Like any tool, e-mail can at times be either useful or frustrating. The office of Information Technology tries to provide a campus e-mail system that is flexible, powerful, and easy to use. Considering the limited resources available for technology services on campus, striking a balance between all the e-mail feature requirements of a diverse campus community of students, faculty and staff is no small feat. Here’s a high level overview of the tactics we use to provide e-mail services at Illinois Wesleyan.
Illinois Wesleyan’s e-mail system relies on three server technology solutions to send, receive and restore e-mail.
- Spam filtering – is provided from a Barracuda network appliance. This lets us mark messages as spam, and, optionally, store potential spam in a quarantine folder for each person on campus.
- Mail sending – is accomplished using open source software called Postfix. This runs on a linux server we call “smtp”. We require all mail sent from campus to come from an authenticated NetID sent through the smtp server.
- Mail receiving and storage – every person with a NetID gets 100Mb of mail storage. We use SunOne Messenger software to provide access to stored e-mail using IMAP and POP e-mail client software.
Personal e-mail clients
Since our mail system supports IMAP and POP, there are many e-mail client software packages that can read e-mail from an Illinois Wesleyan account. Examples of this type of software include:
- The webmail application within the my.iwu portal
- Apple Mail
- Microsoft Outlook
Each of these client software applications have their strengths and weaknesses. We recommend my.iwu webmail or Thunderbird.
Group e-mails and mailing lists
Along with our ability to have people choose from a number of tools to use for their personal e-mail, we also have a number of tools for people to use for sending group e-mails. These include:
- my.iwu course and group tools
- my.iwu targeted e-mail messages
- mailman mailing lists on lists.iwu.edu
The folks at University Communications can help people on campus decide which is the best method for sending e-mail messages to groups.
Our existing server infrastructure for e-mail is in need of an update to keep up with the demands for e-mail services on campus.
- At times our barracuda spam filter has trouble keeping up with all the incoming mail. (Incoming spam can exceed 90% of all incoming messages.) This can cause delays in delivering mail.
- Our smtp server is old and needs replacement. A second, load balanced, smtp server would provide redundancy and better handle mail sending during peak times.
- The server space we have for mail storage is over 85% full. Because we allow graduates to keep their @iwu.edu e-mail accounts this resource will become critical soon. We also need to address student, faculty, and staff demands for additional e-mail storage beyond the current 100Mb limit.
Unfortunately, there does not appear to be funds in the University’s equipment budget for these replacements in fiscal 2007-2008.
In the meantime, we are also watching with interest as other institutions experiment with moving campus e-mail to services like Google mail. While this seems like it may be an attractive option, it would likely place additional demands on the University’s Internet bandwidth.
Providing a flexible, powerful, and easy to use e-mail solution for everyone on campus is a challenging proposition. We believe we have selected the correct tactics with our current software/hardware solutions, but getting sufficient funding for e-mail support continues to be a challenge. While we continue to look for ways to best use our funding, we are not averse to exploring alternative solutions. What’s important is that e-mail needs to function well for our campus community.