The e-mail system that Drake University students have become accustomed to could be up for a big change soon. The Zimbra e-mail system will be getting an overhaul, or even be changed completely for a “cloud computing” system.
In a cloud system, information is no longer stored locally, but rather on a server that can help access any information that a user has saved on other computers and outsourced to a new server. One of the more recognizable cloud systems is Google Apps, which helps power Gmail and Google Calendar.
This change could mean not only saving money for the university but also a lot more simplicity for the students and faculty that have packed schedules and multiple e-mail accounts. No longer would students have to synchronize their Drake e-mail accounts to other accounts to keep everything together and organized.
Kyle Glaser, a junior radio/TV major, thinks that this could be a good move for Drake.
“I’m glad we’re making the move [to a cloud computing e-mail system],” Glaser said.
Drake isn’t the only university to make the switch. Recently, New York University announced that it would make a switch to Google Apps Education Edition and will save the school $400,000 a year in upgrades and upkeep.
“Especially for a university our size, it makes a lot of sense for us to outsource,” Glaser said. Outsourcing the e-mail system would involve moving the local server to a third party to help the stream of information.
Recently a committee was set up to help decide on what the university should do for a new e-mail system and the options that it had.
According to Ann Kovalchick, the chief information technology officer for Drake, the committee “was set up to ensure that all members of the Drake community have a chance to examine options and provide input and feedback into the decision-making process.”
A cloud-based system offers certain advantages for Drake.
“Mainly, it will allow us to get more value for the money, as well as allow use to reallocate the IT staff time more strategic functions and to leverage Drake’s unique needs,” Kovalchick said. Not only would it save money, but it would also offer a more reliable, standard product that would not need as much upkeep.
Two of the systems currently being looked at are Microsoft’s Live@edu and Google’s Gmail. The main difference between the two is that Live@edu not only has Web-based access, but also offers a native desktop client function, unlike Gmail. Students would then also have improved calendar options and could handle larger amounts of e-mails.
Kovalchick added that in December the e-mail and calendaring work group will be able to make a recommendation on the selection of an e-mail system to the president’s cabinet, with the new system to be completed in the late spring or early summer of 2011.
Students have a few opportunities to test out the systems that might replace Zimbra.
The first sessions dealing with the Google platform will be tonight from 2 to 3 p.m. in Cowles 201 and then again from 7 to 8 p.m. in Bulldog Theater.
The second session of demonstrations will be with the Microsoft platform tomorrow, Nov. 9 from 2 to 3 p.m. in Bulldog Theater and then again from 7 to 8 p.m. in the same location.
EMAIL TEST SESSIONS
TODAY – Google platform sessions will be from 2-3 p.m. in Cowles 201 and then again from 7-8 p.m. tonight in Bulldog Theater.
TOMORROW –Microsoft platform sessions will be from 2-3 p.m. in Bulldog Theater and then again from 7-8 p.m. tonight in same location.
Photo screenshot: Jackie Wallentin