Making the Switch to Gmail

Austin Loukas

Alyssa Stencavage

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It is no surprise that many people have been experiencing frustration due to a loss of emails or just having to face yet another email issue.  But for every problem, there is a solution, and the solution here is the new Gmail system by Google.

Since the opt-in period has begun, many students and faculty have been taking advantage of the perks the new system has to offer.  It does not take much to understand what prompted the migration to the Cloud, as there are a number of reasons for the switch.  But even before we ask why, we must also consider some of the issues our campus was facing before.

As technology has moved forward, the question has become, should we be investing so much time and money managing a system that everyone considers troublesome?  That was a question posed by Gloria Barlow, chief information officer of information technology services.  “A lot of students wanted to stop using their email because they didn’t want to keep deleting mail, and too much mail means not receiving everything you need,” said Barlow.

But then Microsoft introduced Google Apps, and the idea of being able to deliver information in a more efficient and cost effective manner using Google as the free service that it is soon started to seem like the better option. Last year during the flood we faced an email shut down, and with Google’s new Gmail system we hope to prevent that from happening again.

Wilkes University has been using the old system for a while.  “Approximately 60% of colleges and universities across the country have made the migration, and we wondered if we should be doing the same,” said Barlow.  The Cloud Email Evaluation Sub Committee spent months examining the pros and cons of alternatives.  The committee then made a unanimous recommendation for the Cloud, which IT reviewed and also unanimously agreed upon.  Finally this was taken to the cabinet, and approved.  “It is very unusual to find everyone on campus in agreement,” said Barlow.

Barlow said it was then found that we could be saving approximately $90,000 over the next five years by switching to the new Gmail system, which was part of the committee’s charge.  These savings include peripheral costs, hardware costs, and software licensing costs.  Some software licenses could also be eliminated.

When we look at the benefits of making the switch to Gmail and Google, many aspects have to be considered to see that this system has proven to do better than Outlook.  Cost savings, efficiency, functionality and integration, increased access, no advertisements, and mobile access are among the many advantages these solutions provide.  As a college campus, we are always in need of computers and working email.  Better functionality was necessary for staff, faculty and students.  Gmail also allows for larger mailboxes for storage.  Barlow said Google provides 25 gigabytes, which is 250 times the 100 megabytes we have now.  Business continuity can also be added to the list of advantages for Gmail.  This means that if for some unforeseen event or technical problem were to occur and a person happened to have Internet connection, he or she would still have email connection, which would in turn enable continued connection with everyone on campus.  Last, but not least, if you are worried about having to change your email, with Gmail you can continue to keep the same email address as well.

So, where do we stand now?  Well, “we have migrated more than 1,100 students and of those 1,100, less than 1% have had any difficulty with the new system,” said Barlow.  “We have had the opt-in period for about three weeks, and more than 1,100 students have made the decision on their own.”

All staff will be migrated at once because they do too much collaborative work to be switched at different times.  The decision is being left up to students and faculty for now whether they want to opt-in or not, but at the start of the Spring semester shortly after the first of the new year, everyone will required to make the switch to Gmail.  “By winter we will be shut down and Wilkes will have become a Google campus,” said Barlow.

Barlow said students do seem to be happy with the new system “because it is a system and an application that they are comfortable with.” Students are also voicing their opinions about the new Gmail system.

“I like it a lot better.  It’s much easier to navigate on the computer and I like how professors and students names come up in the “to” section.  The only problem I have is for some reason it didn’t sync to my phone so that’s annoying,” said Kendra Kuhar, a junior English major.   Some students also like to use Google docs itself.  “I haven’t heard complaints about using the system,” said Barlow.  “I’ve had more questions than complaints.  If students have concerns, they can come to me or the IT department, and we take care of it.”  Sophomore Tyler Brown voices his opinion about the email system, “It sucks because I only get some emails to the Gmail and for some reason all the important ones stay in the regular mail so I don’t even use it anymore.”

It is definitely a learning process for students and faculty alike, but “people will appreciate their mailboxes not being full,” said Barlow.

If you haven’t already made the switch to the new Gmail system, now is the time to do so!  It’s as easy as following this link: ewilkes.wilkes.edu, so that you can be just another member of the Wilkes campus with the satisfaction of getting your mail in a more convenient and better way.

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