September 21, 2019

Email server fails, improvements expected

3,400 computers on campus, abroad affected by server glitches

By Megan Senseney

Graphic by Josh Coppenbarger and Amanda Keefe

For the past few weeks, Patrick Stack, director of counseling, often sat in front of his computer in confusion and frustration. Sending an email, a seemingly simple task, sometimes took hours, delaying his communication with students, parents and other faculty and staff.
Since mid-January, Webster faculty has experienced technical difficulties with the one and only server for the University.
Stack was one of 3,400 worldwide faculty and staff whose Webster email resided on the POP server. Because of many significant issues with email performance, Informational Technology put in place a three-step plan to replace the server. Larry Haffner, vice president of IT, said the first two steps, estimated to be finished in six weeks, are already complete just one week after they began.
“We know that it was an older server with a very high volume of users,” Haffner said. “We stated that moving all of the POP server users to a new, more stable server would take around a month, but it was finished this past weekend.”
Problems with the server did not only affect its users, but the people in contact with them, as well. Students trying to contact professors on the POP server were often unable to reach them when they needed to; unable to turn in assignments on time.
“One of my professors asks us to turn in a lot of assignments through email,” said senior photography major Bathsheba Fournier. “I’ve had to show him the sent email on my computer because he never got it, and thought I turned it in late.”
Stack said access to email and confidential information is crucial to what he does on campus, because of the sensitive nature of counseling.
“We have to be in communication with students, and I have to have access to their information,” Stack said. “It’s not only communicating with the student, but with a mother or father that the student had given me permission to speak with. If the system isn’t working the way it’s supposed to, it really holds things up.”
Stack and the other POP server users have now been moved to a new server. The server is running more stable hardware and features the latest software to optimize performance, said Haffner. Stack sayid he has not experienced problems with his email since the switch.
The last step of the program is to move Webster’s entire email system to another platform.  It is said to be a long-term plan, and has no estimated date of completion. Any decisions on this step of the process will be announced when they are made.
IT plans to publish an update on the servers this week at www.blogs.webster.edu/webstertoday.

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