Google Apps vs. Microsoft Office 365

Lynn Russo Whylly's picture

Google and Microsoft are battling for the allegiance of college IT departments. To help attendees decide which email and storage solution might be best for them, UBTech brought in representatives from two universities in June 2013 to compare their installation experiences.

Anne Scrivener Agee, vice provost for information technology at UMass Boston, decided to stick with Microsoft, conducting an email and storage migration from the school’s Live@edu to Microsoft Office 365. On the other hand, Rick Williams, CIO and associate provost of information systems at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, chose to migrate from Microsoft Exchange to Google Mail, and also added Google Docs.

The two schools are very different in size. UMass Boston has nine colleges and 52 research institutes, with 16,000 students and close to 4,000 staff and faculty, while Wake Forest has six schools with about 7,000 students and 500 full-time faculty.

Despite being a smaller school, Wake Forest has the bigger IT department and bigger budget, because it issues laptops to every student and staff/faculty, and are also responsible for maintaining the phones and cable.

Both schools had the same primary reason for the migration: their constituencies wanted more email storage capability. “Our strategy was driven heavily by budget restrictions,” Scrivener Agee explained. “We looked very hard at what we could afford that would be less expensive than what we were doing and still provide a reasonable amount of service.”

At both organizations, IT sought the input of its constituents before making any decisions. Administrators approached the department’s union members, who wanted to ensure there were no layoffs. Administrators also met with campus faculty and staff to discuss what should be included in the new system. Since UMass already had a Microsoft infrastructure on campus, IT ran a small pilot by migrating its own department to Office 365, so any bugs and pain points could be mitigated.

Though Wake Forest’s upgrade was going to be expensive, according to Williams, the cost would be partially offset by the fact that staff would be freed up to do other work.

To get buy-in, Williams’ team approached its IT governance groups first, then held several faculty/staff forums. Feedback from the forums were used to create an online FAQ page answering the most common questions. The team also brought all the feedback to the IT governance groups, who then approved a pilot in two academic and two administrative departments. That went well, and in April 2011, it was all systems go.<

To learn more about the successful system implementations at UMass Boston and Wake Forest University, click here to view the entire videotaped session.