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Google transition nears completion

By Molly Block, Daily Staff Reporter
Published September 6, 2012

As students settle into the new school year, the University is also getting acclimated to its new Google e-mail platform.

The University’s migration from Internet Message Access Protocol — its previous webmail program — to Google is almost complete, according to officials. By the end of September, all IMAP e-mail accounts will automatically change to M+Google, the University’s personalized Google platform.

The switch was pioneered by the University’s NextGen Michigan Collaboration project, which was officially launched on March 5, giving the Ann Arbor campus access to more than 40 Google collaboration applications.

According to Rita Girardi, senior marketing and communications specialist for the NextGen program, M+Google differs from a standard Gmail account in its lack of advertising and its integration with existing University tools such as MCommunity, the University’s online directory.

Girardi said the new Google platform aims to establish more efficient and collaborative tools for communication within the University. The Dearborn and Flint campuses will also move to M+Google this fall, she added.

“This effort is about much more than e-mail and calendar,” Girardi said. “It’s about working together more effectively and easily. We’re already seeing how Google collaboration tools are changing the way we work.”

According to Girardi, the University also has plans to integrate more existing tools with the Google platform. She said the hope is to sync Wolverine Access calendars and class schedules with Google, though this change will require software changes to Wolverine Access, which won't happen immediately.

Though Girardi said the change will likely be significant for many faculty members who have used the old program for awhile, she said she’s not concerned that students will have difficulties with the new interface.

“The move to M+Google for e-mail and calendar is a big change, especially for those faculty and staff who were accustomed to using e-mail software like Outlook or Apple Mail,” Girardi said. “Because so many students were already using Google, it seems the transition has been easier for them.”

In a four-month period from May to August, many University faculty members and staff migrated to M+Google mail and calendar. However, the University of Michigan Health System, along with other small research groups, is not permitted to transition due to the nature of healthcare regulations and data restrictions. The University of Michigan-Google Apps for Education Agreement doesn’t include liability protection, which is a concern for UMHS and other groups handling sensitive subject matter. However, the groups will still have access to Google tools beyond e-mail.

Girardi said about 27,000 of M+Google student users self-migrated in the past six months, about 51 percent of the student population, noting that she expects about 52,860 students to self-migrate.

“As of this week about half (of the University) has moved to M+Google,” Girardi said. “We are sending out weekly reminders to those who haven’t moved yet, advising them that they have until the end of September to do so.”

Engineering junior Shan He said the self-migration was appealing since he is already familiar with Google’s e-mail platform.

“I migrated last semester because I had a Gmail account before I came here,” he said. “It is much more convenient because it has Google calendar and Google documents which are really useful.”

Even though Engineering sophomore Andrew Pollack didn’t previously have a Google account, he said he found the transition to be smooth.

“Migration was a very easy process,” Pollack said. “I did it about a week before school started, and it’s a lot better because Gmail keeps you logged in and it shows the entire e-mail conversation.”

However, the concerns of some students who have had problems making the change from IMAP to Gmail are discouraging others from making the switch.

“I haven’t migrated yet because a lot of my friends who did lost two weeks of e-mails,” Engineering senior Hannah Balge said. “Also, I don’t have time to migrate and it seems like a long process.”


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