Campus / News / November 23, 2012

Knox to switch from Zimbra to Google Apps

At the beginning of winter term, Knox students, faculty and staff will say goodbye to the Zimbra email platform and switch to Google Apps for Education, if everything goes according to plan.

First proposed to Student Senate by Max Galloway-Carson ’11 during fall term 2011, the switch to Google Apps will afford all members of the Knox community access to Google Docs, Google Calendar and other applications through their Knox email accounts.

“All of these tools are designed to simplify the process of creating, collecting, and sharing information securely,” Vice President and Chief Information Officer Steve Hall said in a campus-wide email on Wednesday.

The migration to Google Apps, which Hall intends to have completed before students return to campus in January, is designed to both increase efficiency and decrease costs. Google Apps is provided free of charge to educational institutions; Zimbra cost Knox upwards of $20,000 a year.

The Zimbra platform, which is owned by VMware, was chosen during the 2007-2008 school year by the Senate Technology Committee over cloud-based services such as Gmail and Windows Live. At the time, concerns existed about the ease of troubleshooting and the privacy of information when using an out-of-house provider.

Google’s privacy policy has since gone through several iterations, and a FAQ provided by Information Technology Services outlines what Google can and cannot do with students’ data (link is password-protected). Specifically, Google collects email keywords to improve search results: a user who searches “apple” and receives many emails from Apple Inc. would see more results for electronics than for fruit, for example.

Google is forbidden by its current policy from sharing personal information without permission. Those interested in which aspects of their information are stored on Google’s servers can use Google Takeout to see what personal data is currently being stored on Google platforms.

Regarding troubleshooting and outages, Hall contacted Associated Director of Information Technology Services at Macalester College David Sisk. Macalester switched to Google Apps in 2008. Since then, Sisk said, their servers have experienced only two roughly 15-minute periods of downtime.

“I am confident that this is a good move for the College and will present new opportunities, for collaboration, teaching and learning (sic),” Hall said in his email.

Further information on the switch, including Hall’s original email and an online training course in Google Apps, can be found at my.knox.edu. Live webinars and other training materials will be provided after the migration is complete.

Anna Meier

Tags:  email gmail google google apps Steve Hall Technology zimbra

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  • reader

    What if we want to retreat a deleted email? Google automatically deletes email that has been in the ‘trash’ 30 days.

  • Agnes

    Then don’t delete your emails. Gmail has an archive button that will remove emails from your inbox, but doesn’t delete them so they are retrievable later.

  • Casey

    Jumping too far into the future a bit here, but the transition to Google Apps could possibly/eventually also make Moodle obsolete (which sounds enticing considering the massive headaches I’ve dealt working with that site).



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