ITS made the decision to outsource student e-mail before the budget showed signs of a crunch. In light of the recent economic downturn, ITS is now doubly thankful for thinking progressively in terms of saving the university money while strengthening student services.

While the new system will require some initial resources in planning, “True cost savings are expected when we can downsize the Dana machine,” said John Campbell, director of Information Technology Services. “A huge cost avoidance, however, is our best return on investment. Without the Google agreement, we would have to make significant and expensive investments to continue managing the increased volume and space that student e-mail requires today.”

The department surveyed students last fall to determine which vendor to use. Google Apps for Education and Non-Profit Organizations emerged the winner over Microsoft Exchange Labs and Yahoo’s Zimbra.

Google Apps for Education and Non-Profit Organizations offers an e-mail, calendar and shared document system featuring seven gigabytes of storage space, calendar integration, new tools, a better interface and a lifelong user account.

The application differs from gmail in that it allows users access to new features sooner, the e-mail address will be from nau.edu and NAU accounts will be created and managed by NAU.

The lifelong user account has advantages for users and Google—students get to keep their e-mail address, Google gets the right to advertise to students upon graduation (but not before) and NAU will be able to keep track of alumni e-mail addresses in a way that’s never been done before.

“Extending e-mail services to alumni means that ITS will keep track of alumni who are actively participating in e-mail services,” Campbell said. “This means that we should build, over time, a very large list of good alumni e-mail addresses that professional programs or the Alumni Office can use to let their constituents know about NAU services and opportunities.”

Originally scheduled to roll out this spring, negotiations over the legal agreement have taken longer than anticipated. A pilot is planned for this summer and Google e-mail will be in place next fall when all e-mail is removed from Dana and every student has a Google account.

For information, e-mail John.Campell@nau.edu.