IT blames e-mail outage on glitch

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April 4, 2008

2:27 AM

It was every student’s worst nightmare: no e-mail.
Monday morning, a routine software update caused the College’s e-mail system to crash, cutting off access to all College e-mail accounts for the day.

College Chief Information Officer Courtney Carpenter explained that several weeks ago, Mirapoint, the fourth-largest provider of corporate e-mail and the College’s vendor, released an update for the e-mail software.

“We want to stay current,” Carpenter said.

The update, however, caused a slowdown in the e-mail system, so the company released a “patch” to fix the problem.
At 6 a.m. Monday, Information Technology employees attempted to install the patch. The outage was expected to last six or seven minutes, according to Carpenter, but the patch unexpectedly began to sort and verify hundreds of gigabytes of information stored in the e-mail system. Mirapoint warned against a manual override.

“We had to let that thing run all day long,” Carpenter said. An interruption would potentially corrupt all of the data.
The patch finished updating Monday afternoon, but the day-long outage had created a backlog of “literally hundreds of thousands of e-mail messages,” Carpenter said. The backlog created a new cascade of software problems.

Mirapoint engineers and IT employees spent the week working to correct all of the problems, and Carpenter says that they are nearly finished.

“Everything should be back up,” he said, noting that disabled e-mail forwarding on some accounts is the final major problem to fix. “There’s still some intermittent problems here and there that the company’s working on, and as you can imagine we’re putting a lot of pressure on them to get this thing fixed.”

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