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Alyssa Mosher – The Aquinian –
The IT staff at St. Thomas University have been working hard this summer and after a few unwanted emails two weeks ago, the changes to STU’s email system are nearly complete.
Currently, STU has a private email system that requires constant upgrading from the IT staff.
Nearing the maximum licenses allows on STU’s mail server, Dan Hurley, Director of IT Services at STU, knew he had to make a move – one that could be fairly expensive for the university.
Fortunately, Google and Microsoft were offering free email to higher education, so Hurley could avoid the costly upgrades.
Hurley said the change to Gmail offers students almost eight gigabytes of inbox space, while the current system can
only hold a few megabytes. Gmail also has a more user-friendly web-interface.
Hurley called the move a “no-brainer.”
“Realistically, an awful lot of our students were just forwarding email anyway,” he said. “And so when this came along…it was a great opportunity for us. We’re just positioned at the right time.”
Hurley said the migration process from STU’s current server to Gmail may take a couple hours, meaning STU email will be down.
However, the complications end after that. Not only will students use the same @stu.ca email address, but any outstanding emails in their inboxes will be migrated to the system.
While there are about 8,500 STU email accounts, only 3,000 of those are quite active. In order to minimize the migration time, Hurley and staff may push those 3,000 people ahead of everyone else.
Email hasn’t been the only thing on Hurley’s mind over the summer. He is also hoping to produce a wireless printing solution for the James Dunn Hall computer labs. This will specifically target those students who would never use the lab if they didn’t have to use the printer.
“The plan will be that somebody can sit down by the Tim Horton’s…flip open their laptop, and print directly to the printers up here,” Hurley explained.
Hurley also plans on upgrading the wireless network at STU.
Last year, STU invested in a highly secure wireless network, which ended up being “a pain in the neck for some people to connect,” Hurley said.
“This year we’re still maintaining that network because it is still the most secure technology available,” he said. “We’re also creating another network…called STUtest and if you go to the STUtest page…you’ll be redirected to a screen that basically says…here’s what you’re allowed to do on this network, here’s what you’re not allowed to do on this network, and enter your username and password.”
Hurley said that while this type of network does have some minor security issues, it’ll make connecting to the STU network much easier.
There will also be an upgrade for networks in all the residences.
Last year, the majority of the residences had difficulty with their internet connection.
Hurley said that this was not only because of the amount of people connecting to the few modems, but also because of the amount of data being transmitted through those modems on more and more wireless devices per person each day.
Hurley’s solution is to bring back plug-in internet. In about two weeks, contractors will have completed the new configuration.
Students in residence will now have the option to either plug-in for high bandwidth projects like downloading movies or songs, while they’ll be able to use the wireless access if they want to simply check their email or Moodle.
While some may hesitate to migrate back to plug-in internet, Hurley said “to get that better bandwidth, this is the way to go for sure.”
Hurley hopes to complete these three IT projects before students arrive as soon as Sept. 1.
Aside from those, the IT Director has also upgraded all the computers in the James Dunn computer lab that now offer brand new systems with Windows 7.
Hurley is happy to see things moving along.
“So often in IT you end up doing a lot of stuff that sticks to some server or something,” Hurley said. “Nobody knows about it. So it’s nice to actually do something that’s…visible and actually makes people’s lives better.”
Got any questions about the new email system? Go to FAQ for more.