This morning we had a cloud email review panel. Over the last couple of years many institutions have moved to either google or microsoft to provide their email service for students and in some places staff as well. The panel answered questions from the floor on what have the issues been, how successful has it been, and what does it mean for other services that could be moved to the cloud.
So, a series of questions and comments and input from the audience. some notes taken at the time below, universities anonimised to preserve some semblance of confidentiality!
What are main product selection criteria?
University1. Microsoft or google both ok. Could have worked with either. students chose google, very much driven by them
University2. Chose MS 2 yrs ago on conditions around at the time eg where data was held and date profiling etc. But, conditions have changed now. Market is more mature.
University3 had little MS infrastructure so google best fit. Also driven by what students wanted. They wanted google.
What about service levels? How do you cope with changes eg with new products being released. No-one has seen this as a problem. Students don't care, they're used to services changing. Learn to let go a bit. We mustn't be barriers to adoption of new technologies. Get roadmap updates, become trusted testers, engage with suppliers.
What about contracts? Need an exit strategy if company goes bust or pulls the service. All about risk. Need to do a risk assessment, know what they are and how to manage and mitigate them.
Why give students email when they have it already? Pressure from registry for example to be able to send messages. Can't rely on students keeping their personal email address up to date. Also, if don't offer email could restrict access to other services offered by google eg google docs because you need an email address to use them.
What about Cloud email for staff?
UniversityA not moving to cloud email, but giving them access to full range of google services and option of having mail delivered.
UniversityB tendered and are going with third party supplier.
UniversityC Going with MS cloud for staff. Saving 350k on power alone. Only issue has been migration of calendar data.
What about compliance, IP issues etc?
Staff do need to be aware of consequences of their actions, but we need pragmatic solutions. Provide advice, eg through a Web 2.0 policy. Can't control.
Collaboration has been hugely improved by move to cloud email for students through use of google docs. Both unis reported thousands of students using docs on a daily basis where previously they had no collaborative tools.
Other apps on the horizon?
Research data. Petabytes of data now being produced by things like Large Hadron Collider, gene sequencing. Not just a storage issue. Needs metadata, duration etc. Some grants have condition that data has to be made available globally. Is cloud the answer?