McKeown said.

In order to switch to a new, less problematic server, IT is working to create an Active Directory that would condense Saint Mary’s three main servers into one. According to McKeown, he could then allocate the memory within the new server when needed, which would allow for higher quotas in e-mail.

The process to switch from three servers to an Active Directory will take several months, but IT hopes to complete it early in the spring semester of 2010, McKeown said.

Once on Active Directory, Saint Mary’s will be able to more readily switch to a new e-mail provider and help student, faculty and staff communication run smoother, he said.

“With Active Directory, big changes in e-mail and relief from Zimbra will be possible,” McKeown said.

Until the change happens though, there are things students can do and should be aware of to help their e-mail accounts work better.

McKeown said crashes generally happen when a large number of people are on at the same time, or high volumes of e-mails are coming in.

According to McKeown, simple things like remembering to edit down the sizes of your pictures before you send them will help speed up the system.

Students should also keep their quotas low and clean out their e-mails periodically, he said.

IT also wants students to be more aware of their content before they send messages.
Janice Thomasson, Chief Information Officer for IT, warns students to be aware of what they are sending at all times.

“Be careful what you send on e-mails,” Thomasson said. “You may be sorry later.”
Once content enters the system, it is no longer completely private.

McKeown stressed that IT will never ask for a student’s password via e-mail, which is what many phishing scams request.

“Once they have your password they can send out thousands of e-mails in minutes. [Providers] will then put Saint Mary’s on a blacklist,” McKeown said.

Sifting through email can also be a struggle because of the volume of spam that comes through. According to McKeown, since January of this year, 46 million e-mails were marked spam, while only 10 million were sent by users. So around 80 percent of e-mails being sent into the system are spam that “clogs the pipes,” he said.

If students have questions or IT concerns, Thomasson said they can contact ResNet to have their issues addressed.