This summer, UR modernized its e-mail system with a university-wide migration to Google’s Gmail. The upgrade came after IT began to address common student complaints about the previous service, WebMail.

‘I never actually used my WebMail. I forwarded it to my e-mail. I just didn’t like the interface of WebMail,” ResNet employee and sophomore Vlad Tatulescu said.

IT collaborated with students to discern what could better serve the University population. This included a presentation to the Students’ Association to ascertain the popularity of several e-mail vendors.

From this feedback, IT learned that students wished for a service allowing for a calendar and organizational utilities, which resembled what Gmail had to offer.

‘By and large what it was was students asking us for a more modern service,” Director of IT staff Kate Crowley said.

When IT surveyed students, it found that they were already using the Google service, forwarding all incoming e-mails to a second e-mail address.

Once settling on Gmail, IT made a recommendation to the University.

Other competitors, including popular programs such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Zimbra, provide similar functions but are not as widely used by undergraduate students.

IT staff learned many other students were already using the Gmail server’s calendar function, along with Gmail’s automatic compilation of address lists, Gchat and label features.

‘You have a calendar and the calendar is shareable,” Tatulescu said. ‘I can add my friends’ classes and see how [the calendars] correspond. The calendar is really cool.”
Around midsummer, students learned of the finalized plans from Dean of the College Richard Feldman. Google’s Gmail and UR had signed a renewable contract, which included an agreement for no advertising through the e-mail server.

The transition consisted of a staggered migration period for each class year. Though new e-mail addresses have been assigned to every student, all mail addressed to old accounts will be automatically forwarded.

The staggered migration meant students were unable to access their e-mail accounts for several days. During this period, IT worked to transfer students’ inboxes and filed e-mails to the Gmail account.

‘What we did was make it easier for students when they got into the new service,” Crowley said. ‘They didn’t have to decide where those messages were. You knew they were all in your Google box.”

According to Crowley, student feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.

‘The old e-mail system was slow, cumbersome and terrible in its ability to filter spam,” junior Matt Kinzler said. ‘Gmail is great because it is simple, uncluttered, easy to use, comes with massive amounts of space and has great spam filtering capability.”

Crowley said students who have called the IT Center concerning Gmail were unfamiliar with the program. Trained technicians are available to assist these students.

Leber is a member of the class of 2011.



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