I had plenty of time to think over the weekend, because the e-mail server was down, about the $200 competition to rename the GW Webmail system. Here are my submissions. 1) Go noWhere Mail 2) GWished it worked Mail 3) GWhatMail? Please make the check payable to:
M.A., international education
E-mail important to deaf
Words cannot express how upset and disappointed I am with GW’s e-mail services. Although this week’s outage has affected everyone on campus, it has affected deaf or hard of hearing students even more severely, as a majority – myself included – are used to communicating with faculty, staff, students and friends via e-mail.
I have weathered several e-mail outages before, however, this one came at the worst possible time – the week before my first comprehensive exam. This required me to find exhaustive, frustrating and intricately timed work-arounds for time-sensitive electronic consultation, such as I am presently doing with a colleague living 200 miles away. We cannot use the telephone because I am deaf; while there is a telephone relay system, a relay call takes twice as long as a normal phone call. Instead, we have resorted to using a fax machine, which is not as efficient as e-mail.
In light of this situation, the rollout of the new e-mail system needs to be accomplished as soon as possible. It must be more stable than the present Webmail, and the mail stores should be more robust – able to withstand the hundreds of thousands of daily log-ins.
Why no backup?
As someone who has spent the better part of his life fixing computers, I can identify with the technicians that have undoubtedly been working “around the clock to repair the e-mail server.” I know what it’s like to have a catastrophic failure of a disk controller; I know what it’s like to assume a repair strategy will work and then have unexpected setbacks. And, while I cannot say I know what it is like having tens of thousands of people breathing down my neck and telling me to work faster, I know what it’s like to have a handful.
What I do not understand, and what still confuses me despite the level of understanding that I possess of the situation, is why there was no backup system in place. When you blow out a tire, there is a spare in the trunk. If the power goes out in the hospital, they flip a switch and turn on the generator. In all my years of paying for services – electricity, water, cell phones, normal phones, e-mail, Internet – I have never experienced an outage even remotely close to this long, because all of those systems have had backups. The administration at this school should be the first to admit that in this age of information, telecommunication is as critical a service as water and electricity. The reason that we were without a critical service for five days – for which we have paid – must be ascertained and dealt with. If it is an influx of new funds that is necessary, so be it. If it is an influx of new personnel and new management that is necessary, so be it. Let us just make sure that a downtime like this never occurs again.
I have always kept an auxiliary e-mail account as a precaution because I know from time to time hardware fails and must be replaced. As a senior, I have grown very dependent on the GW mail account, as it is the primary communication method I use for friends at home, parents and many friends here I do not see on a regular basis. Most people I know also have similar auxiliary accounts. However, no one knows them. We as a student body have grown dependent on the Webmail system, and even if it goes down for a single day, it is a severe problem.
My professors are unable to contact me, I cannot contact them. It is GW policy that all faculty have e-mail accounts so that students can find them, for many GW professors are part-time, and if they have an office, they cannot always check their voicemail. Furthermore, the graduate schools I applied to cannot contact me, as they use e-mail exclusively.
I call upon Rice Hall to investigate the real cause of the server’s failure, and take appropriate action to fix the problem. Tuition continues to soar higher and higher – how much must the students pay for a reliable e-mail system?