Converting to Google or Microsoft eMail systems is saving some colleges and universities upwards of half a million dollars annually, and the move has satisfied some students and faculty members who have clamored for an eMail interface with more applications and storage capability.
Many schools that have switched from campus-run eMail accounts to commercial accounts made the decision before last year’s economic recession hit, slashing campus budgets. But as IT dollars have dwindled, officials say the long-term savings of converting to an eMail provider that provides hosted, web-based service has proven critical to avoiding job cuts and maintaining IT staffing.
"eMail is more of a commodity now, so why should we spend resources running eMail servers when Google could do it for free and do it a lot better than we could do it?" said James Langford, director of web integration and programming at Abilene Christian University in Texas, which began converting its campus to Google eMail accounts–also called Gmail–in April 2007.
Langford said switching to Gmail meant the campus’s IT department did not have to run its own eMail servers–a major cost saving–and had the responsive Google help desk at its disposal.
"[Google’s] support is great. They’re responsive, and the service is fast and flexible and available all the time," said Langford, adding that a campuswide survey revealed that one-third of faculty, staff, and students already used Gmail. "We love it. … I can’t imagine having to go back and run all these services ourselves now. There’s almost no downside to it from our perspective."