The campuswide "email vacation" is coming up this weekend. That's when University Information Technology Services will migrate all employee email accounts to the same campus-based server system.
By now all employees should have received a set of instructions from UITS detailing what needs to be done in advance to make the transition go as smoothly as possible.
As part of the migration, email access will be suspended at 5 p.m. Friday and will become available again at 8 a.m. Monday.
Though access to mailboxes will be suspended, email delivery will continue as normal, so emails will not be bounced back to their senders during that time.
UITS has requested that employees not try to access their email during the weekend to minimize the possibility of disrupting the migration process. Additionally, they should remove their UA email accounts from their mobile devices before 5 p.m. Friday to eliminate the possibility of those programs attempting to retrieve mail.
And it's important to note that automated replies won't go out until after the migration is complete. So if employees are expecting to receive email this weekend, they should contact the potential senders in advance to let them know they won't have access to messages until Monday.
UITS conducted a series of pilot migrations before scheduling what the department is calling the "Big Bang" migration this weekend.
John Olsen, Regents' Professor of Anthropology, was part of a pilot migration about a month ago, and he says he is extremely happy with the results.
His email account was one that had already migrated from the legacy system to the new Microsoft system.
"It was very straightforward," he said of the recent pilot migration. "UITS put out a very clear and very easy-to-follow set of instructions. ... I walked in on Monday morning, turned on my machine and all of my email was there. It was flawless from that point of view."
There was no learning curve in adjusting to the new system, he added.
He had to re-create his signature line, and he imported his address book – which doesn't automatically transfer – and then he went in and played with the settings until the screen looked the way he liked, he said.
This weekend's migration concludes a nearly two-year effort to upgrade the employee email system. The original plan was for all employee accounts to be moved to an offsite "cloud" system of servers maintained by Microsoft, through a product the company calls BPOS – Business Productivity Online Suite.
The original migration process was scheduled to be completed by spring 2011. According to UITS, most people who made the change reported being very satisfied with the service. But as more people migrated, users began reporting problems such as having their email arrive late or out of order and an inability to sync between devices.
Macintosh users didn't have the same capabilities as PC users, and PC users on Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser had more functionality than those who used other browsers, such as Mozilla Firefox.
At the end of January, UITS announced the email would be moved back to campus servers. At the time, there were 8,714 email accounts on the cloud – the BPOS system – and 5,086 that never made the switch – referred to as "legacy" accounts. All will be moved to the new system.
Olsen said his computer was migrated to the BPOS system, which he said he feels was "an unmitigated disaster." Sometimes it took as long as 15 minutes for an email to be received across campus, he said.
Now it seems instantaneous when he sends a message, he said.
"The new system is blindingly fast compared to BPOS," he said.
UITS has set up a Web page where people can find current information about the change. The page features an icon – a moving truck sporting the UAConnect logo and hauling a giant email envelope – that will appear on other UA websites and link back to the UAConnect page.
Ahead of Friday's email vacation, employees should be sure to do a few things:
- Read the email that UITS sent Monday. Open and follow the instructions, and print them out so you will have them to follow when setting up your new inbox. You can also acquire personalized step-by-step instructions by visiting uaconnectmove.arizona.edu and responding appropriately to the dropdown menu options for your computer.
- Save existing contact lists, email rules and email system preferences. The information UITS sent has instructions for these tasks.
On Monday morning, May 21, users should access their new mailbox via uaconnect.arizona.edu – not to be confused with the uaconnectmove.arizona.edu site where they formulated their migration instructions. The login to access the email is the user's NetID only – not the full email address – and NetID password.
Employees who already have uaconnect.arizona.edu bookmarked in their browsers will need to retype and rebookmark it so it will redirect to the new system.
Once in the new mailbox, employees should look for an email message from UITS confirming that migration is complete. Once that confirmation is received, users can begin following post-migration steps from the instructions sent last week.
Anyone who runs into problems should contact their department IT staff or try the 24/7 IT Support Center online or by phone at 520-626-TECH (8324).
Users who don't have administrative privileges on their computers will need help from their IT support staff to complete some of the steps.
UITS also is sponsoring open forums to answer questions people have about the move as well as a series of 50-minute demonstration sessions to help people familiarize themselves with the Outlook Web App, which enables users to access their email remotely. Project leaders say people who have used the Outlook Web App before should still plan to attend a demonstration.
The remaining schedule of 50-minute demonstration sessions is:
- Today at noon in the Kiva auditorium of the Student Union Memorial Center
- Tuesday at 8 a.m. in the Tucson Room of the Student Union
- May 23 at 9 a.m. in the Tucson Room
Register for the demonstration sessions online.
Remaining forum dates and times are:
- Today, 1-3 p.m., Agave Room, Student Union
- Tuesday, 2:30-3:30 p.m., Ventana Room, Student Union