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The Scarlet & Black

College introduces new email service, Office 365, and forsees benefits

During this past summer, members of the campus community were informed by Information Technology Services (ITS) via email regarding a planned switch from the current email system to Microsoft’s Office 365 email service. The change, which was scheduled to take place at the beginning of the current academic year, has been repeatedly pushed back and is now expected to occur over winter break.

According to Donald Tom, Director of ITS, the process was delayed due to the fact that the legal counsel, the Instructional Support Committee and the Executive Council had to review amendments regarding the Office 365 agreement.

The decision to switch to Office 365 was the result of an earlier conversation regarding switching email services. The College’s evaluation team had been deliberating between the two main email services for college students, Google Apps for Education and Office 365, before ultimately choosing the latter, based on its suitability to Grinnell’s specific technological needs.

“The email evaluation team selected Microsoft Office 365 because they felt the benefits best served the wide array of the technology needs of the College,” said John Hammond, Service Desk Manager.

The switch is expected to be advantageous for a number of reasons. When asked regarding the costs of implementing the change, Tom and Hammond did not answer directly, pointing instead to the fact that the new service will not cost patrons anything. Regardless of the initial cost however, it is expected to subsequently reduce the financial burden on the College by outsourcing email capabilities to a lower cost service. According to Tom, the school will no longer have to purchase servers, storage and software separately. Additionally, outsourcing will free up time for ITS maintenance staff to focus their attention on other aspects of ITS.

Even as access to email will stay the same, thus not requiring users to adapt to a completely new system, Office 365 will offer several added services. It will allow users to enable email forwarding to personal addresses, rather than being restricted to only email addresses. Students’ email accounts will also include web-based Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint applications, which will enable users to access and edit documents on any of these platforms from their mobile devices. An additional feature will be Microsoft Lync, an instant messaging platform.

Tom is looking forward to the shift because, in addition to a larger storage capacity, he feels that it will offer “greater functionality, improved account portability and collaborative and productive tools.”

The program has already been shared with members of the evaluation committee. Chris Lee ’15, who is the one student on the committee, foresees both benefits and challenges.

“There’s a lot of interesting things that might or might not catch on,” he said. “On the other hand, unlike our current email system, it’s not on campus … which means when something goes wrong, there’s nothing we can do about it. We have to wait for Microsoft to get around to the fix.”

The transition itself is expected to go smoothly and users will be notified via email prior to the switch. In addition to this, Technology Consultants on campus will be available to provide assistance as (1)

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