Thursday, 30 October 2008

Google Apps and Spiderman

A couple of nights here at EDUCAUSE are know as suppliers nights - certain big suppliers put on special nights for their customers, or for people who they hope might soon be their customers. Last night I was invited to Google Night held at Universal Studios. The Google Bus was there, and we were given a presentation on Google Apps for Education. Very slick presentaion at at the end of it I was certainly left wondering why we hadn't implemented them - after all, it's quick, it's easy and it's free (according to Google). Well, a presentation today answered that question!

The University of South California gave a very good warts and all presentation of their experience, and it was quite illuminating! It was a packed session with people sitting on the floor and standing all the way round the room - there's a lot of interest.

In the Summer of 2007 USC decided to implement Google mail for students – it wasn't Google apps at that time. Their justification was that it was perceived to be a better mail client, students would get increased storage (2Gb), it should reduce email storage costs and their mail would not be purged after 12 months as was their practice. Of their 38,000 students, 15% were already forwarding their email to Google.
And, according to Google, it's quick, easy and free!

They made some initial security decisions - they wouldn't provide their enterprise password to Google and would forward mail rather than change the DNS. They also decided it would be an opt-in service and they would have a privacy policy. Students would have a Google password which would be forced to be different to their UCS password, which therefore required integration with the university change password application

The plan was to go live in January 2008, but in November 2007 google mail for students morphed into Google apps, leading to a whole raft of additional work, but they did go live and currently they have 15,000 student signed up which is 50% - a lot lower than expected.
There are many limitations to the service - Google offers no means of renaming an account, the Google migration was not as simple or secure as first thought, suspending an account bounces email ( an issue when you have to temporarily suspend an email account), there's no restore function - an issue if you accidently delete an account. there are more but that's perhaps enough!

Google will also release new services and new functions without any advanced notice - your students usually find out before your helpdesk does.

Was it quick? No - it took more than 8 months to implement, and there are still issues outstanding
Was it easy? No - it required a lot of people and impacted on other projects - there were more than 30 people on the project team.
Was it free? No - it took 4000 hours of time. There was also opportunity costs as other projects were delayed.

Does make you wonder why they did it!

What I failed to mention at the beginning, was that last night's Google event provided unlimited access to part of Universal's Island's of Adventure theme park, after the park was closed to the public! I got to go on the best ride in the world - The Amazing Adventures of Spiderman - 4 times. Some members of our party were seen to go on the Hulk Roller coaster 8 times! So, I can forgive Google some things...

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