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U of T email service for students and alumni restored after days-long outage

UTmail+ was down for several days while the email team tried to resolve issues caused by the migration of information from U.S. data centres to Canadian ones (photo by Makeda Marc-Ali)

Problem caused by migration of data from U.S. centres to local ones

Access to UTmail+ email accounts used by students and alumni was restored Thursday morning after an outage that began on Saturday.

“We worked around the clock to bring the system up,” said Bo Wandschneider, U of T's chief information officer. “It's a very complex process.”

The email team is still working on some glitches but all messages that were queued during the disruption have now been delivered, he said. 

An outage had been scheduled to begin as soon as exams ended, to move email operations for 227,000 accounts from data centres in the U.S. to Canadian ones. Students had been advised of the plan. But problems arose near the end of the migration, forcing a prolonged outage, Wandschneider explained.

University officials at the highest levels, including vice-president of university operations Scott Mabury, kept in contact with Microsoft to restore email access. The tech giant had teams in different time zones working on the problems so that they could be resolved more quickly, Wandschneider said. 

“We had a direct line to the senior folks at Microsoft Canada,” he said. “We have a strong partnership with them, which is important in situations like this.”

As the outage continued, some students took to social media to voice concerns about the potential impact on correspondence with employers for summer jobs and internships.

“We’re reaching out to employers to let them know what happened,” said Barbara McCann, acting director of the Engineering Career Centre. U of T Engineering’s Professional Experience Year (PEY) is the largest optional paid internship program of its kind in Canada with many employers hiring primarily, or exclusively, through the program.

“We want to make sure they understand that our students weren’t responsible for the delay in communication.”

ITS will continue to post updates, identifying any further problems and when they will be fixed, Wandschneider said. On Friday morning, the ITS System Status Page announced: “There are ongoing issues with mail flow, as well as access to migrated data. Staff are fully engaged with Microsoft working to resolve all outstanding issues.”

The UTmail+ team is asking students and alumni who are still having problems accessing their account after the data transfer to contact the help desk at (416) 978-HELP (4357) or help.desk@utoronto.ca.

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