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Accuracy • Independence • Integrity

September 19, 2017   |   Ithaca, NY

News

College outsources email service to improve reliability

Ithaca College’s Information Technology Services has completed a yearlong process of transitioning the email system from Mirapoint’s 4-year-old Webmail to Microsoft Live@edu, an online service hosted by Microsoft Exchange.

The system includes Outlook Web App, the college’s new email service. Outlook provides 10 GB of email and calendar storage and 7 GB of online file storage. It also has such features as calendaring, blogging and access from mobile devices at no cost to the college.

Beth Rugg, assistant director for technology and instructional support service at the college, said ITS recommended migrating email services to Microsoft Exchange because of performance and reliability issues with Webmail. Another reason, according to Rugg, was a proposed 50 percent cost increase by Mirapoint.

“I believe our previous vendor introduced a patch that actually caused some problems that then they couldn’t help us fix,” Rugg said.  “So we needed to find something that just was better and that you could rely on. “

Rugg said the Microsoft service also provides calendaring services to the school to replace the faculty’s Oracle calendar system, which will expire next year. Rugg said faculty should no longer use Oracle calendar to avoid confusion.

Rugg said ITS made the recommendation to switch systems at the college’s president’s council in January. After the plan’s approval, ITS reached out to the faculty liaison committee and offered information sessions in March to communicate why the email service would be changing.

Darius Conger, professor of economics and a member of the liaison committee, said he was impressed by ITS’s preparedness for faculty concerns and said outsourcing the email service to Microsoft would allow ITS to expend its efforts more efficiently.

“I thought it was good to think of it,” Conger said. “It frees up resources at ITS that could be better utilized elsewhere, and, so far as I know, the faculty are reasonably happy.”

In its proposal, ITS stated that more than half of four-year colleges have outsourced student email services to a third party. Rather than paying Mirapoint for communication services and handling data itself, ITS will allow Microsoft to handle data security and reliability through its cloud system.

Conger said the most striking reason to switch email services was that most students used Webmail as a gateway to third-party email services like Gmail.

“I thought that made perfect sense to say that if the market says nobody wants this, why keep trying to sell it?” Conger said.

Students, however, are still familiarizing themselves with the new program.

Senior Matt Walker said he has tried sending emails from Outlook, but he still uses a third-party service because of technical problems.

“I can’t really say there’s that much of a difference,” Walker said. “But when I try to send an email, I can’t add an attachment and I haven’t figured out why yet, and it’s frustrating.”

Conger, however, said he believes a switch to any vendor other than Webmail is beneficial.

“Let’s face it: The system was so bad, so atrocious that smoke signals would have been an improvement,” Conger said.