GW students, faculty and staff should expect faster service and more options from the recently introduced Colonial Mail, technology officials said last week. The University made the switch to the new service to provide users with better service than the previously used Webmail.
Johnny Bret Jones, director of Technology Engineering, said Colonial Mail is a “far better” system than its predecessor because it promotes improved stability and performance. It is also able to handle GW’s high traffic volume, which totals about 150,000 messages per day.
“(Colonial Mail) is a more user-friendly Web client, incorporating a number of new features, including message sorting, html formatting and easier management of mail folders,” Jones said.
Colonial Mail began its phase-in in early August. The first of three stages focused on improving the e-mail system’s infrastructure and enhancing performance. The GWMail system had to be shut down from Aug. 1 to 3 while all GW e-mail accounts were converted.
The second phase introduced the new Web client, Colonial Mail, on August 12. At this time, ISS staff members migrated all Webmail address books to Colonial Mail. They are currently testing the new system as part of this phase.
“Since going live … small issues have surfaced and are being addressed by ISS,” Jones said. “But overall, we have encountered no critical issues with Colonial Mail so far, and do not expect to encounter any.”
The final phase will begin early this semester and continue through the school year. During this period, “additional features will be considered and implemented as the vendor makes them available,” Jones said.
Features include a calendar system and improved message filtering.
The new system lets users create and view more complex elements, such as fonts or graphics, which could not be read by Webmail. ISS will soon institute one-click access to Colonial Mail from the GWeb Portal. Webmail provided similar entry from GWeb.
Surveys conducted last year indicated that improving Webmail “was a top priority for the GW community,” Jones said.
Since GW introduced Webmail in 1998, problems with e-mail accounts plagued students and faculty who relied on the system. Users would periodically be unable to log into accounts and unexpectedly be logged out. Mail delivery was also slow. Last January, Webmail experienced a complete system outage that lasted nearly a week.
“Colonial Mail seems more organized and less problematic than Webmail,” senior Sarah DeGuilio said. “Webmail always seemed to have a glitch in the software.”
Colonial Mail makes online help more accessible. The interface provides users with numerous links to frequently asked questions, usage tips and solutions to common problems. The links further provide an overview of the system’s features, along with detailed descriptions of the new and existing options available with Colonial Mail.
“The interface is really friendly and the address book is much easier to use than the previous version,” senior Seth Gottlieb said. Webmail will be available for the next two months, and then the system will be decommissioned. Students and faculty can log into their new accounts through http://cmail.gwu.edu.
This article appeared in the August 25, 2003 issue of the Hatchet.