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New email overhaul settled, reactions mixed

December 16, 2011

Returning students and faculty on the UW-River Falls campus will have noticed a major overhaul of the campus email system by now.

Students’ email from their previous SquirrelMail accounts will have migrated to their new Microsoft Outlook account. This has caused a change in email addresses for students and staff. Addresses which used to read: firstname.lastname@uwrf. edu now read: firstname.lastname@ my.uwrf.edu.

Messages sent to the old SquirrelMail addresses currently forward to the new address, but that will cease to function come the first of the year according to the Division of Technology Services (DoTS).

“The decision was made in the interest of stability, keeping the email system up and running,” said Student Support Coordinator for DoTS Steven Meads. “We had some issues with our SquirrelMail system so we made that decision in the interest of the students and the staff to try and create a more stable environment.”

Another reason that the switch was made is that UWRF is migrating to a Microsoft- centric environment, known as Active Directory.

Even with migrating to a Microsoft environment, Meads said Macintosh users should see very few issues, if any. “We haven’t seen any issues for students because it’s primarily web based and it’s hosted by Microsoft off site,” said Meads.

The current email system is primarily browser based. “As long as you have a web browser, you have access,” said Mead. DoTS has seen more browser specific issues, as opposed to operating system issues.

“All of these browsers go through iterations, and go through betas, so that’s where we’ve seen some issues,” said Meads. “A new version of [Google] Chrome will come out and there may be some issues.”

One of the strengths of the current Microsoft Exchange email service according to Meads is that it works well with smartphones. “Exchange itself, natively, obviously works with Windows Mobile right out of the box, no problem,” said Meads. “All the Android devices we’ve seen also work, with the exception of a couple.” The device having issues is an older model, T-Mobile’s G1 Android phones, according to Mead.

“It’s a couple of settings and it auto-configures itself and it really pulls in all that information,” said Mead. According to Mead, he has seen no issues with getting the new email system working on iOS devices like the iPhone and iPod touch.

Nicholas Sertich, a UWRF senior, said that he uses the email app on his iPod touch quite a bit. “Getting it to work at first was like pulling teeth,” said Sertich. “But once I managed to figure it out, it worked just fine.” Sertich isn’t quite as pleased with the Microsoft Outlook email system.

“It’s definitely prettier,” said Sertich. “But it has the problem that a lot of Microsoft Outlook does. The interface is kind of clunky, it’s easy to lose some things.”

Marie Benzschawel, a UWRF senior, said that email is a vital part of her studies and said that the switchover from SquirrelMail to Microsoft Outlook was fairly simple. “At first it was hard to get used to, but now after you kind of learn its quirks then it’s alright,” said Benzschawel. “My folders didn’t crossover from the old email so I had to re-catgorize everything.”

Benzshawel said other than notifying people of her changed email address it’s been a smooth transition to the new email system.