Webmail: Its Working, Woes and Beyond
Oct 09, 2017 | Sweety Shukla
Since eons, as much as one could go back in time, communication between humans exists. Though the way we communicate with each other has changed with the passage of time, communication will thrive as long as we survive! With the advent of the Digital Revolution, the cosmos of communication too underwent a complete transformation. The Internet and the social networking sites have cut all the distances short; thus making the world a ‘global village’.
NIT Rourkela provides email services to every student and faculty with a Zimbra web client server. Webmail is the official medium which provides all the students, faculties and the administrative authorities an official web handle (in the .nitrkl.ac.in). Though access to the Internet at the hostels is technically prohibited from 8:00 am to 5:15 pm on all working days, webmail is conveniently accessible through the Institute LAN 24*7. Zimbra provides a cloud storage of 200 MB for the students and 2 GB for the faculties.
However, with the introduction of new restrictions on the webmail services, use of certain services were curbed thus affecting the NITR junta to a significatn extent. With an objective to clear up the fog, Team Monday Morning approached Prof. CK Biswas, Computer Center Head regarding the issue. Here are a few excerpts from the interview.
MM: Each user is allowed a maximum of ten outgoing emails per day. What was the need for such a regulation?
CKB: Yes, we have restricted the number of emails going to other domains such as Gmail, Hotmail, Rediffmail, etc to ten. However, students can send unlimited emails within the nitrkl.ac.in domain. We had to take this action because students were sending unnecessary files such as games and other similar large applications over emails to each other. Sometimes, they unknowingly click on ‘reply to all’ option and were involved in spamming activities as a result of which the institute domain has been blacklisted a number of times.
MM: For which all sections of the NIT society is this rule applicable?
CKB: Well, it is basically meant for the students. We have not implemented this rule for the faculties and the staff as of now. In case of the faculties, if the number of emails exceeds 25, then only the first 25 will be delivered and the rest will be automatically sent the next day. Recently, our Chairman's email handle was automatically blacklisted and he was not receiving any emails from us (nitrkl.ac.in domain). This happened because so many people from our institute had sent him emails on the same day and his account blacklisted nitrkl.ac.in domain assuming that this domain was not genuine. After the implementation of this policy, the situation has improved and we have been able to reduce spamming considerably.
MM: People who are looking forward to their placements and internships, need to send a lot of emails and they were availing this facility via the Webmail. As the webmail is a sign of an official ID from the Institute, it was helping them in applying for off-campus placements and foreign internships. So, with the restriction laid on the number of outgoing emails, won’t this be hampered?
CKB: I think it is rare for a person to apply for more than ten internships or placements on a single day. And if once in a while, there is a need to apply for so many emails, we can definitely grant permission to that particular student for a certain period of time according to his/her requirement. But apart from that, we can do nothing about increasing the limit since our domain has been blacklisted a lot many times in the recent past.
MM: Auto email forwarding (from Webmail to Gmail, Yahoo, etc) has been blocked by the data center. But email forwarding was a convenient option for the students because accessing Gmail over Webmail is comparatively easier on phones. So, why was this rule implemented?
CKB: Yes, this facility was available before. But we have stopped that again due to the heavy increase in the server traffic and we are really afraid of being blacklisted again. Even Gmail once blacklisted us and we are definitely looking forward to avoiding that situation. However, in some special cases (maybe if one is genuinely not able to access the webmail since he/she is outside the campus), we will allow mail forwarding exclusively for him/her.
MM: What is the exact procedure of approaching the authorities in case one’s Webmail account is blocked?
CKB: You directly have to visit the data center and first get to know the reason due to which it was blocked. According to that, you may/may not have to write an application. However, blocking of webmail accounts is uncommon, the data center will definitely look into it and the problem will be solved.
MM: What was the reason behind the server being down and hence, no internet access on the 5th and 6th of October?
CKB: That was a temporary problem with the generator. The was no power and we were facing difficulty in restarting the generator. And the servers would have crashed if we wouldn’t have shut it down. However, that has been rectified and everything is functioning properly now.
Team MM hereby showed you the crystal clear picture of what rules have been implemented and the reasons behind them and we hope that these issues get resolved as soon as possible. Monday Morning will stay in constant touch with the authorities concerned and keep you updated!