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Gmail to replace University e-mail system next year

By Haley Goldberg, Daily Staff Reporter
Published October 26, 2011

Students who forward their University e-mails to their Gmail accounts won't need to anymore.

Google and the University officially joined forces this week, after finalizing their agreement to work together on the University’s NextGen Michigan Collaboration Project. The University signed on for a 10-year contract with Google for the company to provide services such as Gmail, Google calendar and Google docs for University students, faculty and staff. With the change, the University will replace its current Internet Message Access Protocol infrastructure, which includes umich e-mail, with Gmail servers, though e-mails will still have addresses.

Bill Wrobleski, director of Infrastructure Projects for the NextGen Michigan Program, said the NextGen Michigan Collaboration Project, taglined “Keeping U Connected,” strives to develop the “next generation of technical infrastructure” and to successfully deliver the Google platform to the University community.

He added that the Google products will allow the University community to better connect.

“We see the Google platform as sort of being the foundation for collaborative tools for the University students, staff and faculty,” Wrobleski said.

The implementation of the NextGen Michigan Collaboration Project will cost $1.8 million, but Wrobleski said the University will save $750,000 a year on technological services from switching to the Google platform.

Students can expect to access their new Gmail accounts — which will incorporate their current uniqname — and other Google tools by the end of March. Students will then have a six-month period when they can transfer their e-mail from the IMAP platform to the Gmail platform.

Wrobleski said this manual transfer of e-mail stems from student feedback on how to best implement the change to the Google platform. The University will provide students with a “step-by-step process” on how to move their mail.

Faculty and staff will have all their existing mail automatically moved from the IMAP system to the Google platform. Because of this, they will receive their Gmail accounts later than March. Once the University community — except for the University of Michigan Health System, which will not have Gmail access due to data restrictions — has successfully switched to the Gmail platform, the IMAP server will be disabled, according to Wrobleski.

While the IMAP server will disappear, Rita Girardi, marketing communications specialist senior for the NextGen program, said CTools and other University web programs will still exist but will be enhanced by Google’s services for better communication.

“The goal of this project is to really create an environment where people can work together more easily, and that’s why things like CTools aren’t going away,” Girardi said. “We’re not taking anything away. We’re hoping to add options for people to make their lives easier and allow them to work together more easily.”

The decision to choose the Google platform stems from research conducted last year, which showed a community preference for Google. The University also considered using a Microsoft platform before deciding on Google.

“The decision was made by our IT leaders to recommend Google and then our senior executives at the University supported that selection at the beginning of this calendar year,” Wrobleski said.

The collaboration with Google will also join the University with more than 100 other universities that are using “Google Apps for Higher Education,” according to Wrobleski.