OIT updates email server

The Office of Information Technology (OIT) updated My GaTech, the Institute’s email and calendar software, on Saturday, Oct. 15. In the span of a few hours that morning, the department made the transition to Zimbra 7.0, the latest version of the software powering My GaTech, experiencing only “minor issues” afterwards, according to the website.

The update included changes to nearly every component of the software suite and added new features that My GaTech that Service Manager Pam Buffington says will streamline the interface and increase productivity.

“It will be easier to do more,” Buffinton said. “With the upgrade, users will need to take fewer actions to accomplish tasks.”

One of the major differences in Zimbra 7.0 is the merger of the Documents feature with Briefcase, Zimbra’s file storage feature. With the new Briefcase, users can not only upload and view files in the cloud but also create and store new documents.

In addition, users can now create and manage multiple calendar events simultaneously, invite distribution lists to calendar events, and attach multiple files to an email at once. A feature that, according to Buffington, has excited a lot of people is the inclusion of more colors for organizing tags and folders.

Student response, however, has been tepid. Many students do not use the My GaTech web interface, preferring instead to forward emails to their personal email account, and as a result, many are unaware of the significance of the changes, despite emailed reminders.

Common complaints include the slow web client and outmoded user interface design.

“It’s not very aesthetically pleasing,” says Patti Murphy, a third-year BIO major. “Emails are automatically composed in plain text, rather than the more advanced HTML format.”

“People don’t use it enough to have a good opinion about it,” said Alex Irlik, a second-year CS major.

Irlik agrees that the user interface is unattractive.

In addition to forwarding their Tech emails, many users report that they do not use any of the other My GaTech features, which include an address book, a calendar, a tasks list, and the Briefcase tool.

“Most of these features are matched or bettered by other online services,” said Professor of German Frank Pilipp.

He cites the existence of alternative services such as Google’s Gmail, Calendar, and Documents as the reason he does not use the tools offered by My GaTech.

“My GaTech has advantages other services cannot mimic, including the ability to overlay calendars from classes, sports teams, and the registrar’s office,” Buffington said.

My GaTech also includes the Tech directory. This feature can also be accessed through a link on the university’s homepage.

The update may improve some of the shortcomings students and faculty have noted, but for now many users seem content to manage their email without My GaTech.

For those who use Microsoft Outlook, the latest version of Zimbra Connector for Outlook features improvements to stability and speed and is available on the OIT’s software downloads page. For Mac users, Buffington said that her department has been “pressuring” Zimbra to develop a similar connector for Outlook for Mac.


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