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Instructions on Accessing Your New Mailbox Have Been eMailed To You

October 3, 2013

Rodney, can you get into email?

No. You?

No. They upgraded the servers last night.

We’d better figure it out quick. People are going to start showing up to ask us!

I was working in the WordPerfect Office support team. Development had just upgraded our corporate email system from WordPerfect Office 2.0, which was a single server version to Office 3.0 which was multiple server. We were excited to use the new product, if we could just figure out how to get into the new mailboxes.

WordPerfect Office 2.0, despite the version number was a first generation email system. It was released on August 8, 1988, 8/8/88. WordPerfect Office (now sold as Novell GroupWise) turned 25 years old this year. The developers were pretty proud of that original release date. The first update was shipped two months later on 10/10/88.

This was in the days before the internet. Before any external email systems. It was not possible to send an email to anyone outside of your company. And when you have a single server product, every person who wants to send email has to log into that server to send and receive email. The problem was that we were running a version of Novell NetWare that limited the number of concurrent connections to the server. I think it was 512 connections. There were nearly 5,000 people working for WordPerfect at the time. So, as soon as 512 people were in looking at email, no one else could check their email.

The corporate solution was that they would limit the amount of time you could be connected. When you connected, a timer started. When the timer ran out, you got kicked off. But, it was considered polite to log yourself off. And if you logged in and then left the connection open but didn’t do anything on the server (they could see if you were accessing files) the IT guys would kick you off and you’d get a visit from your manager.

Anyway, today all of that was going to be fixed. WordPerfect Office 3.0 would run on multiple servers and the Connection Servers would route email between the servers. This was the situation when Batman Nearly Got Me Fired.

We were not caught off guard by the change. As the support team, we had been heavily involved in the testing. (Racist Programs and Assaulting Servers.) We had been gearing up for today. But, no matter what we tried we couldn’t figure out how to log into the new system. Finally, Mark called one of the testers.

Sydney, this is Mark in Support.

Mark, how’s the new email system look?

I have no idea, we can’t seem to get into it and other teams are asking us.

Didn’t you get the instructions? We wrote an entire step by step guide on how to log in the first time and change your password.

No, we haven’t seen them. Where can I get a copy?

Well, we emailed them to everyone.

Yep. They emailed us the instructions on how to access the new email system. I’ve mentioned before that WordPerfect could have used more Program Managers to be that bridge between developers and customers. Sydney gave Mark the instructions over the phone. Once he got logged in, there was a single email.

Instructions For Accessing The New Email System

It actually worked out well for our support team. We printed out the instructions and when other teams came to us because we were the Office support team, we looked like we knew what was going on. . .almost. I still laugh about that day. Over the past 25 years I’ve had the opportunity to migrate thousands of users either from an older version of Office to GroupWise, or from GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange or the other way around. Everytime we sit down to plan the actual cutover day we make sure that the instructions for how to access the new system are sent out well in advance and are also printed out. But invariably, every member of the migration team has experienced the frustration of having the instructions for the new system emailed to them. But, only once. Once you’ve been through it, you’ll remember that step forever.

Rodney M Bliss is an author, columnist and IT Consultant. He lives in Pleasant Grove, UT with his lovely wife and thirteen children.

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