The long, winding road to a new e-mail system

By Amy Ledig

There is hope for a new Macalester email system this year. After eight months of searching, the ITS Email Workgroup plans to unveil its recommendation to replace OCS by the end of the semester.Macalester switched from Mulberry, its former email server and client, to OCS in Sept. 2005. The switch itself was plagued with problems, and there have been difficulties with OCS ever since, including frequent outages, duplicate messages, and security concerns.

With Safari, the default web browser for Apple computers, OCS does not log out unless either the browser is reset (erasing any other stored information) or the computer itself is logged out. Even after pressing the log out button, the next user can still access the prior account.

Ted Fines, Assistant Director for Network Services at Macalester, said that Safari has been removed from the dock on Apple computers in the computer labs, but the possibility of a breach remains.

Ron Joslin, Systems Librarian and workgroup member, blamed the slow return both on staff turnover and the committee’s thoroughness, adding that they have been “very judicious [in] evaluating the options.”

“Our current system is no longer sustainable,” said Michael Nelson, Academic Information Associate for humanities at ITS and a workgroup member. “Our current system no longer meets the email needs of the campus community.”

The Email Workgroup formed in January 2007 to find a replacement for OCS.

“One thing we’re stressing in the search process is looking for something extremely stable,” Joslin said. “ITS has to go above and beyond the call of duty to keep [OCS] running. We’re looking for something that can keep up with the needs of the campus community.”

The committee has six programs they are considering for the new system. Options include outsourcing to Gmail or using a new in-house email application.

The timeline for when the new email system is put into use depends on which category is ultimately selected.

“If we do go with Gmail . then we could just turn that on and say if you want to switch, do it now. If we’re going to get a new product, that’d pretty much have to wait until summer,” Fines said.

The Workgroup is now heading into its next phase, where it will seek the input of the campus community in evaluating the options at hand.

Joslin emphasized that students should come forward to be part of the selection process, but how the committee will reach the community is yet to be decided.

Sylvester Gaskin, Assistant Director of Campus Programs, said that whichever method is chosen, it should be as inclusive as possible.

“We’re being very intentional about how we go about that so that everyone who has a vested interest in the email system can have a say,” Gaskin said.