On April 13th, all University of Connecticut faculty and staff switched over to Microsoft Office 365 from the Microsoft Exchange servers that was used to power their emails. By doing so, they have continued the divide between faculty and student emails, further complicating communication for both sides. All University of Connecticut students use Google Apps for Education for email purpose, after a switch from UConn’s ancient Squirrel Mail system in the fall of 2011. Few students will remember the former system, but it was plagued with issues.
Currently, both faculty and staff can “opt-in” to the Google Apps for Education system on the UConn Google website, google.uconn.edu. By doing so, they can access some of the core apps, including Google Drive and Google Calendar. However, they can only send email through Office 365 and cannot use Gmail. The opposite problem now plagues UConn students. They can now log in at office365.uconn.edu and access everything from Office Online (Word, Excel, and Powerpoint) to One Drive. Yet, they still cannot use email through that system.
The reasons for the switches make sense. Both Office 365 and Google Apps are more secure, offer more storage (including unlimited storage in Google Drive/OneDrive), and require no onsite servers. With offsite mail servers, the systems are less likely to crash and less reliant on UConn.
The similarities between Office 365 and Google Apps are obvious, with the focus on cloud storage and collaboration that made Google popular in the first place. Considering their ability at performing nearly identical functions, it’s perplexing why UConn would do business with both. The answer is contract based: UConn’s contract with Microsoft keeps them from giving faculty and staff Google accounts. What isn’t as clear is why UConn agreed to contacts that kept students and faculty separate.
Because students and faculty are finding more and more ways to collaborate, it can be difficult to involve both sides when they are forced to use competing platforms. Sharing your professor on a Google Slides presentation requires them to opt in and access the system. Even the logins are different, since Office 365 requires your email address and NetID password, while the Google Apps password can be different.
Overall, the separation of email accounts is a bizarre decision, and UConn would be better off sticking to one system for its UConn email accounts.