By Nancy Dorrance, Queen's Gazette, March 22, 2010
Should a university continue to run its own in-house e-mail system – or is it time to consider better alternatives? This question is being asked at universities around the world today, including Queen’s.
Resources now being used to provide e-mail could be reallocated to enhance other services and functions that more directly support the mission of the university, suggests Sean Reynolds, Queen’s Chief Information Officer.
People still need e-mail, but many universities have made arrangements to have this service provided by an external company. Many colleges and universities in the U.S. and Canada are either doing this now or are in the process of moving in this direction.
“Cloud Computing” – internet-based computing in which organizations share the resources of an external service provider – allows them to augment what they provide internally. A Cloud arrangement could also provide collaboration tools, data storage and software application hosting, in addition to e-mail.
Google and Microsoft currently provide each user a mailbox of over seven gigabytes. Queen’s provides one gigabyte for faculty and staff and 100 megabytes for students. “No university can come close to that at a reasonable cost,” says Jim Lesslie, manager of departmental development in ITServices. Both Google and Microsoft can provide e-mail service and more for students with no fees. People would continue to use their Queen’s email addresses, and would not see any advertising on their university accounts.
Noting that privacy has been a commonly expressed concern about externally provided e-mail, Mr. Lesslie says that such issues are inherent in the use of e-mail. A number of online alternatives exist for safely exchanging confidential information, he adds. “People really need to realize that e-mail is not a secure means of exchanging sensitive information.”
While there are compelling reasons to consider this new direction, it may cause concern among some members of the Queen’s community. “It is important for people to have an opportunity to ask questions and express opinions about such a change,” says Mr. Reynolds.