Email service gets upgrade

Undergrads will be using Microsoft Office 365 by winter 2013

Queen’s will be switching undergraduates to an improved email service in winter 2013.

Microsoft Office 365, the new cloud-based email and calendar software, offers a larger storage quota and integration with mobile devices.

It also offers accessibility through various web browsers and platforms, according to ITServices’ website.

Cloud-based services are available on-demand to users on a network.

“Moving the undergraduate students to the cloud for their email, calendaring and collaborative tools is a transformational step for us here at Queen’s, and one that will significantly enhance the student experience,” Bo Wandschneider, ITServices’ chief information officer and associate vice-principal of information technology services, told the Journal via email.

Discussion concerning this transition has been ongoing since 2009 when the current email system, Java Enterprise System, was bought out by Oracle Corporation and declared a dying product. In order to identify the best solution, ITServices consulted six groups at Queen’s, including the Information Service and Technology Student Advisory Committee.

The committee prepared a list of recommendations for the new email service which included an integrated email and calendar service and seamless transition of current email to the new system.

With Office 365, ITServices ensures that five out of the six recommendations have been met. The sixth recommendation, a Queen’s email address that will be effective even after graduation, is currently being addressed. “The current mail service doesn’t have a lot of functionality, the web interface isn’t very good, it doesn’t work with mobile devices,” said Nancy Simon, ITServices’ communications and training coordinator. “It doesn’t offer the features that are standard now with email and calendar service.” The new service will deliver a more feature-rich interface, in addition to guaranteeing availability 99.9 per cent of the time.

This is the first time Queen’s will be using an externally-hosted solution for a high-usage enterprise service. A key concern with externally-hosted services, like Facebook and Gmail, is the lack of direct control over data. “Because people get worried about things like privacy and security, we hired a consultant to make sure that there wouldn’t be any security concerns in terms of what kind of data Microsoft might have access to or how they will be handling it,” Simon said.

“The only information that we’re actually turning over to Microsoft is students’ names and email addresses and they don’t own that information, we still do.” The migration is planned to occur during off-peak hours in order to minimize disruption.

ITServices plans to notify every account holder with migration process details by the end of next week. “We’re excited about this because it’s … a pretty robust suite with high reliability and great functionality that’s easy to use,” Simon said. “We think people are going to be really happy.”

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