Wheaton signs up for Google email

Acting on a plan that began in the fall of 2011, Wheaton College has made the switch to Google-hosted email and calendar services. Google’s services will replace Wheaton’s previous email software, which was licensed from Barracuda Networks, Inc.

The college expects to save $15,000 to $18,000 annually as a result of the switch. Google services are free, but Wheaton’s current license must be renewed annually.

Sue Wawrzaszek, Vice President for Library and Information Services (LIS), said in an interview that the switch would provide students will the full range of Google products, which is more than Wheaton can provide on its own.

“We have limited resources locally, so to add something to a locally based email service wasn’t going to be easy for us,” said Wawrzaszek, regarding the benefits of the Google switch.

Once completed, the switch to Google will solve a number of issues that both students and administrators had with the old system, including mobile access to email services. Although Barracuda had told Wheaton on multiple occasions that it would make its software mobile-capable, Wheaton’s email services had still not gained compatibility on cell phones or tablets.

In addition, the previous system allowed for only one gigabyte of storage per student. According to Wawrzaszek, it was impossible to expand this amount of storage without further investment. Google services will increase the allotment of space for each student to 25 gigabytes. Calendar services will also now be available to all students, which was not previously the case.

On the administration’s side, the new service will take email off of Wheaton’s servers, which are currently stored in a single location. Were something to happen to the servers, Wheaton would still be able to sustain campus-wide communications. Wheaton’s servers are still responsible for numerous campus services, such as onCourse, insideWheaton, and library electronic reserves.

Wawrzaszek says the Google-hosted service will allow LIS to “get out of the infrastructure business” and devote more staff time to new pursuits other than maintenance of the email and calendar services.

Wawrzaszek says that the initial idea for changing Wheaton’s existing email and calendar services began in talks with the LIS leadership team. The team took the proposal to the Administration Technology Committee, a standing group on campus at the time. That group was used as a “sounding board” for the team’s ideas.

From there, the LIS Google project team was formed, consisting of Wawrzaszek along with the LIS Director of Technology and Infrastructure, the Director of Technology Support Services, the manager of the help desk and two system administrators. They continue to meet on a weekly basis to talk about issues that come up as the plan progresses.

Several other committees were consulted in the spring of 2012, including an advisory group consisting of SGA representatives and other members of the student body. LIS wanted to gauge community interest.

“The response that we got was ‘yes, go ahead’,” according to Wawrzaszek.

She was invited to propose the plan to the President’s Council, and the Council’s approval allowed the switch to begin. Once the transition is complete, Wheaton will no longer renew its software license from Barracuda.