IT News

IT Council approves faculty-staff email and calendaring recommendation

After a research-intensive effort lasting many months and final review by the Information Technology Council, Microsoft Office 365 (Cloud-hosted) has been recommended as the new email and calendaring platform for WCU faculty and staff.

All enterprise level solutions recommended by Gartner Consulting as potential solutions robust enough for a university were considered, which included: Google Apps for Education, Microsoft Exchange 2013 hosted on the WCU campus, and Microsoft Exchange 2013 privately-hosted.

Initial planning is being initiated but implementation and timing will be dependent on funding. Research was conducted by IT staff and presented to a Task Force made up of faculty and staff who recommended Office 365 to the Executive Steering Team and IT Council. The IT Council accepted the recommendation April 28, 2014, by a vote of 6 to 1.

Key considerations in favor of selecting Office 365 include:
• Individual mailbox size increased to 50 GB
• Compatibility with WCU’s existing IT infrastructure
• Data will be stored in the USA
• HIPAA compliant
• Cloud hosting supports WCU’s 2020 and IT’s strategic plans
• New services and capabilities bundled with Office 365
• Integration with current student email service which will provide capabilities such as a combined faculty, staff, and student address list
• Other universities using Office 365 reported good experiences

Faculty on the Task Force discussed the down selection of Google Apps during the evaluation process. Unfortunately, Google would not agree to store our data in the United States, nor would they agree to sign a Business Associates agreement for HIPAA compliance. In addition, moving to Google would require major and costly changes in our infrastructure – which aligned with Gartner Consulting’s advice that universities should be extremely mindful of using different platforms for students and faculty/staff due to integration costs/issues and support required.

Some Apple Mac users have expressed concerns about Microsoft Outlook 2011. Microsoft is working to improve operation of the Outlook client for Macs but no availability date has been published. In our discussions with other universities using Office 365, they are recommending the use of Outlook Web Access (OWA) for Apple Mac users until the new Outlook client is available. This shortcoming was the subject of considerable debate among evaluators but they ultimately decided the benefits of moving to Office 365 exceeded the shortcomings.

If you have any questions or would like further information, please contact Dr. Anna McFadden at ext. 2411 or Al Sanders at ext 3744.