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7,500 UK schools using the email services of RM Plc, the UK's largest education technology supplier, have been without communications this week.

RM's EasyMail Plus service collapsed last weekend during an upgrade it was performing to deal with mushrooming levels of spam.

Billy McNeil, development director of RM Plc, said the system was being reintroduced to schools throughout the day and about 1,600 schools - all its customers in the south west - had already had their service restored.

The system was being upgraded because spam had been overloading and slowing its system. Between May 2006 and February 2007 the number of messages being passed through its school email service had increased almost fourfold, from 550 messages per minute to 2,000 messages per minute. About 85 per cent of these were spam, it said in a refreshingly informative explanation of the outage.

The 750,000 users of the system are also sending more email than they used to. In the last half of spring term, about 13,000 pupils were using EasyMail Plus at any one time. After half term, the number of simultaneous email users had risen to 16,000 median. The system holds 400m files on 90 hard disks with more than a terabyte of storage capacity. McNeil's team have yet to work out what went wrong because they are getting the old system up and running. They think the extra cpu and memory they added last weekend might have overloaded the power supply.

"The system we have has got 100 per cent redundancy and mirrored hardware, which is maintained live," said McNeil.

"But the problem we had, broke both sides of the system so all the business continuity got broken," he added.

To restore the service, the McNeil's team have had to replace and rebuild each of the failed disks. It appears to have retained its data.®

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