Ryerson debates switching email provider

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By Jeff Lagerquist

Outages and slowdowns at Computing and Communications Services (CCS) inconvenienced staff and students a total of six times last month. Last Thursday, subnet9, a server connected to around 200 computers, crashed for several minutes around 3 p.m.

January also had two Rmail “delivery slowdowns”, both lasting for six hours, as well as two outages in the Call Pilot system, which controls Ryerson’s voicemail and call transferring applications. A brief power outage in the Podium building that caused network issues that month.

None of this was swept under the rug, according to Brian Lesser, CCS acting director. “We are trying to be more open and transparent about all the problems we have. We’ve been emailing more notices and information when things happen.”

A service alert blog was set up in November to document technical issues and provide information.

“With hundreds of servers there is always the possibility of a problem, error or failure. We spend a fair amount of money and time trying to reduce that risk, but its a fairly complex undertaking,” said Lesser.

Faiza Razi, in third-year global management studies, has found Ryerson’s computer infrastructure frustrating. “Sometime the lab computers run

really slow, especially if you have few windows open. When I came over [to Ryerson] from Seneca, everything became more difficult.“

Catherin Vant Erve, a first-year early childhood education student, said CCS’s proactive approach may have had an effect on her opinion. “I went to Trent last year and we didn’t have nearly as many problems, but maybe we didn’t get email alerts. “

“We may have gone a little overboard,” said Lesser. “ I think the impression is that things are getting worse, but in reality it’s about the same. I don’t think there is a huge performance problem in any one application that requires us to reinvest or fix something.”

While the my.ryerson and RAMSS applications have received the greatest amount of recent investment, email and collaboration tools have been neglected. “The email system has never been what we want it to be. We’ve never been able to offer the kind of storage quotas that we’d like to have, or provide the kind of web interface that would compare to Hotmail or Gmail,” said Lesser.

A public symposium on Feb. 24 will continue the debate over outsourcing Ryerson’s email accounts to American companies like Microsoft and Google. The main issue is privacy. Contracting an American company would mean student and staff accounts could be subjected to investigation under U.S. laws, including the Patriot Act.

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