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Increased volume, attachments saturate Bearmail system

Nov. 16, 1999

By CHRIS ALLEN

Staff writer

If watching that little spinning wheel on your e-mail kiosk is your entertainment for the day, you might be a Baylor Bear.

The Bearmail system seems to be on its last leg, taking long minutes to open the inbox, if it opens at all. Professors have trouble reaching their students and clubs have difficulties telling members about meeting times.

Mike Hutcheson, systems manager for the Baylor Information Technology Center, says the server is over saturated, with inboxes burdened from excessive messages and attachments, and is forced to handle approximately 95,000 new mail messages each day. Comparatively, last year's load was only 75,000 messages a day, he said, with approximately 60,000 two years ago.

The problem is not just the increased volume of mail, but the format of the mail. Many of the messages now sent are electronically heavy MP3, JPEG, MPEG and EXE files. An unexpected jump in the use of these files dealt a blow to the server a couple weeks ago.

'We got blindsided,' Hutcheson said. 'We expected growth, but e-mail is a funny thing. It is very dynamic and rather unpredictable. And I would add that Baylor is not the only university suffering from this.'

The solution is twofold, he said. The user needs to keep fewer messages in his or her inbox, and the Information Technology Center (ITC) needs to increase disk space and input/output efficiency.

'We have a responsibility to work together to make better use of our resources,' Hutcheson said. 'Users need to file their mail and delete it from the server. And it is our responsibility to address the problem and determine appropriate solutions. It is up to us to address the needs of users and provide the remedy necessary to help eliminate the problem.'

If the server can hold on for the next two weeks, the Thanksgiving holiday should provide an opportunity to revive the weakened e-mail system. With school closed and electronic traffic light, Hutcheson said he will be able to adjust the configuration to increase the server's speed. Updated hardware is also forthcoming and should increase disk capacity enough to fully repair the server.

But Hutcheson cautions that such solutions are only part of a never-ending battle if the user doesn't help by deleting old attachments.