Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Google for students

For some time we've been debating what to do about our current email and calendar systems. Students only have webmail, and a quite small filestore - all recent satisfaction surveys show that they don't like it. The user interface was fine several years ago when we implemented it, but is now regarded as clunky - not as nice as gMail, Hotmail etc - and we don't give them a calendar at all. We've looked at various options, but today our project group agreed to recommend that we outsource our service to Google and implement Google mail and calendar in the first instance - possibly moving to more of the apps later such as Google docs. But, that will require some careful thought about overlapping functionality - we already have numerous places people can share files.

So, quite a big decision - first major service we've outsourced, but I suspect that over the next few years it won't be the last. We've still got a few things to sort out, mainly on the legal side rather than technical, but if we get those sorted and the University agrees with our recommendation, then we 're hopefully going to have the service implemented for students this September.

Of course, then the big decision we will have to take, is what do we do for staff??

15 comments:

Tim said...

That's brilliant news. The obvious answer to your big question is: switch us staff to Google too! Please!

Anonymous said...

That's great news - can't wait

Anonymous said...

This is brilliant i news i truly hope it gets implemented

Anonymous said...

This is a great decision - students will be really pleased

Hummy said...

I hope the outsourcing goes ahead, the current web service is horrifically outdated with minimal storage that infuriates me.

Stuart said...

Great news for students - staff next?

John said...

can't wait - bring it on

Mark Sanderson said...

You probably won't be surprised to learn that I think this is a great idea. I don't know if moving staff email to Google costs or not, but moving everyone in the University to a common system (including the calendar), to me makes great sense.

Anonymous said...

Good to have a universal system with the students. Multiple options for file sharing could be problematic for staff en masse. Some people dont want to move to "yet another new thing" and are still sending large attachments instead of sharing. Existing fileshare areas could do with a serious spring clean though, is this our big chance? I hope so

Joel said...

Great news, that sounds really useful.

Chris Sexton said...

I'm getting lots of questions about whether we're likely to outsource staff email as well. The true answer is we don't know at the moment. There are more data issues around staff email which we need to look at.

pauljinks said...

Quite a few staff are already using gmail - it's simple to set up. Uni mail is off the pace for people who have to deal with a lot of email.

Chris Sexton said...

Hi Paul. It's the data security and privacy issues which are a concern around outsourcing staff email.

Anonymous said...

Can I ask why you've decided to go for Google Mail rather than Microsoft Exchange Labs?

Thanks

Nigel Bruce
Information Systems Services
University of Leeds

Jim said...

I'd be really interested know what the "legal issues" are. The sorts of issues that have been raised in the past are ones raised by Google holding your students data anywhere in the world and using it to target them with advertising. The other issues surround things like service levels and liability for data loss. There is also the legal liability for "stuff" that users might have in their email that is now in these external data centres.

These are all old chestnuts, and I am sure they have been sorted out now. But it would be interesting to have insight into how they are addressed.