New student e-mail system offers larger mailboxes, more tools

New student e-mail system offers larger mailboxes, more tools

In 2013 ITS began transitioning student e-mail to Microsoft Office 365 to provide larger mailboxes and a full portfolio of communication and collaboration tools.

With Office 365, students receive 25 GB e-mail boxes (compared to 1 GB previously). They can also access software that’s part of the Office suite (Excel, Power Point, Word, and OneNote) and connect with others through instant messaging, video conferencing, and online meetings.

About 5,000 first-year students began using Office 365 at the start of the fall 2013 semester, and more than 4,000 second-year students made the switch over winter break.

The rest will be transitioned in 2014. Response to the change has been positive; in fact, more than 100 students requested to be moved sooner than scheduled so they could take advantage of the new features and bigger mailboxes. 

Extensive analysis of vendors

Moving e-mail to the cloud is a major trend in both higher education and corporate business as companies such as Google and Microsoft are now offering high-quality e-mail services to universities. Microsoft has over 20 million users of their cloud services in education alone, and several other schools, such as Nebraska, Duke, and Ohio State have moved or are in the process of moving to 365.

ITS conducted an extensive analysis and comparison of vendors, finding that the Office 365 solution integrates much better with the UI’s existing Microsoft Exchange infrastructure. Security and privacy are a chief concern, and the UI worked with several other institutions to negotiate strong contractual agreements with Microsoft, including a Business Associates Agreement that covers HIPAA data.

Office 365 is initially targeted for students. Faculty and staff represent more complexity because of the kinds of information they communicate using e-mail. ITS will work through those details to see if it’s appropriate to move faculty/staff, and will evaluate the performance of the service for students.