Auckland Uni rolls Gmail out to 50,000

Google notches up another Kiwi academic win

Search engine giant Google has snagged another local academic customer for its Google Apps Education Edition (GAEE). The University of Auckland, New Zealand's largest tertiary institution, announced today that it has rolled out GAEE to some 50,000 students. From today, student email will be handled by Google’s web-based Gmail service. Staffers have the option of retaining their existing email service, according to Matthew Cocker, Electronic Campus Manager at the University of Auckland, who was in charge of the migration to Google. Cocker says the Google offering was “very competitive” in that it cost the university nothing, apart from the migration effort. He says the university was facing an “arms race” of sorts in trying to keep its mail system up to date, and upgrading it to keep users happy would’ve been costly. Google’s services are “pretty slick” says Cocker, adding that his users are accustomed to having access to them and other internet applications. “In the US, between half and two-thirds of university students redirect their mail to providers like Hotmail and Google, and have thus already outsourced the service,” Cocker says. Echoing Cocker, Google’s Head of Enterprise for Australia, New Zealand and South East Asia, Richard Suhr, says that having access to the same applications and online experience as at home will enhance and enrich students’ educational environment. Implementing GAEE was undramatic for the university, Cocker says. “Getting the approval took the longest, eight months,” he says. The actual migration only took a month, with 700GB of messages being converted in two days, and the setting up of email addresses taking half a day. As other universities including Australia’s Macquarie have gone down the Google route already, Cocker says it was easy to get peer support through Google Groups online. Cocker says “cloud computing”, as provided by Google and Microsoft on an internet scale, is the realistic model for the university’s large number of users. Apart from the low cost, the advantages for University of Auckland’s users to Gmail instead of its own mail system include large, 6.5GB storage quotas, 20MB maximum message sizes, and faster searching. In comparison, the old email system only allowed 100MB mail quotas and 1MB maximum message sizes. Furthermore, Gmail provides better access options using IMAP and POP protocols for desktop systems as well as mobile phones. Gmail is part of GAEE’s suite of browser-based offerings that include the Google Doc word processor, spreadsheet and presentations authoring application, as well as Google Calendaring, Google Talk instant messaging and the Sites website creation tool. However, Cocker says UoA will only enable Gmail, Google Talk and Calendaring in this first round. Earlier this year, the Waikato University became the first tertiary institution in New Zealand to implement GAEE for 25,000 students. David Griswold of Google's Global public affairs unit, says both the University of Auckland and University of Waikato signed up online and have accepted Google's standard terms — rolling one year periods.

He says the applications are hosted on Google's advanced worldwide datacentres.

"To ensure that we can best handle security, scalability, usage spikes, and redundancy, we don't specify the locations of specific data," he says.

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