Conference email server upgrading to Google

By Jessica Connor

The S.C. Conference is getting an email upgrade that should bring more integration, collaboration and efficiency — and remedy the troubling “lost email messages” problem that had been plaguing many statewide.

Around Dec. 1, the conference will switch from its old server, SurgeMail, to Google Groups.

The change will impact anyone with a email – including conference staff, all clergy and a host of others statewide. When the change is complete, contacts, calendar and email can all be synced.

“There are going to be a lot more improved features and functions than we’re even aware of yet,” said Jim Crews, conference director of information technology. “We will ultimately be better connected.”

Conference Treasurer Tony Prestipino said the new email server will allow for more collaborations and more integration on different platforms, and it will be easier from an operations standpoint.

“We’re expanding functionality by moving to a new system, and Google is also free,” Prestipino said. “I think anything that makes us more efficient is better.”

In addition to improved sync capability, many across the state are relieved to know they should no longer have communication issues between the conference mail server and certain other mail servers, like AOL or Bellsouth. On the old email server, messages sent from an AOL or Bellsouth user were sometimes not delivered to the user, but neither got an error message, creating what some have coined the “lost email messages” problem.

Carmen Faulkner, who has an AOL email address, said she was constantly struggling to communicate. Hearing about the email change “made my day,” she said.

“Before, when I would send something to a minister with a email, after I’d send several a month I’d be blocked out. I can get messages from them, but I can’t reply unless it’s by phone. It’s hard, especially when you’re on a board and can’t do it digitally – and it’s a digital age,” Faulkner said, applauding the conference for making the switch.

The Rev. Tom Wall, campus minister for the Methodist Student Network at the University of South Carolina, said welcomes the switch because good and easy communication is essential in any organization – particularly one as large and technologically diverse as the S.C. Conference.

“Hopefully an upgrade in our capacity to communicate with one another should enhance and facilitate our ministry together,” said Wall, who still often uses his AOL account to communicate. “Working with students, I am well aware of the need to use this technology and to be current. Not being up-to-date in this area may mean that we miss many opportunities for ministry.”

Ann Alexander, active in the conference United Methodist Women, said she thinks the switch will be a “great improvement” for the conference.

Easing the transition

Detailed information on mail server settings is coming soon and will be posted on the conference website and in the December Advocate. In the meantime, Crews encourages email users to take a few steps to ease their transition.

First, know your username and password – and be aware that your password will need to be at least eight characters, including one number. If your password is currently something easily hackable, like “password” or “1234,” be prepared to select and change to a new one.

Second, those who access their email through the web only (webmail), instead of downloading it to a software program like Mail or Outlook Express, will need to backup their important online email somewhere, just in case.

Third, be aware that you will need to change your mail server settings and determine where and how so when the time comes, you will be ready.

More information is coming soon. For questions, call or email Crews at 803-786-9486, ext. 332, or [email protected] .

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