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Bye bye, beta

Students fed up with USF WebMail will soon see a whole new e-mail system at USF and will learn who is going to provide that system as early as next week.

Academic Computing, which currently operates WebMail, has been working with Student Government to bring a new e-mail provider to campus, increasing the reliability of e-mail. The new server will be run by a private e-mail service, as the current system is going to be scrapped for an e-mail program developed by either Google or MSN. Academic Computing will still administer the system on campus, however.

Approximately 300 students have signed up as beta testers for the new system. The testers have two e-mail accounts, one with MSN and one with Google, so they can compare the two and decide which will be the better choice.

Both systems offer an array of additional programs like calendars, anti-virus protection, stronger spam filters and a larger database in which users can store old e-mails.

SG has also set up an advisory committee to talk with students about the e-mail system and find out what they seek from it. SG will share its findings with the Academic Computing office to help them reach a decision about which service students prefer.

Chief Technology Officer Michael Pearce said Academic Computing has talked with SG to understand student needs and get them involved in the process of choosing the service that they will use.

“We’ve heard a lot of issues about the WebMail; people have problems with WebMail,” said Nicole Randazzo, SG Senate president pro tempore.”It’s slow and sometimes it doesn’t work.”

The majority of beta testers like the Google service better because of its extra programs and features as well as the overall ease of use, she said.

Although Academic Computing said it’s emphasizing student preference, the department still has to work out contracts. Pearce said he wanted to make sure students get a better service at a low cost.

“It would be good,” said Danny Johnson, a pre-med student, of the new service. “The one that we have doesn’t have enough memory. I know Hotmail and gmail have a lot of space, thousands of e-mails and they’re still there.”

Kevin Thorp, a graduate student in finance, saw it differently. He didn’t have any problems with the current WebMail service and wasn’t sure if he liked the planned change.

“I actually like USF (Webmail) because it’s an internal thing,” Thorp said. “The service works fine for me. I don’t think that corporate culture has a place in an academic setting.”

In addition to the slated changes to USF’s e-mail system, Pearce also plans to offer an alumni e-mail service, as well as providing the University with a comprehensive e-mail system.