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College to switch to Office 365 email provider

This coming Monday, Feb. 24, Information Technology Services (ITS) will upgrade the College’s email system to a hosted email service known as Microsoft Office 365. It will take ITS four days to move all student accounts and emails to the new service.

“The student email accounts of one class will be migrated each evening, beginning with fourth-year students on Monday night and ending with first-year students on Thursday night,” wrote Assistant Director of User Services John Hammond in an email to the S&B. “The following Monday student group accounts will [also] be migrated to Office 365.”

This project was initially proposed in the spring of 2013, but it did not officially start until this past summer, when ITS and several committees reviewed amendments to the College’s contract with Microsoft. The primary reason for implementing the switch to Office 365 is to provide better tools and improve email services offered to Grinnell College students, Hammond wrote.

He added that another factor for the change in services is the distinctive advantages that Office 365 has over Outlook Web App.

According to Hammond, some advantages of the system include 25 gigabytes of personal file storage accessible from anywhere via the internet and the capability to install Microsoft Office on five devices.

Throughout the migration process, the major work will focus on copying each account’s data including email, contacts and calendar items.

“Once 95 percent of an entire class year’s data has been copied, a command to copy the remaining five percent will be sent and then the accounts will be switched to the new system,” Hammond wrote.

While copying the data is quite a lot of work, according to Hammond, the process of the switch is relatively simple.

“Because data is copied in advance the actual switch is expected to only take a few minutes for each account,” Hammond wrote.

During the migration process, students will still be able to use the Outlook Web App to log into their email accounts. Upon the final switch, students will receive an email with the Office 365 Help Guide notifying them of the transition. Once the move is finished, students will need to use to access their emails.

In addition to the Office 365 Help Guide, detailed information will be distributed via door hangars in residence halls and flyers in student mailboxes.

In order to make the switch go smoothly, ITS will also assist students with the move to Office 365 on the mobile devices such as Apple iPhone and personal computers with either the Windows or Mac system during the week of the migration, from Feb. 25 to 28.

“ITS will be staffing a Help Kiosk in the Joe Rosenfield ’25 Center (JRC) during lunch from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and dinner from 4 to 7 p.m. to answer questions,” Hammond wrote.

Grinnellians have expressed different points of view in response to this upcoming change. Joshua Vernazza ’15, a Technology Consultant (TC), is one of the students who commended the College’s efforts in improving email services by switching to Office 365.

“I think the switch is good … because Microsoft is a big company and they have a lot of people running the service, so they’ll be a lot better at protecting downtime than we are,” Vernazza said.

However, some students are concerned about the transition. Spencer Liberto ’15, also a TC, and Adam Arsenault ’16 are two of those who are against the change. Personal privacy is one of their concerns.

“We are [in an] advocacy group that advocates for the use of free software,” Arsenault said, noting the dangers of giving personal information to a large company like Microsoft.

“Our data and personal information, which includes school records—things that we would like to keep it private as we can—are now given to a company that we don’t know,” Arsenault said.

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