GW is considering alternative e-mail solutions for students and alumni in response to a growing demand for enhanced organization and cyber storage space.
Administrators said they are considering Microsoft Windows Live as well as Google Mail. Executive Vice President and Treasurer Lou Katz said the security of these services is the biggest factor being analyzed and a decision will be made soon.
“You would not want to go to it and then two months later say ‘Oops, we’re going backward,'” Katz said.
Both Google and Microsoft have taken steps to create partnerships with universities that desire enhanced Web communication. The services provide more space for storage, better organization of e-mail and more strict spam protection.
GW’s Colonial Mail has 20 megabytes of space for students and 50 megabytes for professors. Switching to either Google Mail or Microsoft Live would increase that storage space to roughly one gigabyte, said Alexa Kim, executive director of ISS Technology Services.
Marshall Alcorn, an English professor, said the current e-mail configuration is not conducive for a University.
“C-Mail mailboxes are so small. It’s a great pain. I receive so many junk e-mails – probably 100 per day,” Alcorn said. “A number of my students already use Gmail and they keep urging me to switch.”
“The space issue really is a problem,” he said. “I have to empty out my account every three months.”
Partnerships with Google and Microsoft also allow universities to maintain their previous e-mail addresses and customize their logo, color scheme and content – all within the organization’s interface.
Google Apps Education Edition includes several features besides e-mail, such as the document storage function, a calendar and an internal messaging system, said Jeff Keltner, enterprise specialist for Google Collaboration Products. Many universities have already made the switch.
Universities in Tokyo, Dublin, Jerusalem, Sydney and Guadalajara have all recently begun the process, according to a news release. The announcement stated five new U.S. schools were also doing the same.
The University of Pennsylvania signed with Microsoft Live this spring.
“Here (at the University of Pennsylvania), students have a choice,” said Ramin Sedehi, the vice dean of finance at Penn. “They can continue to use any e-mail provider, but we do now have Microsoft Live as an option to all of our students.”
Sedehi says the greatest benefits of switching to a corporate e-mail provider have been the lack of advertisements, the smarter spam protection, strong back-up systems and continuous feedback.
An outside service is beneficial, Sedehi said, because the companies are experts at the services they provide.
“As good as universities try to be – and we try very hard – we are just not able to compete,” Sedehi said. “For the university to maintain the level of service expected by the students would have been an enormous cost, assuming we could even do it. Microsoft and Google do it better and they do it for free.”
Angered at the constrictions of C-Mail, many at GW have independently switched to Gmail.
“I don’t use C-Mail,” senior Stefanie Goldstein said. “It’s so full of spam right now. Most of my friends use Gmail already.”
Katz said, “The question is not if we’re going to do it, but when we’re going to do it and how that is.”