By Lauren Santye
This summer, Rider will make the transition from the current email server Zimbra, to Google Apps for Education.
While rider.edu addresses and Easypass passwords will not change, the switch will provide additional benefits to students and staff and cost savings for the university, according to the Office of Information Technology (OIT).
“We have been working really hard to review the services that we run and support, and see if there are ways that we can do better,” said Carol Kondrach, OIT associate vice president. “So better means more capabilities.”
There is a lot more to Google Apps for Education than email, said Kondrach.
“We get the whole Google Apps for Education suite,” she said. “During this first phase, we’re planning on turning three things on: We’re going to turn on Gmail, calendar and Google docs. Our focus for this initial phase is email and calendar.”
Google Apps for Education also offers Drive, Sheets, Slides, Sites and Vault.
Although a definite date has not been set for the transition, it will be taking place after commencement during the summer months.
“We don’t want to make the actual move until we know we’re fully ready to go,” Kondrach said. “I expect it will be sometime between the May and June time frame.”
The transition will be taking place over a weekend. Everyone will move to the new email server, but older, saved emails will be migrated only for faculty and staff. Old emails in students’ accounts will not be saved unless students do it themselves, with instructions from OIT.
“We are not planning on doing that for students,” she said. “If they want to transfer their old Rider email to their new Google account, they can themselves. If they don’t, they don’t have to. We think it’s a better approach, given the volume and the number of students who may or may not want to drag all their old email with them.”
However, faculty and staff will lose their old calendar information because of the lack of compatibility between Oracle and Google.
“We’re choosing this time of year, because it’s less impact for people,” Kondrach said. “It’s before all the appointments are scheduled. No one’s calendar is being transferred.”
Previously, students did not have a calendar because Rider did not have licenses for that, said Kondrach.
In addition to the Gmail and calendar, there will be additional space in the email service.
“With Zimbra, the current email quota for students is 300MB,” Kondrach said. “With Gmail, the student quota will be 30GB.”
Another bonus to making the switch in system is the reduction in costs.
“Zimbra costs us about $20,000-plus a year,” she said. “That’s just for the email. You have to have storage, so disk space. You have to have servers. Everything that we do, we have to back up. So all of those things together with a whole total cost of ownership for the product would take us up to more like $40,000 a year.”
By making the switch, Rider is able to eliminate the costs for hardware, software, licensing and backup.
“In order to realize the savings as soon as we can, we want to get people efficient in using email and calendar first, and then we’ll launch a training program for Google docs,” Kondrach said. “But people will be free to use it right away if they know how.”
Since Google Apps for Education adds features regularly, the idea is to release them gradually.
“The current plan is to launch the other tools available with Google Apps for Education over the course of the next academic year,” she said. “Training will be provided with each phase.”
Graduating seniors will be moved along with the other students. According to Kondrach, they will be moving everybody who is “active” in May, but seniors accounts are closes shortly after graduation
Students reacted positively to this technological change as well.
Jake Tuff, a junior radio/TV major, is excited for the upcoming transition.
“Switching our email to Gmail will make things a lot easier,” Tuff said. “I already have Gmail, and my professors use Google docs for a lot of projects, so I am excited for the change.”
Ariana Albarella, sophomore arts administration and journalism major, agrees that the switch to Gmail will be a vast improvement.
“I think the switch will be beneficial to the student body as a whole, because a lot of people use Gmail as a professional contact for themselves and other Google platforms, such as Google docs to work on assignments,” she said. “Switching will just make everything a little more universal.”
Faculty and staff seem to have a similar reaction to the change.
“I’m used to using Gmail for personal reasons, so it will probably be a seamless transition for me,” said Dr. Sheena Howard, assistant professor of communication.
Kondrach wants to emphasize that although they are switching servers, the email address will remain the same.
“People who are using what they are using today, can continue to use that,” she said. “Nothing’s going to change. All that’s going to change is the email service behind the scenes. So whatever your Rider email address is today, is what it’s going to be when we go to Google. Nothing changes about your email name. What changes is the service behind the scenes.”