The Pleasanton school district's email system was down for nearly a week, between Oct. 16 and 22, but the district has moved to the clouds to get a new system up and running.
Superintendent Parvin Ahmadi said every employee now has a new address to replace emails from the district's in-house email system. That system, provided by First Class, shut down unexpectedly when a disk array failed, according to Luz Cazares, assistant superintendent of business services. Disk arrays are storage systems that link multiple hard drives into one large drive for data control and security.
Over the last week, the Pleasanton district has been doing business the way it did for much of the 20th century, with phone calls and the occasional facsimile.
"We did an auto-dialer last week to all of our households" to let parents know about the system failure, Ahmadi said. She said another auto-dialer will go out when everything is up and running again.
The district's website did not shut down and staff was able to access the Internet through other means, such as personal email addresses, despite the problems with the in-house email system.
Ahmadi said the failure of the disk array forced the district to do something it was planning anyway, but with more planning and a two- to three-month timeframe.
"We were going to move to gmail anyway," Ahmadi said. "At this point, we're in the process of getting all our employees a gmail address."
Instead of having physical servers, the district will use cloud technology, with information stored and accessed through Google servers.
"Our teachers here have been asking to use Google, Google Docs and Google apps," she said.
While it wasn't in the time frame the district hoped for, Ahmadi said information technicians and specialists think the change will be a good one for the district.
Changing to gmail couldn't happen overnight, Cazares said.
"It's a process, to get a new email in place for all our employees," she said.
The district has about 1,200 staff members who each have their own work email address, Ahmadi said. She said district employees are getting briefings on how to use the new system. Many used their personal emails to communicate when the school email system shut down.
At the school board meeting Tuesday night, California School Employees Association representative Calene Fenolio said some employees weren't expected to get their passwords or briefings until next week.
Under the new email system, prefixes will remain the same, using the first initial and last name of the employee. Ahmadi's new email, for example, will be firstname.lastname@example.org.
District spokeswoman Nicole Stewart said data recovery experts are working to restore the information that may have been lost in the hardware failure. Cazares said the district would probably not know what data or whether it could be retrieved until late in the week.
She said the district is working to get old emails forwarded to Google, and that old email addresses should work again once the problem is fixed.
"What we're hoping is, once we firm up our gmail accounts, we'll be able to flow through," Cazares said.
Meanwhile, teachers and staff have been communicating face to face and over the telephone in kind of a reverse learning curve.
"I felt like I was paralyzed," Ahmadi said. "So much of what we do is technology based. It's been hard to adjust."