news Macquarie University yesterday revealed it had decided to ditch Google’s hosted email and calendaring platform and would migrate its staff to Microsoft’s rival Office 365 platform, in the wake of a controversial decision by Google to shift the university’s data from its previous datacentre location in Europe and move it to the United States.
Macquarie’s initial deal with Google to adopt Gmail for its 6,000-odd staff was inked back in January 2010. At the time, it was viewed as a landmark move that would save the university millions of dollars as the university’s staff were shifted from the legacy Novell GroupWise platform. The university also offered Gmail to its students.
At the time, Macquarie had had concerns regarding the storage of its data in the United States, due to legislation such as the Patriot Act, which could give US law enforcement authorities access to its data. Google agreed in 2010 to maintain the data in a European datacentre instead.
However, in a notice posted on the university’s website today, its chief information officer Mary Davies revealed Google had decided to relocate the data to a United States-based datacentre. The result? Macquarie is dumping its contract with the company and shifting to Microsoft.
“Data security is our top priority at Macquarie University, and following a decision made by Google to move our stored data from Europe to the United States, we initiated a market search to look at alternative options,” wrote Davies. “The result: Office 365 – a Microsoft cloud product suite with services hosted locally in Australian data centres.”
Davies told staff they would retain their Google accounts and access to Google Apps (including Docs, Sheets, Slides and Drive), but will no longer use Google for email and calendar. A further review in 2016 would be carried out to ascertain whether the broader Apps platform — beyond Google’s Gmail and Calendar systems — were still suitable for staff and students.
Student email and calendaring will remain on Gmail, Davies wrote, and students will also retain access to Google Apps to allow for continued collaboration between students and staff.
The decision follows the result of a trial which Macquarie has been conducting into the use of Office 365 by staff. Over the past six months more than 90 staff have been testing the platform. While there were some issues, Davies wrote, the majority of those were as a result of the co-existence of Gmail and Office 365.
Microsoft will host the university’s data in its NSW and Victoria datacentres.
This would provide benefits such as addressing security and privacy concerns, Davies wrote (given that the data will be stored in Australia’s own legal jurisdiction), as well as improved data access speeds resulting from local hosting, the ability to access email globally (with the CIO noting Gmail was restricted from being used in some countries) and improved collaboration with Australian universities.
Davies noted that the majority of Australian universities already used Microsoft Exchange or Office 365, and many planned to ultimately move to Office 365.
Macquarie University staff will also be able to access a suite of Office 365 tools beyond email and calendaring access, including the One Drive storage platform, Skype for Business (formerly called Lync) and the normal Microsoft Office applications such as Word.
The university has set up an ‘ambassador network’ of staff designed to assist colleagues with the migration. All staff will migrate to Office 365 by the end of 2015.
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