|@St. Norbert February 2009 - Speedy delivery enhances e-mail service||St. Norbert College|
If you use, or forward from, your St. Norbert e-mail address, your messages will arrive via a new system from Monday, Feb. 16.
Speedy delivery enhances e-mail service
On Feb. 16, a new virtual postal carrier makes a campus-wide debut. It goes by the name of Zimbra, and does a whole lot more than fill e-mail inboxes.
“Zimbra is actually what we call a collaboration suite,” says John Beck (Information Technology). “It’s a suite of applications to help people share information and communicate.”
In addition to powerful webmail functionality, Zimbra incorporates instant messaging as well as virtual briefcases, address books and calendars: all can be shared among users via web access.
Beck and his staff tested the suite themselves prior to writing the proposal for its purchase. That sneak peek proved that Zimbra offered the “holy grail” IT sought – an effective campus-wide calendaring system and an up-to-date webmail interface.
Such a web-based solution is critical, says Scott Crevier (Information Technology). “It means that faculty, staff, students and alumni can access their e-mail and calendars from any computer anywhere in the world. And what they see from a hotel in London is the exact same thing that they’ll see at home or on campus.”
Getting the suite up and running – a process that began in late September – has taken considerably less time than the 12 to 18 months typical at other campuses. That’s partly because IT did not need to convert from one campus-wide calendar system to another and partly because, as Crevier said, “many of us on the Zimbra team have simply put other projects on hold while we get this going.”
As documentation and training specialist Michelle Manke (Technology Support Services) puts it, “having to do [this conversion] in such a short time is keeping us extremely busy.” Some 7,000 e-mail accounts have to be individually brought into the new system, and IT staff first built a structure for a semi-automated process that would help speed the e-mail conversion.
With new Zimbra hardware standing ready beside the existing servers, the official switch on Feb. 16 will prove a seamless transition for those whose accounts have already been converted. When that change is made, Beck says, people will still be able to see their old e-mail – a fact that holds true at least through May – but any new e-mail will only appear on the new server from Feb. 16 on.
Some simple steps will ensure that users of college e-mail accounts – with 4,000 alumni among them – continue to be able to access their mail stored on the old server via the Zimbra platform. Alumni users in particular will also gain new ways to stay connected to their alma mater.
One such tool: specialized St. Norbert College calendars, including athletic, academic and performing arts schedules. “You can turn these on and off so that they display or don’t display on your personal calendar,” Beck says.
Adds Crevier, “The key here is that if someone on campus owns event information that they want to share, we make that happen in Zimbra.”
Beck calls such functionality a really potentially valuable adjunct to the communication interface between the college and its alumni.