Case Studies: JISCMail


When it comes to enabling people in UK education and research to engage, connect, collaborate, discuss, share and champion their work, JISCMail is a leader. In the words of one JISCMail list enthusiast: "JISCMail is a jewel in the crown of Jisc services, an essential part of the collaboration infrastructure for the UK higher education, further education and research."

The JISCMail email list service is funded by Jisc and is a foremost organization dedicated to the research and education community. The JISCMail email lists run on ListPlex, L-Soft's LISTSERV cloud hosting service, and are used by scores of researchers and educators in the UK as well as for Jisc and Jisc-funded project communications.

"The cloud-based LISTSERV solution works for us. It gives us the confidence to know that our systems are covered and supported in the event of failure or errors – and that L-Soft's teams are able to find solutions and fix problems much quicker than we would."

JISCMail began in 2000 and has 9000 lists that serve a total of 1.38 million subscribers, and counting. But even as the number of lists, volume of deliveries and subscribership have grown exponentially, some things have remained constant.

"Despite the huge changes in digital technologies, email has stood the test of time and continues to be used in every organization across the world," Lisa Vincent, JISCMail Operations Manager, said.

Lisa gives an overview of some key benefits that JISCMail gains from using LISTSERV for its expansive and ultra-high-volume JISCMail email list enterprise. "The LISTSERV platform's reporting tools allow us to build a picture of how well used and strong the JISCMail service is. We are measured on how much the service is used – how many mailing lists and subscribers we have and how many messages are posted across our lists – and the reporting tools allow us to do this and they give us this information quickly."

Lisa describes the LISTSERV archives of JISCMail's many email lists messages compiled over the years as "a huge resource for our customers", adding: "I'm sure that if you read some of them you'd build up an interesting story of how education and research has changed considerably over the years – based on discussions, events, research findings and activity."

Like many organizations in the non-profit sector and beyond, JISCMail needs to control costs while continuing to provide a high level of service and functionality and deliver a tremendous volume of opt-in email to the UK academic community members subscribed to its many email lists. Ensuring that the LISTSERV archives, which tell the story of UK academic mailing list history, remained intact was also a must.

As a result, L-Soft procured new server equipment and migrated JISCMail's existing mailing lists and all 215 gigabytes of the organization's data to a ListPlex hosting environment. The move enabled JISCMail to continue its operations seamlessly, with fixed and predictable costs.

"The move went smoother than I expected – we ensured that customers were aware of the changes and when the service would be temporarily offline. When service resumed there were surprisingly few problems, which was good news for the new helpline team," Lisa Vincent said. "The cloud-based LISTSERV solution works for us. It gives us the confidence to know that our systems are covered and supported in the event of failure or errors – and that L-Soft's teams are able to find solutions and fix problems much quicker than we would. The recent situation with DMARC is an example of the speed at which something potentially major was corrected."

But finding the right solution to the evolving needs of a large-scale email list enterprise is only part of the equation. Lisa Vincent describes the day-to-day contributors to the success of JISCMail:

  • Organizational funding and support: "We can provide statistics showing how widely used JiscMail is across education, which makes it easy to justify our continued funding."
  • Dedicated customer and list owner communication channels: "We run our own newsletter mailing list for all of our customers and a dedicated list of list owners – what we try to do is ensure that any major changes are communicated through these channels."
  • Designated announcement list for list owners: "It's important that we ensure that we maintain good strong relationships with our list owners. This means communicating to them when things go wrong or right, when we've changed or improved things for them, and offering training and support as best we can."
  • Devoted list owners: "The volunteers who run our lists realize the need for a mailing list and ask us to create a list, and they grow and nurture the list to support the communities and activities they're involved in. Without the dedication of our list owners, we wouldn't have a service."

There are many examples of the success and impact of JISCMail's email lists. For example, Lisa notes that: " is the largest, most popular and most successful among the citizen science projects, which allow volunteers to participate in scientific research. Run by a team at Oxford University, Zooniverse lists have attracted hundreds of thousands of subscribers, globally, all offering to take part in their projects. The participants are mostly members of the public – not academics – and there's something pleasing about the fact that that their contributions are supporting research and education."

As one subscriber says: "JISCMail is brilliant – I recommend it to all my students and colleagues. Whenever we have requested assistance, we have had this support very quickly. Thank you."

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