|by Michael Hodges
Larger email quotas have arrived. As of August 15, 2006 students are now provided with 250MB of storage and Faculty and Staff with 500MB. Unfortunately with the changes necessary to achieve this increase we can no longer restore individual mailboxes. Many changes have been made behind the scenes to allow us to offer the new quotas.
Email services put substantial demand on storage subsystems because of the volume of email processed everyday, 15 gigabytes comprised of 350,000 pieces and growing. Implementing a new storage array was essential. As storage has increased, the logistics for backing up the service without imposing downtime has also increased in complexity and required us to make a fundamental change to the email service.
As of August 15, 2006 email backup practices no longer allow us to offer the entire UH community recovery services for email mailboxes. For small quotas our backup methodology permitted us to recover individual mailboxes. This level of service is no longer possible; the new backup methodology is designed for Disaster Recovery purposes only. This methodology is much more streamlined and allows us to support the new, larger, email quotas and with a timely completion of backups.
Users of Google's gmail, Micros oft's Hotmail, and other services have grown accustomed to very large quotas. Free email services come at a price. For example, email stored on gmail is data mined so that Goggle can develop targeted advertisements for each individual email account holder. Exposing email to an email service provider's search engine raises privacy questions for many people. Another free service offering, Microsoft's Hotmail, is free for the first 250MB but Microsoft charges for additional quota and other services.
So why are large email quotas and disk storage a big deal if disk drives cost as little as 50 cents a gigabyte (GB) at Costco? We have learned through experience that the disk drives servicing email must have "high duty cycles" in order to not fail prematurely. The amount of activity on a home PC disk drive is far lower than that of a drive handling email for thousands of simultaneous users and can be accommodated with less expensive technology. We also require high availability, error protection, and hot spares. These failsafe mechanisms come at a cost. A sophisticated storage array with intelligent disk controllers monitor disks and ensure that they are automatically reconstructed on spare drives when they begin to fail. Additionally, all of this hardware is covered by a service policy that ensures that failed drives are quickly replaced so that there are always enough working drives available to ensure that email services are not interrupted.
Please note that not all email quotas will be increased. Quotas for those no longer affiliated with the University whose email accounts are scheduled for cleanups will not increase.
Email has become a primary means of communication for the University community. A recent survey of faculty and staff experiences with IT services strongly voiced the need for larger email quotas. The new quotas are a significant step forward in our continuing effort to improve email services.