[Nov. 11 update]: We’re delighted to report that during the first six weeks on the new platform, we’ve achieved 100-percent uptime and there have been no performance issues. We’ve continued to work with customers who need assistance with the transition, and our 24/7 Tech Support team reports a steady decrease in email-related calls since the beginning of October.
[Original post]: On Sept. 23, BendBroadband upgraded to a new email system that is more secure and more reliable. Simultaneously, we launched a new, full-featured Webmail product. With this transition we joined the rest of TDS in leveraging Synacor (a New York-based provider of Internet services) and their partnership with Zimbra, a provider of one of the country’s leading email solutions.
The conversion to the new system was a complex operation that spanned two months of preparation, culminating in the early hours of the morning on Sept. 23, and required the collaboration of resources in Bend, TDS headquarters in Wisconsin and Synacor in New York. Adding to the complexity, we were under a tight timeline due to the risk of the old system failing, as it was fast approaching end of life.
While the system upgrade and transition of more than 43,000 email accounts was successful and without major incident, there were several factors that caused an estimated 7 percent of email accounts to temporarily lose email functionality. Here’s a brief summary of those issues:
• About 500 customers with a chamberscable.com email address were required to call us after the upgrade to get a new, more secure password. This was a holdover from our purchase of Chambers Cable’s Sunriver system several years ago.
• More than 400 customers were unable to access their new email account due to an error that occurred when Synacor set up their account within the new email system. This was corrected for all but 30 of the affected accounts by the end of the day on Sept. 23 and the remainder by Sept. 25.
• A number of customers were able to get into Webmail but found that they were unable to either send and/or receive email in another email application, such as Microsoft Outlook. This was due to one or two settings within their email program that needed to be changed. The old settings worked in our old email system but did not work in the new system due to increased security. This issue was discovered during testing early on the morning of the upgrade. Once we realized the scope of the issue, instructions were developed and posted to BendBroadband’s website and verbal instructions were added to our on-hold message. If you are still having an issue, click here for help or contact our technical support team.
The combination of the above issues resulted in call volume that exceeded our capacity despite having increased our number of phone support personnel by 50 percent by adding resources based in Wisconsin. This caused hold times of 60-90 minutes for three to five days following the upgrade.
Additionally, due to the age and potential for failure of the old system, we chose not to risk the added time it would have required to create an automated process to move email history and contacts for all Webmail users to the new system. Users are, however, able to move email history and copy contacts into the new email system themselves. You can find detailed instructions for those processes under the “Move your old emails” and “Move your contacts” sections of our support page for this project.
We have interacted with many of you who experienced some email downtime and frustration during the past week due to one of the above issues. Whether you contacted us via phone, social media or in our lobby, we want to extend our sincere apology for the inconvenience you experienced as part of this major upgrade.
We understand that access to email is vitally important to both our commercial and residential customers and with this project behind us we look forward to providing you with service that is more stable and secure.