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ITS looks forward to new email service

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As part of Carleton’s ever-changing technological makeup, ITS will soon eliminate one of campus’ main sources of communication for what is believed to be a brighter future.

But from death comes forth life, and the upcoming demise of Zimbra will give way to either the Gmail or Office 365 era at Carleton. These changes have been considered and researched extensively throughout the 2015-2016 school year and will take effect at the start of fall term next year. This will be a major change for Carleton, as Zimbra has been in use for the last seven years.

JordiKai Watanabe-Inouye ’17, the ITS Liaison for the Carleton Student Association, who has been actively involved in the change, explained some of the reasoning for the change. “We already have Microsoft Office and Google, who are leading the mainstream market, so it makes sense to implement this change,” she said.

According to Janet Scannell, Chief Technology Officer, business matters were the primary motivation to change the email system. She explained that Zimbra was part of a nonprofit cloud consortium, supplying the email system to approximately 15 schools and 200,000 email accounts. Gradually, several of these schools have dropped out of Zimbra, oftentimes switching to Gmail or Office 365. With decreasing usership, the company could no longer sustain a profit.

Scannell added that “We have a lot of use of Microsoft and Google Docs, so the question now is in which direction we should head.” Scannell explained that they are currently split about whether ITS will choose Gmail or Office 365. The final decision will be determined by more research and further input by the technology department, school administrators and the broader campus community.

This research so far has consisted of 500 human hours testing 60 different features on the respective email systems over the last three months. Public input has mostly been collected through four recent open testing sessions of each email system’s conditions.

Julie Anderson, Director of Web Services, said that the general nature of each system will be considered, but that particular features, such as the calendar, are the most important considerations in the ultimate choice. For instance, according to Scannell, Office 365 is more business-oriented, but Gmail has a simpler format and is more widely recognized.

Watanabe-Inouye said, according to students’ input, many come from high schools that use Gmail and are comfortable with the layout. However, she said that since Office 365 is used in many corporate offices, there is thought that this prepares students for use of Office 365 later in life.

According to her, the essential questions are, “What are our neighboring liberal arts colleges doing? What would be beneficial to Carleton?”

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