Google Update
College's e-mail, applications going with Google

SUNY Oswego converting its e-mail system to Gmail and installing Google Apps for Education should benefit the college in terms of cost, convenience and collaboration, Chief Technology Officer Joe Moreau said.

The college started looking at new e-mail options, because the system was showing its age and its most recent round of upgrades proved costly. The partnership with Google will provide a richer environment for communicating and collaborating—and comes with no cost from Google in the four-year agreement, Moreau noted.

“With the exception of the labor we expend to set it up and administer, this is cost-free,” Moreau said. “That saves us a lot of money at a time we need to save a lot of money.”

What’s in it for Google is that “they want to win the hearts and minds of young people” who will move into professional positions and consider contracting with Google Apps in their businesses, Moreau said.

The conversion is on a fast track, with Moreau expecting users to have the opportunity to start migrating their e-mail by the end of this month. The many members of the campus community who already use Gmail can choose whether they want to integrate their accounts or keep them separate.

Options weighed

The Campus Technology Advisory Board and Instructional Technology Council weighed the pros and cons of industry leaders Google and Microsoft, receiving presentations from each and offering user testing.

Steven DiMarzo, the incoming Student Association president and student CTAB representative, saw Google bring a lot of positives. “I specifically looked for the ease of using the features that were determined to be necessary,” he said. “I wanted something that was user-friendly, eye-appealing and intuitive. Google was definitely the best choice and meets all of these requirements.”

The resulting package, branded Laker Apps powered by Google, includes Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs—word processing, spreadsheets and presentation tools. Having these tools available can save students the expense of having to go out and purchase these programs, Moreau noted.

Gmail will offer much larger mailboxes for users, and new and helpful ways of categorizing messages, he said. The migration will mean around 125 million bogus e-mails in terms of spam, phishing and viruses will no longer come through the college system, with Google well-staffed, prepared and experienced in turning back such invasions.

As a cloud system—one hosted off-site and with various levels of access available—Google documents can allow for collaborative creating, editing and feedback. The team working on migrating oswego.edu’s content management system from OmniUpdate to Ingeniux, for example, actively uses Google docs to inventory existing sites, track projects and brainstorm.

A sites project will allow members of the campus community to have personal pages, which will replace the departing OU Educate. In addition, the venerable Pine e-mail system also will disappear.

Google Calendar will supplant MeetingMaker, which the college currently pays for and yet which has only about 260 users. Google Calendar offers a range of controls set by users over who can see their calendar, what others get to see and who can make appointments.

Protecting privacy

One of the biggest concerns in selection process involved privacy. While Google has repeatedly reassured the college on the matter, Moreau sees nothing wrong with healthy vigilance on the part of CTS and users on keeping information protected.

“It’s not in Google’s interest to do the wrong things, because if colleges decide they want out of the process, it can start a wildfire” of departing clients and bad publicity, Moreau said. “But we’re urging diligence because we want the user base involved in ensuring their privacy is not being compromised.” As part of this process, panels on privacy concerns, including opportunities for user feedback, are in the works.

The plan is to give users time to clean up and migrate e-mail accounts through Sept. 30. Moreau praises Google’s library of supporting documentation and online tutorials to help users, adding that the college will have a series of workshops for additional assistance and support at www.oswego.edu/cts/google.

Users can still run e-mail through Thunderbird or Outlook, but Moreau encourages everyone to at least try the Google interface with its one-stop offerings of apps before deciding.

Whatever individual options users select, DiMarzo sees the new system helping students in the present and well into the future.

“Google is a company that goes the extra mile, always releasing new features and creative applications to add to their collection of apps,” DiMarzo said. “Using Google will increase productivity and collaboration between students. Adding features such as calendar sharing, collaborative document editing and enhanced e-mail will bring SUNY Oswego ahead in the technology world.”

(Posted: Apr 09, 2010)