New Gmail service to go live for some Yalies

This term, members of the Yale community can bid farewell to the outmoded Horde email system in favor of a new service provider — Google Apps for Education.

Information Technology Services will offer the chance to switch mail services to a group of 100 randomly selected undergraduates beginning in the first week of October. Students and staff can opt into Gmail throughout the term, though Horde will still be available until the University discontinues the platform in spring 2013. Freshmen who want the new service will have to migrate their accounts from Horde, despite the fact that ITS planned to use Gmail as the default provider for the entire class of 2015.

Ongoing concerns about Google’s ability to keep Yale’s information safe delayed the University’s decision to outsource email to Google until April 18 — around the time ITS begins creating email accounts for the incoming freshman class — ITS did not have enough time to establish freshman Gmail accounts, said Chuck Powell, associate chief information officer for ITS.

“We didn’t have enough time to turn quickly enough to get the freshmen class onto Google Apps for Education initially,” Powell said. “We’ve already tested [the webmail] in our test environment, and we’re pretty sure everyone wants to move rapidly.”

Students employed with the Student Technology Collaborative will technically be the first to use the new Yale Gmail. Since their arrival on campus in August, these students practiced migrating webmail accounts from Horde to Google within an ITS test environment, Powell said. They will transition their actual email accounts this week.

Cassandra Kildow ’11 was one of five student techs who stayed at Yale all summer to test Google Apps features and mail migration.

“There’s really no comparison to Horde,” she said of the new Gmail. “It’s very full-featured and a lot easier to use — and a lot prettier as well.”

Within the next two weeks, ITS will email all undergraduates to invite them to optional training and information sessions on the transition process, Powell said.

ITS will then migrate the accounts of the randomly selected group of 100 students, and will allow “a few brave professors” to switch to Gmail as well, Powell said. He added that he anticipates ITS will transition student accounts in two waves in October before opening the option to the general Yale community.

ITS aims to migrate all interested students’ accounts to Gmail by spring, he said, adding that he expects about 1,000 transitions per week.

Alexandra Gjorgievska ’15 said she is already eager to transition from Horde to the new Yale Gmail.

“[Horde is] disorganized and it’s hard to find things,” Gjorgievska said. “There’s no way to maneuver it easily.”

Because Google will only allow Yale to transfer one message per second from Horde to Gmail, Powell said it may take one to two days to transfer all messages depending on how many emails a student keeps in his or her Horde inbox. Students who sign up for Gmail can chose to start using the account immediately, Powell said, but old emails will trickle in for a few days after they sign up. Alternatively, they can wait to receive new mail until all previous emails reach their Google inbox.

“If you’re in a real hurry you can sign up as fast as possible,” Powell said. “But we wanted to offer people that option of do want everything in place first or do want to get started immediately.”

Since ITS received approval for its Google Apps proposal from the Yale College Faculty Council last April, employees have been working to link Yale community members’ webmail accounts to the University Registrar’s system so that existing email addresses will transfer to the new system.

The work has been purely technical, Powell said, since all discussion of the Google Apps proposal ended when the council gave its approval.

Michael Fischer, a computer science professor and vocal opponent of outsourcing Yale email to Google, said in an email Wednesday that he has been “out of the Yale Gmail loop” since the faculty approved the plan last spring.

Some professional schools, such as the School of Management and the School of Medicine, will continue to run independent email systems outside Google’s platform, Powell said. Undergraduates who forward Yale email to another account can continue to do so, but Powell said he expects the new system to be popular with students.

“Google is famous for constantly coming up with new offerings,” he said. “The core Google Apps for Education set gets better every week.”

In addition to Google Mail, the Google Apps for Education suite will give students access to Google Calendar, Docs, Talk and Sites applications. Powell said he will start by offering these basic features and may consider adding others, such as the social media tool Google Plus.

The new student Gmail will display a Yale logo in place of the “Gmail” tag in the upper-left corner of the display.

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