Wilkes embraces ‘the Cloud’

Abbey Haldeman, Staff Writer

Freshman nursing major Cheyenne Cassimore was forced to make a new password, not once, but two times this week because her Wilkes email denied her access.

“I had to change my password so it would let me in. It is really frustrating me,” Cassimore said.

In addition to changing passwords, students and faculty have voiced other complaints, which include never obtaining outgoing and incoming emails.

There is a constant struggle between the students, the faculty, the staff and the university email. The login battle, messages getting lost in cyberspace and storage space — or lack thereof — is only a few major issues.

“We have been hearing a lot of concerns about email for quite some time,” Chief Information Officer Gloria Barlow said, regarding the current Microsoft Outlook Web email system. “It’s a large undertaking to manage a mail system for thousands of students.”

On top of all the struggles through the email itself, there has been one specific time when the entire system had to be shut down. During this time the flood evacuation in the Fall of 2011, the University had to completely shut down the system in order to preserve and protect it. In doing so, the only way to communicate with students was through Facebook or some sort of web-based system.

“I’ve been in this business a long time, I’ve never needed to turn off my machines, shut off the light and leave and not know when we were coming back.” Gloria said.

In order to ensure that something like completely shutting down the system would never happen again and in an effort to fix ease the ongoing struggles, the IT department realized it was time for some adjustments. Email would be switched to “the cloud.”

“At this point in time about more than 60 percent of colleges around the country have migrated some portions of their campus to the cloud”, Gloria said.

Cloud systems are a simplified operating systems that run as a web browser, providing access to a variety of web-based applications that allow the user to perform many simple tasks without booting a full-scale operation system.

Because of its simplicity, Clouds can boot in just a few seconds. The operating system is designed for Netbooks, Mobile Internet Devices and PC’s that are mainly used to browse the Internet. From Cloud the user can quickly boot into the main OS, because Cloud continues booting the main OS in the background.

Cloud can be installed and used together with other operation systems, or as a standalone operating system.  When used as a standalone system, hardware requirements are relatively low.

After evaluating the current email via student response surveys, a committee of 12 decided that the switch to the cloud would be the most beneficial for everyone.

The initial debate was whether to go with Microsoft Live or Google mail. The ultimate deciding factor for the conversion to Gmail came when Microsoft made a change in their offerings with universities, granting free use only for students and not faculty. For the campus, Gmail met the criteria and was the most cost effective option.

“There was a unanimous recommendation from the IT committee, which never happens,” Barlow said.

After Barlow presented the report and the recommendations to the president’s cabinet they were given the go-ahead. The mass of migration to Gmail will be. Start this summer.

Many students believe the switch to Gmail will help fix the frustrations they have been facing.

“I think that Gmail is a bigger network than Microsoft, so it is going be faster,” Allison Bitner, a freshman pharmacy major said.

Gloria believes the size limitation issues will be solved by the switch, due to the massive growth in space. With the change to the cloud, students will have more than 250 times the space that they have with the current email. She also believes that students will enjoy having a Gmail account because it can be personal to them, which many students have requested previously.

“It is a service and interface most (students) are already familiar with, comfortable with and like,” Barlow said.

The move to Gmail will allow students and faculty to keep their @wilkes.edu domain. The cloud system will also allow better mobile access due to its simplicity.

“If we ever had an emergency again, as long as you are somewhere with an Internet connection, we as a campus will still be able to communicate with all wilkes.edu addresses, which is very important for us,” Barlow said.

Contributer: Phat Nguyen