UW email getting a blast to the present

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After years of using the current email system at the University of Waterloo, there will be a migration to a new system in Fall 2016.

UW’s Information Systems & Technology (IST) recently chose Microsoft Office 365 Education as the new email system. Many undergraduate students will begin using it in September and it will likely be a multi-part migration due to the volume of students at UW.

“The change is happening because cloud services have now overtaken on premise infrastructure to be able to provide the service that we provide for the same price … It’s sort of a no-brainer [since] most universities have switched [already],” said Dave Hinton, manager of infrastructure applications at IST.

Queen’s University, the University of Toronto, and other Ontario universities are already using Microsoft Outlook for their email services.

In the coming months, IST will be finalizing the details of this transition with Microsoft so they can move ahead with the building and testing phases of the new service. The main focus of the upcoming phase will be to ensure that the new functionality works.

“Your emails that you currently have will be moved to the cloud … We aren’t 100 per cent sure right now how we’re going to do the migration process. We would like to be able to migrate everyone’s mail, that is the current plan,” Hinton said

In 2013, talks began regarding the migration of the current email system to a cloud-based system. Several UW student committees were contacted to provide feedback regarding this proposal, ending with a majority of positive results.

Later in 2015, IST had to select a cloud-based email service to implement at UW. Microsoft was the clear choice, according to Hinton.

“Microsoft offers Office 365 Education which allows for any university to come on board and use their products at no cost,” he said. 

Microsoft Office 365 Education has many features for both the university and its students, besides being free. 

“The current email box size is 2 GB, while the new email box size will be 50 GB. Students will have access to the Office 365 suite online and they’ll also be able to download it onto their computers while they are in school, as it is subscription-based,” he said.

Students will also have access to 1 TB of cloud storage using Microsoft OneDrive, as well as extra features in Office 365 ProPlus (such as Lync and Visio) that are not currently available to students using Office 365. More accessibility to the services will be available for users who prefer using a desktop or mobile application to access their email accounts since Outlook is an already-existing, free program to download on most platforms. 

In coming weeks, IST will find out whether the current “@uwaterloo.ca” domain will continue to exist next fall or not.

Overall, Hinton is confident there will be mostly positive feedback from students when the implementation process is complete. “The new system is far superior to what already exists; it provides better tools for the students here.”

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