March 30, 2011

WSU student email services (“Wildcat Mail”) will move to a cloud-software solution this June. By leveraging hosted technology the IT Division will save staff time and dollar costs and provide students and alumni a better email tool.

“This is a major change that students have been requesting for a long time” said Project Technical Lead Gursharan Bakshi. “We are currently evaluating two solution providers offering student email solutions free of cost. Both providers are well recognized in the industry.”

This move will affect all current students as well as alumni and previous students. In all, about 160,000 email addresses will be migrated.

Background

Over the past several years it has become increasingly evident that a new student email solution was needed.  The current software was reaching the end of its life cycle and server maintenance took an inordinate amount of staff time. Low storage capacity and limited features precluded Wildcat Mail from being students' preferred email.

The IT Division originally considered several options for replacing the existing system, including using different software, allowing students to register their personal email, and using a no-cost hosted solution. In December of 2009 a discussion with students, faculty, and staff considered these options and directed the decision to pursue a cloud-hosted solution. Benefits of this type of solution include no-cost server hosting, large storage allocations for students, and collaboration tools. 

Microsoft and Google Cloud Solutions

Microsoft and Google are the two recognized leaders in providing cloud-hosted solutions to higher education institutions. While the Google offering was first-to-market the Microsoft solution has made up significant ground in recent years. Both solutions meet the basic requirements of no-cost email hosting, large storage capacity, mobile accessibility, document collaboration, integrated chat, and photo sharing. A task force was launched in 2010 to evaluate both solutions at WSU.

Microsoft's offering (LIVE@edu) contributes to an enterprise-class IT infrastructure by supporting integration with Office365, SharePoint, Active Directory, and Exchange--features highly desirable from an IT support perspective. However, the Google offering has the advantage of Canvas integration and a more well-known and well-liked interface. Both solutions are being reviewed by WSU's legal team and a legal evaluation is pending.

Impact on Faculty and Students

Student email addresses will remain the same (@mail.weber.edu) and students will continue to log into eWeber to access their Wildcat Mail. The New Wildcat Mail application will have an updated look and provide mobile support, document collaboration, calendar sharing, chat, and online file storage.

Faculty members will continue to use @mail.weber.edu addresses to contact their students. 

Support

The IT Division is gearing up to support this switch. weber.edu/wildcatmail will contain current announcements, answers to frequently asked questions, and support information.