ISS works to speed access

Persistent problems with GW Web sites, slow Webmail and old University computers could be ending soon, once an Information Systems and Services plan to update hardware and software campus-wide is complete.

GW Chief Information Officer David Swartz said GW has a short and long-term plan to alleviate problems with e-mail and consolidate the GW Web site, portal and GWired network.

“An ambitious timeline for what we want to do is a year,” Swartz said. “A realistic estimate is probably more like 18 to 24 months to merge the sites into one environment.”

Officials also hope to fix consistently slow Webmail and upgrade ISS during winter break.

Swartz said students closing browser windows without logging out of Webmail are causing widespread system slowness now, but the problem extends further.

“A few thousand students not logging out is a real problem,” he said. “But over the holidays, we hope to add a new server that will reduce the likelihood of slowdown. It will be up for students for the spring semester.”

The new SUN ONE Messaging System will replace the current e-mail, though student e-mail addresses will not change. According to ISS, the new product features spell check and will resemble America Online’s email system.

“I think people will welcome the change,” Swartz said.

He said students will also be able to search GW e-mail addresses from within the system instead of opening another browser to search on the GWeb portal or the main GW page.

Swartz said the revamped www.gwu.edu officially came online in June, a date that was pushed back several times after University vice presidents requested further changes to the site.

“The vice presidents thought the original proposal was really just a jazzed up version of the old page, and it was that,” Swartz said. “They also thought it was too loaded with ‘stuff.’ Now, it’s not as congested and focuses on what students need in order to get things done.”

Swartz said initial problems with the site were fixed quickly this summer. Any problems were caused by difficulty with the flashing pictures on the main page. Though the site has been active for several months, ISS plans ongoing upgrades to make it easier for students to navigate, including the ability to customize the page as students now can on the GWeb portal.

Swartz said ISS hopes to create different versions of the page that will eventually be smart enough to recognize users and adapt for students, alumni or prospective students by hiding unnecessary information. Planned improvements include installation of flashing news bars on the main screen that departments can update more easily and a comprehensive school-wide calendar, accessible to any visitor of the site. Swartz said the calendar feature is also a security measure for the school to coordinate emergencies, since no integrated campus calendar currently exists.

Gelman library computers were recently upgraded from 10 to 100 megabits.

“It won’t look different, but it will be faster,” Swartz said. “The systems will have more security features and filters.”

Swartz said residence halls are next in line for the upgrade and that it will take up to two years for the campus to be entirely upgraded, including both software and hardware in the computer labs.

He said the new G1 account, which will log students onto CATS lab computers as Novell does now, should make things easier for students because the name and password are the same as Webmail. Though it won’t replace Novell for those who already have it, the G1 account will track printing in University labs now that students have to pay per page.

Students who log on using the G1 account must still swipe their GWorld to activate printing and accept the 7 cent per-side fee. G1 accounts are free and can be created online.

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