Webster purchases new e-mail server



Graphic by Josh Coppenbarger and Amanda Keefe Illustration of Webster's server connection failure

(Webster Groves, Feb. 24, 2011) After receiving complaints from teachers and students about email performance issues, information technology (IT) put a three-step program in place to fix the problem. Now, just a little more than two weeks after the plan began, IT has replaced the server and is taking steps to further optimize email for Webster.

The 3,400 users of the university’s POP server frequently experienced problems when trying to access or send emails.  As of Feb. 10, IT moved 75 users from the old server to the new. Three days later, the remaining users were switched and the new server was put into use.

Eileen Solomon, broadcast and digital journalism professor, was one faculty member who was affected by the faulty server. Solomon said she hasn’t experienced problems since the server was replaced.

“The problem before was that I wouldn’t get email for hours on end,” Solomon said. “Usually sometime after 4 p.m., I would suddenly get a day’s worth of email. I haven’t been having problems since they fixed it.”

The new server cost around $7,000, said Larry Haffner, vice president of IT. Money for the server came from IT’s $1.3 million capital replacement budget, a yearly portion of their overall budget used to replace aging technology across campus.

“We know that hardware ages and fails,” Haffner said. “The typical life cycle is in the four to six year mark for most things, and we have it permanently built into the budget to do as many replacements as appropriate and necessary every year.”

The old POP server was about five years old, which Haffner said is fairly old for servers. IT will dispose of the old server when they are sure the new server is running smoothly.

Because both the old and new servers were offline while email accounts were being transferred, users were unable to access or receive email at the time.  Haffner said the problems were temporary and the new system is now running without any problems.

“One of our biggest metrics in measuring this is the number of calls to the Help Desk about email problems and issues,” Haffner said. “My understanding is that volume, which had surged for obvious reasons, has now fallen back to normal levels.”

The last step of the program is a long-term plan to move Webster’s email system to a new platform. IT has yet to make any decisions on this step.

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