Get ready to say goodbye to closed inboxes, unexpected logouts and lost e-mails. Student Government Association (SGA) President senior Rob Sobelman, along with the assistance of SGA Policy Coordinator for Technology Initiatives sophomore Mike Schneider and Network and System Administrator Bill Howell, is working to replace Colgate’s Microsoft Outlook Webmail system with Google’s Gmail platform.
The idea of switching e-mail systems began during Sobelman’s presidential campaign last spring. Sobelman and running mate SGA Vice President senior Jenny Dorland ran into many students who felt the Webmail system was inadequate.
One of the main issues that students had with the system was the lack of storage space. After filling their inboxes with just 40 megabytes, about 100 to 150 e-mails according to Schneider, students receive messages notifying them that their inbox is full and will not be able to receive more e-mail until older messages have been deleted.
The Webmail system also includes an automatic timed logout feature that has been notorious for logging students out of their Webmail accounts in the middle of writing e-mails without saving their drafts.
Other issues with the current system include slow connection speeds, high financial costs associated with operating the system on the University’s servers and the lack of user-friendly features.
“We thought moving to a system that was less expensive, easier to use and had more storage would be a good idea,” Sobelman said.
Sobelman had heard of other peer institutions, such as Northwestern University, switching over to Google’s Gmail system with strong results. After discussing the idea with Schneider and with Information Technology Services, the project was given the green light.
Schneider has been testing the system since August, and is opening up the testing to fifteen more students this week. SGA plans on gradually acquiring as many testers as possible to make sure that the system will meet student needs.
“We don’t support it if the student body doesn’t support it,” Schneider said.
Gmail’s system offers over four gigabytes of storage for it users, and this capacity is constantly expanding. Students would be able to save virtually all of their e-mails. Additionally, the problem of being logged out while composing a new e-mail message would be eliminated entirely.
The Gmail system would also be less expensive for the University to maintain than Webmail. Webmail currently requires that Colgate back up all e-mail servers every night. With Gmail, all of the work is done on the Google server, and there are few costs beyond initial set-up fees.
“It’s really a win-win situation for both the students and the University in terms of budget and ease of use and maintenance,” Sobelman said.
Another benefit of the Gmail system is permanent e-mail addresses for all Colgate alumni. Under the current system, graduates can register for an alumni.colgate.edu address. However, old e-mails would not be saved. Gmail would create addresses at students.colgate.edu, and would then automatically switch to alumni.colgate.edu a few weeks after graduation.
Sobelman and Schneider have been in contact with the Office of Communication, as well as the Office of Institutional Advancement, to make sure these changes go smoothly.
“Over the long term, all Colgate alums would have a Colgate e-mail address, making it easier to stay in touch,” Sobelman said.
Although there is more testing to be done, as well as customization of the system to make it a good fit for Colgate students, SGA plans to have the project completed by the end of this academic year.
“It would be best for both parties if this project was completed by the end of this year so that the incoming class of 2012 could be brought in with the new system and not have to deal with switching over,” Sobelman said.
Sobelman and Schneider stressed that the most important factor in implementing the system is acquiring student input and support.
“This is a project in response to student request and we hope that students will engage us in conversation to make this the best opportunity possible,” Sobelman said.