Cloud email crawls to RMIT students, staff

Updated: Newly appointed IT director pushes ahead time frames

Though self-admittedly lagging on a trend most universities completed in the past few years, RMIT in Melbourne has committed to migrating its student and staff email accounts to a hosted solution.

Headed by Brian Clark, appointed executive director of IT services at the university in January, the institution will look to either Google’s Gmail or Microsoft’s Live@edu hosted solutions under competitive tender to migrate the entirety of email accounts by the end of the year.

The migration will encompass some 72,000 student accounts and at least 3500 staff emails to the hosted solution

The Melbourne university was one of the first to adopt a managed hosting solution for its Blackboard student resources system in December last year, a move made to update ageing software and remedy outages suffered under in-house management.

However, RMIT has lagged behind most Australian universities in outsourcing email and collaboration systems, a fact Clark is acutely aware of.

“We’re a bit behind on making this move,” he told Computerworld Australia. “But the benefit of that is we get to look at those who have gone before us and look at them. We follow their lead largely.”

Macquarie University became one of the first to outsource student email to Google’s Gmail solution in 2007, later extending its migration to staff, while University of Queensland pioneered a similar agreement with Microsoft’s Live@edu system.

According to the University of Western Sydney’s outgoing IT director, Australian universities largely shared “war stories” in the migration to aid each other’s projects, to the point of swapping draft agreements with either vendor.

While committing to learn from the past experiences of university migrations, Clark said he was keen to collectively migrate student and staff email accounts rather than just students, pending a forthcoming implementation plan. A staff migration would involved further collaboration aspects not available to students, including wiki creation, instant messaging as well as document and file sharing.

“[Student email] is a pretty straightforward solution, but as they look at staff email and I guess more collaboration and the management of contacts and calendars and a lot of the integration that sits around email for staff, that’s presenting more of a challenge,” he said.

Clark said pressure from both administrative and academic staff in his short tenure at the university had led him to push for a faster pace of delivering solutions from IT Services, accelerating timeframes around the project.

“As in most IT organisations, we need to deliver more functionality more quickly,” he said. “I’m the sponsor for the email project, so I’ve been pretty aggressive with the project time.”

Follow James Hutchinson on Twitter: @j_hutch

Follow Computerworld Australia on Twitter: @ComputerworldAU

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Tags emailRMITRoyal Melbourne Institute of Technology (RMIT)Google GmailCloudMicrosoft Live@edu

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