Editorial: responses to the Slashdot thread

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In this age, there is not much point in a school going halfway with an email system...either offer something reasonably close to the state-of-the-art or outsource it to someone who does. If you do neither, it won't get used. Even mandating the use of the school email doesn't work. You end up with professors collecting their students' gmail/hotmail/etc addresses at the beginning of the semester and having a TA type all those addresses into a mailing list.
-paeanblack (191171)
A good point. Our Fac/Staff side is done to corporate standards, and is pretty good. We use Exchange, and pay for some (rather good) anti-SPAM appliances. The quality of email provided to our FacStaff is state of the art. Student side is another matter. The prime mailer right now is handled by the venerable postfix, with antispam provided by other open-source products.

In both cases, though, mail quota doesn't come even remotely close to the "gmail standard". I THINK student quota is 100MB these days, and I could be quite wrong. We have students mailing (*sigh*) 10MB power-point files around, so that can get chewed up right quick. Students get POP and IMAP support, though from what I hear the SPAM problem is the main complaint, and there is some grumbling that squirrel mail isn't the best interface to use.
You give them a campus e-mail address. It's the *official* address. Delivery to that mailbox for all official college correspondence is guaranteed. THEN, if you opt to forward it off-campus to gmail or wherever, that's your own business, and you're responsible for the failings of such at your own peril.
Dredd13 (14750)
This is what we do. The official address is the @cc.wwu.edu address. Students can then forward that mail to somewhere else if they so wish (and a lot do). We haven't accepted an off-campus 'official address' because of the inability to guarantee delivery of things like billing and assignments.
I don't understand the problem with having a universal campus-hosed e-mail service. They have servers accessible to the outside world, so why not throw in an e-mail server? If you make it simple (ie: SquirrelMail seems to be a popular campus e-mail hosting app, probably cause of it's cost and simplicity), I wouldn't think size would be an issue, as long as you set the proper quotas per e-mail/user.
-Anonymous Coward
The problem with this is funding. We use SquirrelMail. Unfortunately, the spam problem is bad enough that we need to spend money, not just admin time, to fix the problem to the end user's sastisfaction. Spending money for 18,000 accounts is not cheap by any stretch. Spending on that front is largely tied to student tech fees, which students are understandably loath to increase more than they have to. I don't know what success we've had getting fees approved for things like commercial anti-SPAM products.
All students will be forced onto the system by the end of the semester, but it doesn't support POP or IMAP. Because of that limitation, the only freely available mail client it supports is Windows Live Desktop, which is only available on Windows
-Topic head
This is a problem that has been brought up. A sizable percentage of our student population has PowerBooks as their primary computer, and a Windows-only solution isn't workable. Our Computer Science department is, understandably, a den of anti-Microsoft sentiment (which is why the cs.wwu.edu domain receives mail independant of the central services). This is one of the reasons why we NEED something like POP or better yet IMAP support in whatever we go with. Web-only portals like gmail can work, but some students really like just dropping all their mail into a single mail client that has links to all of their email accounts.
I agree, switching to gmail for university email doesn't sound that bad. Especially if it would raise the storage limit from 20 MB to >2GB. I don't really care though, I almost never use my university email as I have all of my class email sent to my Yahoo/SBC account.
-assassinator42 (844848)
Before the current Windows Live vs. Google debate started there were murmurings of looking at converting to a gmail setup. We got hung up on several of the points mentioned in my previous post; no SSO, no easy account create/delete, no password sync.
My University [dailynorthwestern.com] is switching to Google. One of my concerns is that I really like my desktop clients (alpine and thunderbird) and prefer IMAP. While gmail is an excellent web-client, I don't really use my gmail account that much, because it doesn't offer IMAP & POP is both "flaky" and limiting.
-Anonymous Coward
IMAP is something of a sore point with us techs. We prefer it to POP. Neither service offers IMAP yet, which is one of the reasons we haven't lept in with glad cries.
You're forgetting about something, though. Microsoft give huge discounts and tons of free stuff to colleges, therefore the colleges have raging boners for Microsoft.
-Anonymous Coward
Heh. Us more than most, since we're close enough to Redmond that a number of our alumni work for Microsoft and can donate software from the Company Store. That's how we paid for MS Office the last time around. The IRS has changed some rules to make that more expensive, but it is still a lot cheaper than regular alumni appeals. This is how we were able to afford to import all students into Active Directory.

However... while Microsoft is 'the cheap option' a lot of the time, recent licensing changes at Microsoft have made it much more expensive for us, and our Alumni arm-twisters. We're still wondering how we're going to pay for Exchange 2007. Vista... oof. Not going there yet. Like ALL institutions, we've factored in a certain level of money for software and Microsoft is making themselves more expensive. So, the raging boner is going flacid.

Besides, we've been a NetWare shop for a long time. Hah!
Our boss dismissed the idea of outsourcing to Google or anybody else based SOLELY upon the fact that they reserved the right to advertise in the future to our students. We don't view our students as a commodity to be sold, so that kinda killed the whole "outsource the email" idea.
-Sorthum (123064)
Yeah, that's giving us pause too. Neither outright states that they won't advertise to students. Both admit they'll be using usage data to improve their advertising targeting in general.

1 Comment

This is somewhat off the point of outsourcing mail services, but do you know if your department has talked to Novell about their GroupWise pricing? We offer webaccess only access for our students(k-12), and the new version of WA is a leap beyond the last.