Changing e-mail system would cost millions
Dal still weighing switch to Google
Torey Ellis, Staff Contributor
Dalhousie is considering changing its e-mail system, which would cost millions. The multi-million dollar decision lies largely in the students’ hands, says Information Technology Services assistant vice president Dwight Fischer.
The ITS is deciding how to go about updating Dalhousie’s email system. One option, which would involve a complete overhaul of the system, would cost up to $2 million.
The other option is to change all of Dalhousie’s email services to a Google or Microsoft platform, which would have “no direct costs” and provide more storage, according to a discussion document for the Dean’s Council.
“Given the climate right now, what’s the responsible thing to do?” says Fischer. “When students are marching in the streets over tuition costs, it doesn’t make sense to spend millions of dollars on this.”
“These same IT resources could be redirected towards the classroom.”
But Fischer says that it will be up to students on how to proceed. His department will be surveying students at the end of February and into March, with the results presented to a senior team by the end of March.
However, not every student is sure that a change is necessary.
Sam Williams, a third-year Dal student, only uses her school email a few times a week to check emails from professors. She says that extra storage and file sharing options would be “really redundant.”
“We’ve already got the net storage, so that’s not a big deal,” she says. Williams doesn’t think a Dal/Google account would be useful, since the file sharing system Google Docs can be accessed without a Google email address,
Another argument that Fischer expects to hear is the trade-off on expense versus privacy. Both Google and Microsoft are American corporations, and information on the Dal accounts will be kept on American servers.
“The perception of privacy is deceiving. Even if we host and fund a solution in-house, the fact is that email is no longer secure or private,” says the Council document.
“We expect that some people will be philosophically opposed to outsourcing,” says Fischer, “but no one will be forced.”
Even if the decision is made to switch over to Google or Microsoft, students will have the option to stick with the current system “for the foreseeable future,” Fischer says. “But we’re not going to maintain it forever.”
“Thousands of our users are forwarding their Dalhousie email to Google, Hotmail and other email applications,” says the council document. “Yet, they are disparate and precludes collaboration across the university.”
The current system provides 100 megabytes of storage for each student. Google or Microsoft could provide ten times that, says Fischer.
“But it’s more than email. All we do is email and a bit of net storage. They do email, huge storage and file sharing,” he says. “These tools are being constantly developed. We could never be able to match that.”
“Why fight that? Why are we committing staff and resources to a system that doesn’t even keep pace?” he says. “That’s the core issue.”
According to Fischer, Google and Microsoft each have their own motivations for giving their services to universities for a low cost.
Google wants people to use them and to search with them, and Microsoft wants “customers for life,” he says.
The @dal.ca address would not go away, says Fisher. “It would just be provided by a different source.”