Email Overload: What happened to freedomarea.org emails and how the problem was resolved

Raylen Welling, Business Manager

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On March 15, 2015 the freedomarea.org email domain underwent a great change leaving many students and faculty members in a panic.

“It’s system wide. Anyone with the google email or anybody that was part of the freedomarea.org account lost everything from Dec. 14, 2014 and prior,” FHS Principal Mr. William Deal said.

“The retention policy was changed from indefinite to just a 90 day retention period. So, when that change took place, Google basically dumped all the emails out of accounts that had been there for 90 days,” Deal said.

“We have in our policy that email has to be retained for 90 days before it can be deleted from our system. One of our I.T employees was in the Gmail server and realized that that function had not been setup, so he was implementing policy as he thought he should,” Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Fuller said.

The Consensus Technologies I.T. employee, contracted out to work for the district, had little idea how big of an effect one small click would have on the district.

“He didn’t realize the ramifications of [turning on that function]. But, as soon as it was brought to his attention he reset that; unfortunately all of that email was already sent into the archives,” Fuller said.

“All I know is that it was changed and then three days later it was changed back. There was no warning that it was happening, there has been no communication that it did happen, how it happened, why it happened. I don’t know,” Deal said.

Despite initial frustrations, the panic caused by the email malfunction has since calmed. However, much of that frustration and panic has turned into curiosity towards why the problem occurred in the first place and what actions are being taken to prevent it from happening in the future.

“I expect to know why a system-wide change occurred without any communication,” Deal said.

Unfortunately, the disconnect caused by the initial deletion of the emails lead to disorganization when the emails were restored. According to Deal, all of the emails could be restored, but when they were restored any organization that had categorized them would be gone. All emails, even emails that had been organized into folders prior to the loss, would be dumped back into the inbox.

For many teachers and students, the loss of organization was inconvenient and frustrating.

“With the Fortune 500, we put everything in folders, like invoices and orders, things along those lines. And a lot of people communicate through email, so when the 90 day filter was put on the emails and then everything was restored, they no longer went into those folders for the Fortune 500. So, I’m having a really difficult time finding past invoices, or even orders that people have submitted because they are amongst the 7,000 emails that have been restored that I am still in the process of going through and sorting,” high school computer technologies teacher Kristen Milanovich said.

At press time, all email restoration that was requested had been accomplished. When solutions to the email loss were first found, it was thought that any email not restored by April 15, 2015 would be permanently deleted by Google out of their server. At press time, it had been determined that was no longer the case.

Those who chose to have their emails restored also got back every email they had ever received. Some also received emails they had sent.

“There is no way to just recover one email. You either get it all back, or you get none,” District Technology Coach Tom Hickey said.

“We do have access to all of the rest of the emails in case there is someone that comes up later and realizes ‘Oh no, I need something from before December 14th.’ We can go back and we can access that email too,” Fuller said.

In the end it can be determined that a problem occurred, a solution was found, and there is now a precedent set in place to keep a similar problem from occurring again in the future.

 

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