Email outage raises questions for users

A recent systemwide email outage has one local technology expert recommending that some area email users consider changing their addresses.

An official with Wide Open West confirmed Monday that all email users with a email address were without email service for more than a day recently.

Debra Schmidt, the system manager for WOW’s Lawrence operations, said a vendor problem that occurred during maintenance of the email system led to the outage on March 20.

Dave Greenbaum, owner of Lawrence-based Doctor Dave Computer Repair, said his business fielded several calls about the outage. He said he’s been telling customers that they should consider changing their address to make such problems in the future less likely.

“The thing that worries me the most is businesses that are still relying on for their email,” Greenbaum said. “That’s taking a big risk.”

Greenbaum said he’s not urging people to discontinue their service with WOW, but rather to simply not rely on the free email addresses that WOW provides to its customers. He said he also sees issues with free email addresses provided by AT&T and other Internet service providers.

“I hear complaints universally from customers who say their Internet service provider isn’t maintaining their email properly,” Greenbaum said. “I tell them that ISPs usually aren’t very good with email service. It is not their core business.”

Email service providers are required to maintain computer servers that store and and transfer incoming and outgoing emails. There has been speculation that the servers for are old and in need of repair because the service is left over from the days when Sunflower Broadband operated in the community. Sunflower Broadband — which was owned by the parent company of the Journal-World — was sold to Knology in 2010. Knology later sold the system to WOW.

But Schmidt said WOW customers can be assured that the outage wasn’t the result of outdated equipment being used by the company.

“It had nothing to do with the age of our servers,” Schmidt said. “It was a vendor issue. We do invest in our servers.”

The March 20 outage was of the type that users permanently lost any messages that users tried to send to them during the time the system was down, Greenbaum said. addresses also experienced some significant problems a little more than a year ago when the system was being transitioned to another portal, Schmidt said. But she said WOW doesn’t have any plans to discontinue the addresses.

“We know they are very important to our customers,” Schmidt said of the addresses.

But Greenbaum said he reminds customers that WOW — not the email user — actually owns the email address. He said large email systems like hotmail or gmail have less chance of being discontinued in the future. But he said the method he recommends to customers is to simply buy their own domain name, and use that for an e-mail address. He said domain names can be purchased for about $5 per year from a variety of domain registration companies.

Some users this week have continued to experience intermittent periods in accessing their email accounts, according to calls received by the Journal-World. Schmidt said those customers should contact WOW’s customer service team to have the issue fixed, but she said the company doesn’t believe those issues are related to the March 20 outage.