George Fox University in Oregon Switching to Google Gmail from Microsoft Exchange

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Move will save about $50,000 annually and provide more e-mail storage and features

I am personally blown away by how powerful it all is when tied together

George Fox University announced this spring it will transition to the Google Gmail system in the name of fiscal responsibility, more reliability, and improved services and flexibility.

Beginning in June, the university will migrate its 6,000 to 7,000 university e-mail accounts from the current Microsoft Exchange system to Google Gmail. Users will not change e-mail addresses and will have the option to use their current e-mail client or Google’s web-based, feature-rich interface. Either way, the Gmail solution offers seven gigabytes of e-mail storage space, 14 times more space than the current system. Gmail also will provide spam filtering. Following graduation, alumni may retain their student e-mail address with forwarding capability.

Beyond the hardware and labor costs, Google’s Gmail service is free for the university. Unlike many of Google’s other advertising-supported services, the George Fox e-mail system and other Google online services will not show ads on their interface.

George Fox will save about $50,000 annually in hardware and administrative labor costs, an estimate that “may be a little conservative if we really tried to cost out the seven gigabytes of storage for every person,” said Greg Smith, the university’s chief information officer.

The university already has in place several Google communication and collaboration applications. All services are hosted by Google and are available to users via any Internet-connected computer and many mobile devices. Google Apps offered by George Fox include the following services:

  • Google Calendar - allows easy coordination of work or class schedules, meetings and events online
  • Google Talk - supports free PC-to-PC voice calls and instant messaging
  • Google Docs - allows users to create and collaborate on documents and spreadsheets in real-time
  • Google Sites - allows users to create a team web site and easily share videos, calendars, presentations, attachments, and text

In moving to Gmail, George Fox took a different approach than many universities, which typically opt to move their students’ accounts first before moving their faculty and staff, according to Smith. George Fox is moving all accounts at once.

George Fox’s approach is also unique in that the university allowed all users access to Google Apps (with the exception of e-mail) a year ago, long before implementing the Gmail system. The school held off on the new e-mail system until concerns about security and legal policy issues were resolved.

“I am personally blown away by how powerful it all is when tied together,” Smith said of integrating Gmail with Google Apps. “The web client is better than any local client. I think we are addressing our need for a better unified communications strategy by giving everyone the finest solution available.”

Smith pointed out that e-mail has grown to be more then just a message communication service. “In this era of mobility, it is now a data transfer service,” he said. “The option of upgrading the school’s internal e-mail capability is not fiscally responsible, nor would it be capable of providing all of the features of Google’s Gmail service.”

Addressing security concerns, Smith said higher education has negotiated policies that have guaranteed that data is safe and will not be exploited. Vendors have offered these options in the name of good business, knowing that every student who graduates is more likely to be a lifelong personal user of their services.

Arizona State University made headlines in 2007 when it announced it was migrating all student e-mail to Google Gmail. Soon thereafter, Arizona State moved all university e-mail, which thrust the school into the flag bearer role for leading higher education toward cloud-based e-mail solutions like Google. Since then, many universities have joined in the migration, mostly to Google but also to Microsoft’s Live option. Smith said he believes George Fox may be the second in Oregon to move student e-mails to Gmail and the university may be the first in the state to move employees and student accounts to Gmail.

Smith said George Fox has considered the migration to Gmail for three years. Moving all university accounts to Google a year ago initiated more serious review for e-mail, and for the last six months the department conducted tests to verify the move to Gmail was viable.

George Fox has recently made technology news for its decision to offer incoming freshmen the option of receiving an Apple iPad or MacBook laptop computer. The university has provided incoming students with computers as part of tuition since 1990.

George Fox University is ranked by Forbes as one of the top 100 colleges in the country and highest among Christian colleges. George Fox is the only Christian university in the Pacific Northwest classified by U.S. News & World Report as a national university. More than 3,300 students attend classes on the university’s campus in Newberg, Ore., and at teaching centers in Portland, Salem, and Redmond, Ore., and Boise, Idaho. George Fox offers bachelor’s degrees in more than 40 majors, including a computer science major, engineering major and business major.

George Fox also offers degree-completion programs for working adults, five seminary degrees, and 12 master’s and doctoral degrees.

Contact:
Greg Smith
Chief Information Officer
503-554-2570

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