One major update that many of you experienced over the summer is the upgrade to a new version of our e-mail system, Microsoft Exchange, from version 2010 to 2016; as well as an upgrade from Office Communicator 2007 to its replacement, Skype for Business.  Here are some of the advantages to the upgrades we’ve made.

If you’re a user of Outlook Web Access, you’ll have immediately noticed the interface change.  The new interface matches that of the desktop, and you can even right click in it.  But beyond that, it’s touchscreen friendly to use on a tablet, and you can view and even edit Word, Excel and PowerPoint documents directly in your web browser.  If you’re using OWA and you receive a new e-mail, you’ll also notice that there’s no need to click refresh – it’s all updated on the fly.

One of the headline changes is very simple: more space.  By default, every user receives a 4 GB inbox (up from 0.5 GB on the old servers), with larger inboxes sizes and archives available upon request as needed.  Also, documents can be attached that are up to 35 MB in size (up from 25 MB on the old servers), so you can send larger files more easily.  Beyond that, searches are faster and more accurate, so with all of that additional space, you can more easily search for that one important e-mail.

When it came time to upgrade to the next version of Exchange, we also took the time to upgrade the servers that they run on.  While the old system ran on two servers, each one handled a different task, and restarting or changing one of them would cause the entire system to go down.  Rather than upgrade these older servers, we put it on two new servers, each of which can run the entire mail system on its own.  Additionally, they are six times more powerful than our old servers, while drawing 5% less electricity.  The upshot of all of that is that IT can perform maintenance without taking e-mail down, and it continues to work even in the event of a major system failure.  All of these upgrades and the hardware we’ve dedicated to the email system have translated to unplanned outages being reduced by over 92% compared to the spring 2016 semester.

However, these are just the start of the upgrades, and more features are set to be unlocked with the new Portal coming out this spring.  Upgrading Exchange and Skype for Business are just two pieces of a much larger puzzle here at UB, as we work at making your computing experience safer, easier and more powerful.