Google positions us for the future

Information Systems recommends that EMU migrate to Google Apps for Education for email, calendar and collaboration services. President’s Cabinet and the Information Systems Planning Committee endorse this recommendation.

Google Apps and Microsoft Office 365 are industry leaders that set users’ expectations for email, calendar and collaboration software. Both Google and Microsoft offer free versions of their software to educational institutions. Purchasing or building comparable systems would cost EMU tens of thousands of dollars annually.

We have spent more than a year evaluating both Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365 for Education. Our conclusion: Microsoft is a good fit for EMU today but Google better positions us for the future.

What we gain from Google Apps

Increased value: Both Google and Microsoft offer free versions of their software to educational institutions. Google’s offering provides a greater number of useful features.

Improved and more accessible email and calendar: GMail and Google Calendar offer web-based and mobile access to world-class email and calendar clients with easy-to-use built-in collaboration.

Improved mobile access: Google Apps’ mobile options make it easy to access email, calendar, contacts and documents from iOS and Android devices.

New communication opportunities: Google Hangouts allows collaboration through text, voice and video chat, is integrated into GMail and Google Docs, and is available on mobile devices, making it easier than ever to work together no matter where you are.

Improved document sharing, syncing and mobility: Google Drive synchronizes documents between computers and allows ad-hoc document sharing and mobile access.

Improved document collaboration: Google Docs allows lightweight word processing, spreadsheet and presentation work in a web browser and a variety of mobile clients. Google Docs also allows real-time collaborative editing of documents and integrates with Google Hangouts.

Increased user satisfaction and reduced training time: Faculty, staff and students preference for Google Apps will make the transition easier. Information Systems will also be working with users and departments to introduce, train and support Google Apps.

Increased flexibility for users: Students can use Microsoft Office or Google Docs as best fits their need. Faculty can include Google Apps and web services connected to Google accounts in their syllabi.

Increased collaboration opportunities: Google Apps is widely used by consumers and by faculty, staff and students at our Mennonite Education Agency sister-schools. Having a common platform simplifies collaboration.

Easier and quicker migration: Google Apps provides an easier path to integrate directory services and better fidelity for migrated emails.

What comes next?

  • Sept 20 – Oct 15: Provost, President’s Cabinet and ISPC endorsement
  • Oct 2 – Nov 29: Integration and implementation
  • Dec 2 – Mar 28: Training
  • Dec 16 – May 16: Migration
    • Dec 16-20: Calendar migration
    • Jan 3: Student mail delivered to Google
    • Jan 3 – May 16: Faculty and staff migrate; students migrate email if desired
  • May 16: Migration complete

Frequently asked questions

Will users’ email addresses change when migrating to Google Apps?

Users will continue to have email addresses that fit the pattern [first name].[last name]

Will information systems provide training on Google Apps?

We are planning to provide training sessions for faculty, staff and students. And Helpdesk staff are available to answer questions.

Will we still have access to Microsoft Office?

We will continue to provide Microsoft Office on all EMU-owned Windows and Macintosh computers, and continue to work with Microsoft to make it available to students at affordable prices.

How does Google Apps for Education differ from the Google tools available to consumers?

Users will notice little difference—Gmail, Google Calendar and Google Docs appear identical except for the lack of advertisements (see below).

Google Apps gives administrators additional management tools and contractually obligates Google to protect our data and provide reliable service.

Will Google scan my email and display advertisements?

Google’s automated systems will scan all messages for spam and malware to protect users. Messages will not be scanned to build an advertising profile and no ads will be displayed. This is a feature of Google Apps for Education that Google’s consumer offerings do not provide.

Will migrating to Google Apps affect the privacy and security of EMU’s data?

Our contract requires Google to secure our data in the same way they secure their own business data. Google has recently taken steps to encrypt all user data on their servers.

Does Google Apps meet EMU’s obligations under the FERPA and HIPAA laws?

Our contract also explicitly states that Google will ‘comply with FERPA’ on our behalf.

Our contract with Google does not cover HIPAA compliance. To date we have assumed that email is an insecure mode of communication, unsuited for confidential health information. This assumption will not change as we move to Google Apps.

Will migrating to Google Apps change EMU’s policies on storing confidential information in cloud storage?

EMU’s policies will change only with respect to select Google services accessed through EMU Google Apps accounts, including Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive. Confidential data may be stored in these systems protected by the EMU-Google contract though we continue to encourage users to back up all institutional data to EMU network drives.