The University of Connecticut will soon be rid of its outdated HuskyMail system and is contracting instead with Google as the new host for student email.
“We want to give the students the kind of email that they needed – the kind of storage space and collaboration that they’ve been asking for,” said David Gilbertson associate vice president and chief information officer at UConn. “I have only been here a year and a half but the students have been complaining for a while.”
The HuskyMail server was set up in 2002 when the hardware and software were purchased from Sun Microsystems Inc. for about $200,000, according to Jon Rifkin, a UConn network technician.
The system was updated in 2005 and about $40,000 in new hardware. “My role came later when that system became too old. We used two freely available pieces to make the system,” Rifkin said.
Aside from the upgrade, maintenance of HuskyMail has been accomplished with 5-10 hours a week of network technicians’ time. “I think that’s going to be the same for Google,” Rifkin said.
But HuskyMail has crashed more frequently than it should and the user interface is outdated, Gilbertson said.
University Information Technology Services selected Google Mail’s Google Apps for Education to replace the current student email system because of its convenience and the multitude of new opportunities it will bring students to participate in online collaboration.
Collaborations involve features not offered by regular mail servers such as chat options, including video, the ability to set up and share Google documents, which allows multiple students to edit the same document, Gilbertson said. Students also will be able to set up web pages for group projects, allowing them to share notes and work with greater ease.
“The tools will be there. The work is on the students to figure out how to use them,” said Gilbertson.
Switching students’ email from HuskyMail to Google Mail will come at a cost of around $40,000 for conversion work, however the University will not have to pay any cost to Google for the use of their email service.
“It’s costing us to do the conversions and the web pages to allow the students to move over,” said Gilbertson.
In addition there will be no annual fees because of the switch other than the technical support that was already established with HuskyMail.
Students at UConn are excited about the change from HuskyMail to Google Mail, citing expected ease of use and more functionality.
“I think the switch will be beneficial because email is meant to make communication easier, but from my experience getting in touch with someone via HuskyMail is always problematic,” said senior Kelsey Marshall of East Lyme.
Gilbertson said the program should be easy for students to learn and navigate fairly quickly. “It’s just the same as going to gmail.com. The only difference is you’ll be on the uconn.edu domain.”
He said the new email server comes with no additional fee for students; they would have the exact same email they have now and should have no problem hooking up their smart phones and computers to the new email server.
Besides the overall ease an up-to-date email system brings to students in the 21st century, they also will be able to save more messages. Instead of the previously projected increase in mailbox capacity from 50 megabytes to 7 gigabytes, Google announced Thursday it will increase each mailbox to 25 gigabytes, Gilbertson said.
The process of switching 30,000 undergraduate and graduate students to a new email server will begin at the start of the school year, Gilbertson said.
“We’re going to start integration at the beginning of the school year and expect it will take a couple months, letting students migrate over when they’re ready,” Gilbertson said. He said it could be about 3 or 4 months until each student’s email account is transferred.
Currently, there are no names on the table for the new server, but UConn is trying to figure out the proper way to determine one, Gilbertson said.
“We’re starting to talk about that. We’re starting to talk to Undergraduate Student Government and see if they want to name it or let the students,” Gilbertson said. “It will not be called HuskyMail.”