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Choosing a Replacement Email System For a University?

timothy posted about 6 years ago | from the did-I-leap-off-the-page dept.

Communications 485

SmarkWoW writes "The university I attend is currently looking to change the way in which is provides its students with an email service. In the past they used a legacy mail system which can no longer fit their needs. A committee has narrowed the possibilities down to three vendors: Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Representatives from these three vendors will be coming to our college and giving a presentation on the advantages of their systems. We're looking at other services these companies provide such as calendaring and integration with existing software that our university runs. What questions would Slashdot readers ask during these Q&A sessions? Which of these three companies would you recommend? Why? What advantages would each have that college-level students would take advantage of? What other aspects should we consider when making our decision?"

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The most important question... (5, Funny)

Ron_Fitzgerald (1101005) | about 6 years ago | (#25333335)

Are you from Microsoft? Yes? Well thank you for your time.

Re:The most important question... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333417)

I'd also be like "What happened to Jerry and Bill?"
and "Can you give me Steve Balmer's Address and a list of any of his severe allergy"

FIRST POST! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333341)

First Post!


Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333651)


3 choices? Ramifications? (2, Insightful)

davidsyes (765062) | about 6 years ago | (#25333353)

Google: least harm

microsoft: most lock-in

Yahoo!: possible lock-in

Re:3 choices? Ramifications? (1)

Gewalt (1200451) | about 6 years ago | (#25333569)

Yahoo!: Possibly won't be available next semester.

Re:3 choices? Ramifications? (3, Informative)

amasiancrasian (1132031) | about 6 years ago | (#25333627)

Yahoo started offering perpetual licenses in response to the Zimbra scare. Zimbra is also open-source, but you have to pay for the Outlook, iCal, and Mobile connectors.

It's easily one of the best collaboration packages with a few loose ends. Don't equate Zimbra with Yahoo just because Yahoo has lost its touch. I don't think Zimbra has lost its touch.

Re:3 choices? Ramifications? (3, Informative)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | about 6 years ago | (#25333737)

I fully agree, I think out of the choices, Zimbra has to most usable interface and some nifty tricks. With outlook and blackberry/activesync connectors this would fully replace Exchange. And if you hear about grumble (as I heard happened at my university when they picked sun's JES email system) about public folders and such, tell them to use Sharepoint instead. (not much better but you keep the crap features in crappy software ;0p)

Re:3 choices? Ramifications? (1)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333587)

I dont understand your rational..
google least harm ? they take all the email off site and you cant control anything and they have downtime (everyone does but least its in your control...) : Blame it on google

microsoft ? most lock in ? there are loads of tools to get data out of the exchange system live same problem as gmail : exchange is expensive

yahoo : hosted there may be a lock in to standards... zimbra best solution out of these what stanford went with : again expensive for zimbra clients

In house? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333361)

In house learning opportunity?

Missing option: (3, Funny)

pwnies (1034518) | about 6 years ago | (#25333369)

Verizon. I hear they do wonders when it comes to email security.

Re:Missing option: (4, Interesting)

_Sharp'r_ (649297) | about 6 years ago | (#25333471)

Google, because then your students and teachers can use Google Apps instead of whatever they're using now to submit and share documents.

Re:Missing option: (5, Informative)

Arramol (894707) | about 6 years ago | (#25333583)

My university switched to Google last year, and it's been amazing. Each student's course schedule is automatically added to their course calendar, and profs can add due dates, special events, etc. in a few clicks. Your point about Google Apps is a good one as well - I've found it much easier to do group projects or test reviews when I can create a Google Doc and share it out to classmates. At my job with the university IT deparment, we use Google Sites to keep our information coordinated. The whole system has proven amazingly useful.

Re:Missing option: (3, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333623)

Did we just read a Google Advertisement?

Re:Missing option: (1)

A nonymous Coward (7548) | about 6 years ago | (#25333709)

Wouldn't be a slashvertisement, but maybe it's a gagvertisement.

Re:Missing option: (-1, Troll)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | about 6 years ago | (#25333755)

better than a mac advertisement, there was some truth in it.

Obligatory lame joke (1)

Si-UCP (1359205) | about 6 years ago | (#25333581)

Verizon. I hear they do wonders when it comes to email security.

It sure is! And its tech support only costs 0.02 cents a minute!

If Possible (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333395)

Make Sure the Calendar system also Verifies that there are no overlapping so that way a student can get a copy of their Class Schedule. Another thing that would be nice is to see what kind of programing APIs they offer for you to allow the Staff/Students to add links to things for specific classes like notes/MP3 recordings/Handouts, and allow them to future proof their systems.

We use ... (2, Interesting)

the real darkskye (723822) | about 6 years ago | (#25333403)

We use a combination of Squirrelmail and some homebrew imap and smtp servers, which ultimately are going to be tied in to a Shibboleth SSO solution.

Most of our systems are homebrew and rely on cron jobs to update the AD (or the mysql db with an AD dump .. i'm not sure which way round it goes these days)

If you've always used out of the box software then outsourcing your services is probably the best idea, even if it would be more cost-effective to hire a couple of beardy unwashed hackers for a few months to put something together and keep one on for long term support.

Specific questions (4, Insightful)

moderatorrater (1095745) | about 6 years ago | (#25333407)

Questions that are tailored to your specific needs. Things about ease of administration, scaling, storage space, etc. I don't see that there are any general questions to be asked that aren't painfully obvious. The questioner didn't even specify whether the software was running on their own servers or on Yagoosoft's servers (I'm guessing the latter, since I haven't heard of a yahoo on-site solution). In the end, only you know what's most important to the university and, therefore, the things you need to ask about.

Find out which one has the least lock-in (3, Insightful)

bluelip (123578) | about 6 years ago | (#25333413)

You may end up w/ an in-house system.

Let your CS dept run it.

Re:Find out which one has the least lock-in (4, Insightful)

larien (5608) | about 6 years ago | (#25333631)

Amen - if you go with something you can't get out of, you're limiting future choice. If you get something you can transfer into another system (even if it needs scripting to do so), you've got a stick to beat them with; "fix this or we'll move to another solution".

Horde (1, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333419)

If your university is going to dump a load of cash on a different company to manage and maintain the system, they should instead drop the cash on their own employees to do the same

Use the Horde project.

Re:Horde (1)

MarkTraceur (1329579) | about 6 years ago | (#25333459)

I prefer Alliance...

Missing the point - can save money (4, Insightful)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | about 6 years ago | (#25333649)

The university in question will NOT be dumping a load of cash on this, and in fact will probably be saving some. Microsoft. Yahoo and Google all provide this free of charge to Universities - in exchange for getting their stuff and services used by a new bunch of students each and every year, some of whom will continue to use the service even after they graduate. In some ways the students are a commodity, who are being traded to the external provider in exchange for an externally-hosted service.

Senior management may not care about lock-in - they'll be looking at what they can offer students for the least amount of money. If it all works on paper over the next three to five years they may not care about anything else.

Sure, you need to pay someone to provision the accounts, but you don't have a box that sucks down power to run and cool and that needs to be patched and backed up. You have someone else to yell at if things break, too.

My workplace outsourced student mail to one of the larger players, over my initial objections, but I have to admit that overall it seems to be working out quite well.

Re:Missing the point - can save money (0)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | about 6 years ago | (#25333825)

The university in question will NOT be dumping a load of cash on this, and in fact will probably be saving some. Microsoft. Yahoo and Google all provide this free of charge to Universities

HAHAHAHAHAHA keep dreaming. Free? right, cause they don't charge millions in site licensing for it? And then charge a per computer fee for each new machine? Get real nothing is free. And they already have the student base controlled minus the ones using more restrictive crap like apple products.

Re:Horde (5, Interesting)

cailith1970 (1325195) | about 6 years ago | (#25333765)

I work at the ITEE school at my uni, and our tech section was running Horde for our email server. It was superb. Alas, orders came from above that they wished to centralise the email servers and we got stuck on Exchange. It's crap compared to what we had. The web client is rubbish, and the mail server is dog slow.

I'd go with the above suggestion if you have the choice. Second choice, I'd probably recommend Google.

Re:Horde (1)

nicolas.kassis (875270) | about 6 years ago | (#25333857)

Yep, higher level folks love exchange because of the "Businessy" feel but realistically exchange is being rolled into sharepoint bits by bits and one day it's all going to be online so, it's no different then Google. And I always hated the reply quoting in exchange, the crappy firefox downgrade client and the fact that exchange doesn't fit natively in Entourage which I know some like to use and is a microsoft product.

a legacy mail system which can no longer fit their (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333421)

...a legacy mail system which can no longer fit their needs.

I can see where this is going already. Enjoy your Exchange server farm.

Protip: Don't let your IT department work with anything sharp. That way they can't kill themselves.

Re:a legacy mail system which can no longer fit th (1)

jorx (975057) | about 6 years ago | (#25333645)

I think you mistakenly added a "Don't" in there ;)

Re:a legacy mail system which can no longer fit th (1)

Mr. Roadkill (731328) | about 6 years ago | (#25333793)

Protip: Don't let your IT department work with anything sharp. That way they can't kill themselves.

You know, any IT professional who needs sharp objects to commit suicide is sadly underqualified. "Down, Not Across" might be the ASR Mantra, but where's the fun in that? Oozing over a few things. Hell, if you've got super-sized UPSen and diesel back-up generators and a whole lot of cables and a leatherman I'm sure you can find more exciting ways to de-install both yourself and Exchange.

Hell, if it came down to it, you could de-install yourself quite spectactularly with the aid of duct tape, a Sun E450 and a four storey drop - and those Suns are pretty blunt.

what happens if... (5, Informative)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333423)

Hi there

first how do I backup the system ?
( what your really asking is if your software system fails and it will all systems fail (e.g. gmail outage for a day) how quickly can I recover?)

we get attacked by a certain type of worm can I insert a rule into everyones policy to get rid of that ?
(its been delivered the filters did not catch it I want to reach in and take it away)

how do i get a log and bodies of the email sent out of the system for legal ?

how do I control the sending policy ?
(I dont want just anyone sending mail on behalf of my domain some people i want to restrict to only email inside the domain )

how can I add all the address's before people arrive ?

how does it work with mobiles ?

there's a start


john jones []

disclaimer : I work in groupware but for a different vender my blog reflects this

Re:what happens if... (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333531)

Dear Mr. Jones:

These e-mail services will all be provided to you on the cloud. You don't need to back up any data since it will be maintained on at least 2 commodity servers in different data centers. You won't be vulnerable to worms through our mail apps run only in your browser under javascript, and it's not complex enough to corrupt. You won't need a log, as no data will ever be purged, merely "deleted".

The sending policy is simple... You log into the server and send your mail. You are a college kid, you do not control the domain.

We provide an add address button.

Of course, it will work with any mobile phone that ships webkit.

We wish all of the questions we get were this engaging. Most of you kids only ask if there's a button to add e-mails of their myspace friends.

-Corporate Drone.

Re:what happens if... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333671)

dear corperate drone

can i sue you when you lose my data or have downtime when my papers due ?
can my administrator add all the professors address's because my friend is a dumb arts student

most phones dont come with webkit and my professor uses a windows mobile and wants push email....

will you filter out facebook ?


Re:what happens if... (1)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333713)

Can you sue a college if their email system crashes and the email is not restored till after your paper is due? What kind of question is that? Of course not. Back up your shit if you are that worried.

Re:what happens if... (4, Insightful)

saleenS281 (859657) | about 6 years ago | (#25333681)

Agreed outside of saving the mail logs and bodies. This is a college, not a corporation. At mine, they preferred to log nothing to avoid getting pulled into legal disputes. AFAIK, it isn't required by law, so it's all headaches for no gain on their part.

Re:what happens if... (1)

SoItsComeToThis (1382645) | about 6 years ago | (#25333785)

I'd add to John's advice something I've always looked at (almost first) when looking at these kinds of tech decisions: How easy is it to get off that platform? While privacy, security, redundancy, policy controls, audit abilities, & general management aspects are important, if you can't easily migrate to a new platform in 5 to 7 years, then you shouldn't use it because you'll be locked in or involved in a painful migration.

Why aren't you running it yourselves? (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333425)

I work for a small-ish university in Canada and we run our own mail systems. With the proper software and expertise it's not that difficult to do.

Is there some reason that you're looking at external vendors? Not enough staff? Not enough internal expertise with email? Cost? Something else?

If you did decide to host it yourself, you could go the traditional route with a Unix-based mailserver, and something like Horde's IMP for Webmail. Or you could look at something like Zimbra, which has all your mail basics plus extra goodness like calendaring built-in.

As for who I would go with from Google, Yahoo and Microsoft - as a former sysadmin I would avoid Microsoft. This isn't because I'm some kind of Unix bigot - it's because in my experience they tend to oversell the capabilities of their products ... the true limitations of which you discover after the deal has been signed.
That may have just been the reps we had back in Ottawa, but YMMV.

Re:Why aren't you running it yourselves? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333653)

Pfft. Until the hard drives in the RAID array corrupt in such a way that nothing is recoverable.

Why should colleges provide e-mail anyway? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333427)

You could ask if they are willing to throw in mobile phones with data service. Might as well get some useful tech out of this.

Try getting that committee to talk instead... Ask why colleges insist on providing services with little real value and even lower cost to provide? Is it all just to hide the fact that they are spending your tuition on hookers and blow?

Re:Why should colleges provide e-mail anyway? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333605)

I agree. The professors and staff need email addresses but NOT the students. Unless they get to keep these email addresses for life in which case it MIGHT make sense.

Don't use Yahoo Mail (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 6 years ago | (#25333429)

I've used Yahoo mail since pretty much day one since they have offered it. Needless to say, I get close to 50k spam messages a day. If my primary inbox (after sorting and spam filtering) gets over about 20k messages, the whole systems dies. I get error message after error message "An error has occurred. A technician will be notified.". Then maybe a day later I can actually log back into my mail and use it. But the problem comes back... and it has been this way for as long as I can remember.

I also have mail in my archives that goes back to 1997. If I access any of these, same problem as above. Be wary.

Re:Don't use Yahoo Mail (0, Redundant)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333501)

do you pay for it I guess not because you get a differant level when you pay....

yes i am going to say it...

you get what you pay for !


John Jones

Re:Don't use Yahoo Mail (1)

TheRealMindChild (743925) | about 6 years ago | (#25333637)

I know you think you are being some sort of wise ass, but I DO pay for it. What is your explanation now?

Also, one thing I forgot to mention in my original post. The time it takes to access an email is proportional to the number of messages in the current folder. And I have found that the search function doesn't include any new emails that arent at least a day old.

Re:Don't use Yahoo Mail (2, Informative)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333815)

ok well no I am not as wise as you !

first i would maybe give them a call or send them a support email asking exactly why this is the case and then if the service is not satisfactory i would move my email storage to a different place stop paying them and put a default filter to forward the email to my new address

update all my contacts with my new address indicating the problem

you can vote with your feet and money...
that way corporations listen


John Jones

On Site (4, Informative)

pembo13 (770295) | about 6 years ago | (#25333441)

If the university requires/forces students to use their .edu email account, then I feel that having the hardware and service on-site is a bare minimum. A lot of private information can _sometimes_ be required. So the organization requiring the use of the email account should be directly responsible as much as possible.

On a side note have secure SMTP and IMAP is a big deal for me. I know Microsoft tends not to offer IMAP support for their new, Live (offsite) service. So Microsoft's Live Mail service has two big NO-NOs for me.

Re:On Site (1)

SmarkWoW (1382053) | about 6 years ago | (#25333497)

The university does not FORCE students to actually use their .edu email. All students are given an account with their username/password and instructions on how to check their email. Whether or not they actually use it is up to the student.

Re:On Site (1)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333515)

yes I have to agree legal and the ability to control your own world

Re:On Site (1)

grub (11606) | about 6 years ago | (#25333621)

I don't get why a university would offload the work normally done by the CS people. There's no more cool geek factor to running services like that. Sad.

everyone hates it... (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333443)

Everyone hates it because of cost and bashing, but whatever. Throw in exchange 2003+, and let the students use outlook or webmail. Get the whole calendar thing together, and you can share them, etc. Plus, it's established software, plenty of support around if you need it.

As much as Microsoft is hated here (1)

IsaacD (1376213) | about 6 years ago | (#25333453)

... Exchange is actually a great product in my opinion. Though some clever soul will certainly point out that my opinion is of no value and should receive no attention.

Re:As much as Microsoft is hated here (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333527)

exchange is great if you run windows, so that you can use outlook to interface with it. if not, its crap. the web interface is horrid and if users are just accessing it via imap/pop it offers no advantage at all.

Re:As much as Microsoft is hated here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333545)

Exchange and Outlook are actually quite excellent for intra-office communication. Just don't connect it to the Internet.

Re:As much as Microsoft is hated here (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333625)

parent has nothing of value to say, move along...

Re:As much as Microsoft is hated here (1)

SCPRedMage (838040) | about 6 years ago | (#25333735)

Mod parent "redundant", grandparent beat him to it.

questions (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333457)

It must work with single sign-on.
It must work with open PIM clients. An "outlook only" solution is not a solution.

Must be a pretty crappy university. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333461)

If your university is going to rely on one of those 3 companies for something as critical as email, one has to wonder whether your computer related faculty and staff are really up to the task of teaching about modern technology. Seriously, setting up a proper instance of something like Zimbra is not that big a deal.

Re:Must be a pretty crappy university. (2, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333789)

If your university is going to rely on one of those 3 companies for something as critical as email, one has to wonder whether your computer related faculty and staff are really up to the task of teaching about modern technology. Seriously, setting up a proper instance of something like Zimbra is not that big a deal.

It's the University of Washington.

The former IT management (now gone, after losing $40million) decided to set up an Exchange server for everybody because UW's president wanted one for his Blackberry. Later, they discovered that it was too expensive to offer Exchange to all the students, and they decided to tell the students to use Gmail or Live@Edu.

Faculty and staff who've been migrated to Exchange hate it. Many have asked to get back onto the IMAP servers.

There's nothing wrong with those servers. They got a major hardware and software upgrade last year. However, all the people who worked on those servers were laid off last May, and have found new jobs. The few people still there are quite demoralized and have been deserting the sinking ship.

So they're stuck with The Plan, even as the magnitude of its idiocy becomes clear.

Re:Must be a pretty crappy university. (5, Interesting)

mattOzan (165392) | about 6 years ago | (#25333837)

Until this fall, our university was maintaining one of, if not the largest, Cyrus [] mail system in the world. Over 50,000 mailboxes generating an average of 4,000,000 transactions a day (peaking at 5,000,000), hosted on a cluster of SunFire servers and StorEdge/StorageTek SAN. In-house, open-source...sounds great, right?

This year we estimated the cost of increasing our default inbox quota from a paltry 60 MB to 1 GB (a long-overdue upgrade). The total came in at about US$500,000, which is fiscally untenable at this point.

Then we were hit by a previously unknown ZFS bug that crippled mail delivery for almost a week while we worked with Carnegie Mellon, Sun and consultants trying to figure out why our system wasn't scaling properly.

We realized that sometimes outsourcing is the best alternative, no matter what in-house resources or requirements exist.

We just launched Google-hosted email for all students, which is projected to save $250,000 annually (or more if TCO is considered).

It was fun being the guinea-pig for scaling up Cyrus, but by partnering with Google we can deliver more reliable, larger inboxes and save money instead of spending it. DIY "let the CS department handle it" philosophies are great, but not always the best plan. Even for email, outsourcing can sometimes be the best option, not a cop out.


Khyber (864651) | about 6 years ago | (#25333463)

Seeriously, it's not that hard to collect a database of student emails (if they're not using your university email, that is,) and build your own SMTP server.

Integration with calendars, etc. is something I don't consider important. That's why colleges give you a day planner with each semester (at least University of Redlands does this.)

Just build your own SMTP server, use Linux. I know almost jack about this subject but I've made a simple mail server that can support hundreds of thousands of email accounts using basic FOSS tools already out there. Many even have things that will give you the added functionality you want with all the open APIs today.

Re:BUILD YOUR OWN (1, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333675)

"Can support" is terribly far from "is supporting."


Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333853)

Yes, please use a day planner. I work in the paper industry, and all this green bullsnot is hurting my paycheck.

Which service integrates best? (5, Insightful)

Freaky Spook (811861) | about 6 years ago | (#25333473)

I would be be asking either of these rep's is what service integrates best with your existing student directory service(AD, OpenLDAP eDirectory etc), and how do they go about managing mass account creation, recipient policies, group membership.

Its one thing to bring in a new mail service, but ongoing management and maintenance of users and mailboxes, it and how it interacts with other internal systems would be the most important thing to me from an administrative point of view.

IMAP and SSL (3, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333499)

The most important : support both POPS and IMAPS, as well as SMTPS.

There is no reason not supporting this in any system deployed in the 90's or later.

A good webmail such as gmail (and not like outlook web access) is also worth considering.

Transition pains (1)

epdp14 (1318641) | about 6 years ago | (#25333505)

I would be sure to ask what the process is to migrate your existing email infrastructure over the new vendors' respective systems. This includes mailboxes, distribution groups, etc. Make sure there is an import utility, and if not... ask them to make one (assuming that this is a big enough purchase, the vendors should do this for little to no cost). Other than that, I'd be sure to ask the obvious ones like reliability, compatibility with spam filters/policies, stuff like that.

Student and Faculty Privacy (5, Insightful)

JSBiff (87824) | about 6 years ago | (#25333509)

I would be concerned about the privacy implications of using Yahoo Mail, Hotmail, or GMail for your student and faculty email. Now, granted, a lot of college students will be using one of those three for their personal email accounts *anyhow*, but for faculty in particular, and even some students, there could be some real downsides to using a third-party email provider.

For example, I don't know what Uni you're from, but a lot of Universities have faculty and students who are involved in research which might be of a nature where it might not be good to have them sending emails through a third-party. For example, professors and/or students working on Defense dept, Energy department, or CIA/NSA research (although, it might be that in such a situation, they would be using a more secure email system run by the government agency they are collaborating with, instead of the University email, anyhow, so maybe that's not such a concern).

Still, in general, I don't like the privacy implications of using Yahoo, Microsoft, or GMail for university email systems.

You might ask the representatives what guarantees of privacy they are willing to make to the University and it's students, faculty, and staff. I think I would hold them to a higher standard than what the normal Yahoo, MSN, or Gmail privacy statements offer.

Re:Student and Faculty Privacy (1)

johnjones (14274) | about 6 years ago | (#25333711)

very true i would hope that yahoo is pushing zimbra and microsoft exchange for exactly these reasons !

For what it is worth (2, Informative)

doit3d (936293) | about 6 years ago | (#25333533)

I certainly hope you are not leaving the students out of the loop, for they are your customers after all. Let them know what is on the table and discuss it with them. Their input could be valuable in many unseen ways.

The university I am attending here in the US is using gmail, but it is renamed and using a .edu address. I like it much better than other accounts I have had from other providers (Yahoo, MS, ect). It is much easier to filter/manipulate/read than the others, and also better at filtering spam. 99.9% of the spam I have gotten is from the school and always labeled "IMPORTANT ANNOUNCEMENT" in the subject (I'm looking at YOU, ETSU, for spamming crap that is not important to students). Anything with those two words goes straight to the shit pile...

Re:For what it is worth (1)

SmarkWoW (1382053) | about 6 years ago | (#25333567)

No no, we're doing as much as we can to get other students involved. I, myself am a student, found out about this though a newsletter. The students who are actively involved and providing feedback will have a chance to vote on which vendor they would prefer. The whole decision is being made with input from students and faculty. My only concern is that students will be more likly to choose the vendor that they've been using and not take into account which service is actually the best for the college.

Wrong question -- need good network file system (2, Insightful)

drjohnretired (1345973) | about 6 years ago | (#25333543)

The "problem" that seems to plague all email systems is that they wind up being used as a replacement for a non-existing network file system. Users share ten's to hundred's of copies of the same word file. (If you think hundred's is hyperbole, the administration at the community college broadcasts announcements and then the group admins re-broadcasts the same.) No one deletes email because they cannot save/retrieve files as they move from one computer to another. Before picking an email system, pick a network file system with portable home directories.

Re:Wrong question -- need good network file system (0)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333733)

That's what Google Docs is for.

Spell out your requirements & get a clear cont (1)

techess (1322623) | about 6 years ago | (#25333561)

We have a hodgepodge system at my U. You can use a standard imap/pop email with any client you choose (my favorite since I use pine) or you can use Exchange. While the exchange calendaring does seem to work well the email portion does not. Even with IMAP setup on the exchange server the client side compatibility in a mixed OS environment isn't as seamless as a straight IMAP option. Also it doesn't seem to scale as well as other services.

Gmail has both pop & imap access and their web interface is fast even on a slow connection. The spam filtering is very good. I've got a Yahoo account and while I still check it once a month that usually is just to empty the inbox into the spam folder. MS & Google also have calendaring options, but I don't believe Yahoo does. If calendaring is important get a demo on how well it works for shared calendaring and if there are privacy options.

One important factor about handing your email over to a third party vendor. Get the privacy agreement clearly spelled out. Since you are a U (and especially if you are large U) you will probably have data that falls under HIPAA or is export controlled that gets sent through email. Make sure that your groups will have a reasonable right to privacy and won't have to start running their own mail servers because grants or projects they work on have security requirements that your vendor won't meet.

Think Collaboration - (2, Insightful)

bright-light (870480) | about 6 years ago | (#25333565)

Take a look at PostPath. Email is only one piece of the system as you are looking at your communication needs. Don't overlook the integration with other collaboration products. Needless to say, I think a system should have lots of openness but also many of the features that our new students are demanding. Think VoIP, Mobility, Video Mail, Blogging tools, Video conferencing, and online collaboration tools I guess similar to WebEX or others. Put this all in a comprehensive manageable system, that gives them things they want to use. Good luck.

Go zimbra (1)

alexborges (313924) | about 6 years ago | (#25333575)

Nough said.

Go for the OS version if you dont care about support or can provide it inhouse (which is cool, some Unis can do this).

Now... please dont tell me youre either from UWash or Carnegie, cause then your "switch" is just not acceptable.

Re:Go zimbra (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333611)

No, get rid of UWNetIDs. And that horrid thing known as WebPine. (At least they provide IMAP.)

Diplomatic Mission (1)

Dogbertius (1333565) | about 6 years ago | (#25333603)

I want to know what happened to the plans they sent you.

Legal Considerations (1)

Kiralan (765796) | about 6 years ago | (#25333609)

    My concerns would mostly be about having in-house servers vs using an outside provider
A few points:
  - Would there be security/privacy/liability issues with having sensitive information on these servers, such as grades, student financial info, etc.?
- Who in your organization can access messages?
- If we drop your service (going in-house), will we be able to export all existing 'data' from your services?
- How long must we contract for?
- How many students/faculty/etc. are we allowed, and how much for overage?
- How much 'space' are we allowed?
- How long is your message retention for both closed and current e-mail accounts?
- Can our IT administrators access the system for archiving, backups, legal queries?

Good luck!

Re:Legal Considerations (1)

netruner (588721) | about 6 years ago | (#25333763)

Add to this:
How cooperative will they be should you need to investigate student misconduct? (i.e. cheating, plagiarism, etc.)
This does not include criminal matters since that is up to law enforcement to deal with.

How will usernames be set up? Do you get to define the pattern or can the students use any name they want?

Is it easy to access your service from mobile devices? (I use Yahoo and it works fine from my Centro, but I have to pay for premium service)

Calendaring? Integration? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 6 years ago | (#25333619)

99% Chance you should go with MS due to the integration requirement and familiarity people have with MS stuff. If you're dead set against being locked down to MS stuff though (often policy driven), it might not be doable unless you can get it in writing, on video, and with a pinky promise.

Google probably has some fun cloudy online app ideas, but they probably violate all sorts of policies about access to data, storage of confidential data, etc.

Yahoo? Is this like when you invite the ugly girl/boy to go with you to the prom?

The best solution would be to build something in house. I take it you've let the situation progress to the point where no amount of patch work and frantic hand waving can keep it alive, and you need something to replace it with fast.

But we all know the answer will be the lowest bidder (who isn't Yahoo).

Re:Calendaring? Integration? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333753)

Gmail has awesome calendaring. It allows you to share calendars. Your events can be emailed to you to remind you of them. It fully integrates with the email system. Lastly you can invite other people to your events through the calendar. What more do you need?

Re:Calendaring? Integration? (1)

sexconker (1179573) | about 6 years ago | (#25333839)

I'm assuming he meant an EXISTING system.

Re:Calendaring? Integration? (1)

Bryansix (761547) | about 6 years ago | (#25333877)

Whatever the system is probably is not worth keeping around.

Zimbra/Kerio? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333629)

Our University did the same thing a few years ago. We had beta sites and feedback. What decided our fate was the secretary to the President said she would quit if she had to use either of the non Exchange because they were to hard to use. So we've spent millions on personnel and hardware to run Exchange just because it was "pretty."

Have you considered Zimbra or Kerio?

Question: How do I bulk backup/save? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333633)

To each one: How do I bulk archive / save all messages to take with me when I leave the college?

Novell Groupwise with LDAP (2, Insightful)

Zombie Ryushu (803103) | about 6 years ago | (#25333655)

You need a professional IT staff with real experience with LDAP and Novell Groupwise. If you are a big university, don't fuck around with Exchange. Universities have serious IT Needs and require elite administrators.

Re:Novell Groupwise with LDAP (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333751)

Yes, this is a *very* viable option.

Groupwise license costs are much much less than MS/Exchange.
You only need to pay for user licenses, Server licenses (and the OS if you run it on Enterprise SUSE) don't cost you extra. Want to cluster it? go for it.
Webaccess? Already there.
Calandering? Yep
IMap/POP3/etc? sure.

Lateral Controversy (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333657)

The university I'm currently attending binned the whole idea of running an email service and hired in Microsoft's services to take care of everything. No servers to maintain, established and familiar interface (same as Hotmail), users managed on an entire online service, all that's needed is for someone in an office to create new accounts when students enroll.

Be very careful about intellectual property rights (5, Insightful)

karl.auerbach (157250) | about 6 years ago | (#25333663)

I looked over a contract between Google and a large university and found it to be very dangerous to the intellectual property rights of the university and to the privacy rights of students, faculty, and staff.

For example, because email is being disclosed to a third party, such as Google, it could affect the dates of disclosure (publication) of information and could, thus, cause a patent application to fail because of an excessive time lapse between publication and the application. It is necessary to bring the provider into the tent of protection so that patent rights are not harmed.

And in these days of litigation, consider who will get subpoenas, the university or the provider, and who will get notice in time to go to court to contest the delivery of the materials.

The terms in some of these contracts make the provider the copyright owner, or at least give a perpetual non-revocable license to the provider, even beyond the lifetime of the agreement. That can lead to some rather unhappy faculty who find that their publications, and their notes and discussions, have been licensed away, forever.

Also consider whether the university can get the email back at the end of the contract. There is a good chance that it will not be able to do so.

And consider whether you think it is a good idea for students, who tend to experiment with life's options, to begin to build a lifelong dossier that contains their university life emails.

The number of issues of this type is huge and most university lawyers are either not equipped to comprehend them or don't care to do so.

Most people I know who have deeply considered these things tend to find it a really bad idea to outsource university email without very, very strong contractual protections that think through the issues of now and the issues that might arise in the future, particularly when the university wants to terminate the agreement or move to another provider.

Given the choice... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333665)

Having worked in a university environment before, I can tell you that you need to treat it really as you would any other enterprise-level corporation/application. I've deployed Google's hosted GoogleApps application on a smaller scale as a sort of pseudo-free-bastardized-IMAP-type solution, and it's a constant headache. IMAP server constantly closes it's connection, the calendaring function is really not made for large-scale applications like a student-base, etc. That said, the Gmail interface remains virtually the same, so for most contemporary students, they would find the transition somewhat seemless. However, you leave much to the whims of Google itself, have no way to actively troubleshoot problems outside of ticket-submission and (should be back "soon" answers), no recourse for deletion of mail, etc. In my personal opinion, your best bet is to go either with Exchange for a Windows-based solution, or a Scalix-based Linux solution. However, if they've already approved the budgetary funds for Exchange, personal preference (as well as support community capabilities) make me lean towards Exchange

Ask how their system complies with FERPA. (5, Insightful)

genericacct (692294) | about 6 years ago | (#25333701)

If they don't give you a blank stare, you might have a viable vendor. It's like a tech vendor selling to a hospital needs to know what HIPAA is.

Talk to Other Universities (1)

pgn674 (995941) | about 6 years ago | (#25333757)

Talk to other Universities, and their staff, faculty, students, and email system administrators, and see what they think. Try and find Universities with similar needs to your's, and see what they like and don't like, and how they think it could be done better. Bring up any questionable issues to the representatives, and see what they have to say.

Some questions I'd ask: (1)

jd (1658) | about 6 years ago | (#25333781)

  • How interoperable is it with popular e-mail security mechanisms? (SMTP-over-SSL/TLS, SMIME, POP-over-SSL/TLS, senderkey mechanisms, and so on)
  • What is the uptime rating? (3N's? 5N's? They didn't look?)
  • Are there known performance, security or reliability issues? (Don't expect an honest answer, it's the uncomfortableness you should be concerned with. Also, check beforehand the better security websites for known issues and ask about any that aren't closed, if they deny any issues exist.)
  • Is the system highly scalable and at least moderately future-proof? (You want something that can handle both SMP and multicore systems efficiently, is either well-maintained or highly modular, and supports protocols in use. IPv6 is used in Japan, so IPv6 is in use, whether or not the US or that University use it. If it's not being upgraded except "as absolutely needed", then your needs are unlikely to ever qualify. No matter how small the userbase of IPv6 may be, it's bigger than your University, so if their needs aren't interesting to the vendors, your needs aren't interesting to the vendors. Sorry, I don't care if you're paying. Once you've paid, they have your money. So long as they supply something, they have no further obligations - even to answer support phone calls. The EULA the University must agree to will likely also say they're not even obliged to provide software that works, or works even remotely as described. The onus is 100% on you to make sure that if you're given a hot potato you will be able to carry it. When it comes to software, you have no rights whatsoever.)

Clear Requirements (1)

mrbene (1380531) | about 6 years ago | (#25333787)

When dealing with corporate vendors, having clear requirements understood by the selection committee is both a time saver for the vendors, and also an inoculation against some sales techniques.

Here's an off the top of my head list of core details to have figured out before meeting the reps:

  • Are you planning on providing the students and faculty with the same email system? Why / Why not? This goes into the whole integration with calendars, accounts and so on.
  • Is the email address the student received only for use while they are enrolled, or will they retain it as alumni? This will help understand need for exporting of email, inter-system compatibility, so on.
  • Will the email system be part of any authentication system? This feeds into questions about interoperability, account creation (and mass account creation).
  • Will sensitive information be sent to students via this mail system? Medical conditions may be disclosed if your school operates some form of medical insurance. I'm not sure how grades, loan status, and other academic/financial details rate on the sensitivity scale, but sending this type of info through the school email system will drive questions about location of email hosting (out of state? offshore?).

Well, hope that helps.

Use Blackboard (3, Funny)

bogaboga (793279) | about 6 years ago | (#25333791)

Forget all that junk. Use the Blackboard [] system. I must warn you; it's a proprietary system.

Ask them two questions (3, Insightful)

melted (227442) | about 6 years ago | (#25333803)

Does your service support encrypted protocols?
Does your service support a standards based access for sending and receiving email (IMAP, POP3, SMTP)?

Hint: only GMail supports these two crucial features.


Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333817)

Yahoo is free, and littered with ads, probibly insane to admin,
Microsoft either wants to shove HotMail down your throat, or put you in Exchange Chains. YECH! DIE DIE DIE.

GMail... ahhh nice... lots of storage, no security problems, probably an admins dream.

I would wonder, Which system can you A) Add 3,000+ users in a day? ( My personal best was 2650 in a a little under 2 hrs ). Have 10~12 people doing admin work, and set disk quotas.

my god, with Google. you could have your own news service! DROOL!

Postfix (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 6 years ago | (#25333821)

I might be dumb, but why not have it in house? You retain ultimate control over the system, you can make it any way you want, including calendaring, and best of all, if you break it, you get to keep both pieces!

Personally, I fail to see why Postfix and a few addons can't do the job for you.

Roll up your sleeves, man up, and run Linux!!! :)

Get phone support with Google (3, Interesting)

HangingChad (677530) | about 6 years ago | (#25333823)

If you go with Google, make sure their proposal has phone support for administrative accounts. Their service is wonderful, their support wanks. And I'd stand on that. No support, no deal. Which ever one you go with, make sure you have an exit strategy in writing. How they're going to help you transition, including message migration, if the relationship sours. I expect Google to have a good option there, don't know about the other two.

Half your students are probably already using Gmail anyway.

University (1)

ezekiel683 (739858) | about 6 years ago | (#25333847)

am i the only one thinking.. this is a university surely there is the talent to provide their own hosted and competitive system?

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