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New equipment, fewer problems?

USF Academic Computing received a package Wednesday containing hardware that e-mail administrators hope will solve WebMail glitches for about 50,000 student account holders.

It will replace a failed piece of hardware that resulted in the temporary crash of WebMail on Nov. 21, causing a daylong holdup on incoming mail and the permanent erasure of all mail received between 4 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. that day.

Lately, students attempting to access accounts have experienced delays while attempting to view their inbox.

“(The new hardware) would be much more secure in the way the Dell (hardware) works than the (old) Sun (Microsystems) hardware,” said Eric Pierce, a USF e-mail administrator. “It should be faster and more reliable.”

According to Pierce, WebMail’s existing hardware is about three and a half years old. Most mail servers need to be replaced about once every three years, Pierce said.

Installation of the new hardware would most likely run into the winter break and would require the temporary shutdown of the server during a final data transfer.

“We don’t have details on when things are going to be down,” Pierce said. “I can tell you we’ll try to keep it to an absolute minimum and do it at a time when people won’t be affected too much by it.”

Assistant Director Alex Campoe said Academic Computing will run tests on the new hardware to see how long the switch would take. “Our No. 1 goal is to make sure nobody loses any piece of e-mail, and making sure the transfers occur in a safe, secure environment,” Campoe said. “If we can do a clean copy over by shutting it down for about an hour, I’d like to do that. The problem is, there’s just too much information stored on (the server) that we would have to transfer.”

Pierce said students can expect access to accounts to continue to be slow until the hardware replacement.

According to Pierce, the time period when most problems with page loading occur is around 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Academic Computing last updated students on the problem Dec. 1 on the department’s blog at

“We set up a post first with stuff about the performance problems we were seeing,” Pierce said. “A lot of people have posted cases of slow downs. The connection is slowing down enough that the mail server is actually dropping the connection. It’s just a matter of trying it again.”

The USF mail system has been running slowly since e-mail administrators made the decision to restore the approximately 50,000 USF WebMail accounts lost during the Nov. 21 crash to a backup hardware system.

Pierce said it would probably take at least a week before the hardware is configured and data can be moved onto the new hardware.

Until then, “It’s just going to be slow,” Pierce said.