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Changes are coming to improve student e-mail

ITS is working to change student e-mail server to Gmail; time frame still undetermined
October 15th, 2009

The Information Technology Services (ITS) department is refreshing its plans regarding student e-mail, planning to make several improvements.

Chief Information Officer of ITS, Mike Bestul, said plans are in the works to switch from the current Mirapoint server to Gmail.

In a press release shared at the Oct. 6 Student Union meeting, ITS stated the student benefits of Gmail include more storage space, improved user interface and integration with Google Apps.

Discussions of the switch from Mirapoint to a newer server have been going on for more than a year in the ITS department, according to Jim Burke, associate chief information officer.

“We’ve used the Mirapoint server for student e-mail for at least seven years; it’s been a long time,” Burke said. “Gmail is a better option.”

According to Bestul, the Mirapoint server has been upgraded over the years. Despite these upgrades, however, the server still has some shortcomings.

“The current student e-mail system is aging, running out of space and costly,” he said.

The new Gmail server will provide students with 140 times more storage space in their inbox than Mirapoint allows.

Also changing will be the cost to the University. Under the contract between Google and JCU, it will not cost JCU anything to use the new server. This will be a change from the current Mirapoint server, which costs the University thousands of dollars to maintain.

“There are lower costs but improved services to students, that’s the sweet spot,” Bestul said.

Sophomore Bill Worms said he uses his e-mail every day, and the larger size of the interface would be beneficial.

“We do need more space,” Worms said. “I find myself deleting trash every day.”

Bestul explained that other universities have found Gmail to be a positive option.

“Many other institutions in the country and other Jesuit universities have moved to this system,” Bestul said. “We’re following the trend.”

Some of the schools that have already switched to the Gmail e-mail server include Boston College, Gonzaga University, Wheeling Jesuit University, Oberlin College and Case Western Reserve University.

Not only are other universities utilizing Gmail, but freshman Steph Fair said organizations use it as well.

“The crew team uses it because all announcements are through Gmail,” she said. “I’d be getting it all from the same place.”

According to Vice President and Executive Assistant to the President Jonathan Smith, the administration noticed that a change was needed at the end of the 2009 spring semester, during the annual review of systems.

“The greater storage feature [of the Gmail] was really an attractive option,” Smith said.

Other than more space and no cost, the Gmail account will also keep the www.jcu.edu address for students.

This feature will not only be convenient for current students but will also help alumni that are online. There are currently 11,000 active JCU e-mail accounts. All of these e-mail accounts will be converted to the Gmail server.

“It’s basically e-mail for life,” Bestul said.

Student Union Vice President of Communication Maura Jochum said that a vote concerning the e-mail server was not taken at the Student Union meeting on Oct. 6. The meeting instead was used as a forum for discussion as to when would be a good time to make the transition between systems.

The time frame for the switch is still under consideration. According to Burke, however, Thanksgiving break has thus far been the leading response for when the transition should take place.

According to Fair, changing the e-mail server as soon as Thanksgiving break would be the best option.

“During Thanksgiving break there would be enough time to fix any problems before we need to use it,” she said.

However, some students like Worms think waiting is the best option.

“Change to it next year since everyone’s accustomed to the current e-mail,” Worms said. “Transition to it easily during summer.”

Regardless of when it occurs Smith sees it as a positive change.

“We look forward to working with students to make this work,” Smith said. “We think there are long term advantages.”

Worms agrees, and thinks students will enjoy the extra space.

“I think it’s a good idea for a change if it there’s going to be more space and it helps us out,” Worms said.

ITS is not yet sure of how the change will be implemented. An e-mail will most likely be sent to the entire campus alerting students and faculty to the change.

In the big picture, Burke identifies two benefits to the Gmail change.

“We’re looking to exceed what we have to offer and the fact that it helps to drive out cost is a bonus,” he said.