The Inside Track: What’s behind Macquarie Uni’s move to ditch Gmail


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  1. As a university staff forced to use Google apps, I can confirm Google apps are pretty bad for employees. Might work well for students though.

    • Working with email and calendar in very problematic. In the browser, you have to spawn a tab for each app you use, typically for me it would be email and calendar, so each time I have go to Gmail, the then open calendar too.

      Alerts don’t seem to escape the browser. If I don’t have the browser window active, I don’t know if I have new emails or not. Even worse, the alert I get for meeting reminders are also hidden in the browser as well. The most I get is one chime and a flashing tab, and when I’m working the browser is minimized and there is no way I could see a flashing tab.

      Then I requested outlook 2010, with the google sync tool, because missing meetings is bad for your career. There are problems with the sync tool too, mainly with the calendar. Mainly cancelled meeting doesn’t want to get delete with the sync tool. Anyway there were always some sync errors.

      Finally I got outlook 2013 installed. Using outlook 2013, I could connect via active sync, which is way more reliable than the google sync tool for 2010 (close to 100% reliable for calendar entries so far), but I don’t get access to the global corporate directory… Small loss I suppose.

    • Huh. Interesting. Believe it or not Google actually *does* use apps almost exclusively, internally (mail and calendar, and docs for all but a few people in finance that get excel). There was universal rejoicing when oracle calendar was retired (quite a few years ago now)

      Most people depend on their mobiles for notifications (app, or sms), though I imagine chrome notifications could work too.

      So it’s definitely not a case of apps is outright unsuited to use by employees, since Google is assuredly a fairly high power user of the apps themselves.

  2. Renai, I dont think your last paragraph is entirely accurate, or fair.

    You stated that Macquarie signed up back in January 2010. Consider that Exchange 2010, one of the key ingredients that was necessary for what is now Office 365, was released in November 2009.

    During that incubation time until Office 365 was released (2011), the only real options for “Cloud” type services were:
    – Hosted Exchange servers within Australia (feasible, but painful)
    – Hosted Exchange servers external to Australia (infeasible, RPC over HTTPS resulted in performance penalties when going internationally)
    – Microsoft BPOS (I feel like this is the comedy option)

    Hosted Exchange, specifically those running Exchange 2007, were largely hacks. They were not at all an elegant solution. Exchange 2010 introduced Hosting Mode, but that wasnt until SP1 (Late 2010 if memory serves), and back then being the first on Microsoft’s bleeding edge was fraught with danger. So you’re left with BPOS, which was worse than Hosted Exchange in any given scenario.

    Given that the market itself didn’t have any clear options, I wouldn’t see Marc’s choice as a failure (implied in your last paragraph). The fact that a decision was made and executed meant it potentially paid dividends for a period of time. This is a success in its own right.

    IT is fluid and a change in direction should always be expected. I’d be worried if business didn’t evaluate the field regularly and migrate when necessary. If it didn’t happen, you’d never see products like Xero take on MYOB or the like.

    Google Apps pushed Microsoft to ready their solution and iterate rapidly. In the scheme of things, I wonder if all it did was force MS to extend the longevity of their platform. There’s a generation of young employees who prefer Google’s service over Microsoft, so Google Apps will likely come back in force. Certainly the start up world seemingly has a preference for all things Google.

    • @Snehal D Interesting … “Certainly the start up world seemingly has a preference for all things Google” My memory from Start-up Land was anything that allowed ubiquitous access, was cheap or free is/was popular. I’d imagine product from much more than Google and even the old sKool MS will be in vogue in S’up-Land now!

      Also, I think Nadella is doing a great job … Google think so!


      But, that’s just my personal opinion.

      • I won’t speak for Sydney, but walk around quite a few of the incubators here in Melbourne and you’ll see almost all of them use Google – surprisingly I did notice that quite a few of them are also paying for Google Apps.

        That said, there are still a substantial number of Free Google Apps accounts out there that allow the addition of domains which are being used by startups as well.

        As for your other comment, I agree – Nadella is doing a great job. But given that the benchmark was set by Balmer, is it that hard to look good?

        • I’d go further and say that almost every small business of any kind that I know uses Gmail. The fact is that it’s just so much easier to sign up for a Google account than sign up for an email account with Office 365 etc.

          • I currently work for a Cloud Advisory firm and its interesting to see the market. You’re right in that a lot of small business uses GMail/GApps, but I’ve dealt with a large number that are migrating off of it to Office 365. I’m currently talking to a large retailer who’s looking at a move away from Google and on to Office 365 for the simple fact that the staff (young and old) want Outlook to work properly.

            Its also interesting that a few start ups I’m dealing with now are on Office 365 from day zero, something I didn’t expect.

    • I’ll agree with this – O365 has only been really competitive with GApps in the last year or two, once the mighty MS competitiveness spun up and started delivering. OTOH, back in the day though plenty of people would have continued to self-host Exchange. GApps was attractive then for unis as it was free – even though they would have had a site enterprise license agreement with MS, the internal costs to self-hosting do stack up. Now, O365 is included with education ELAs so it too is “free”.

      I don’t know if GApps will come back – it seems to have stagnated a bit, the biggest change recently has just been the implementation of Material Design. To some extent the innovation is mostly in ChromeOS, but switching to those is a big hurdle for most corporates. K-12 in the US loves them though.

    • Hmm to be honest I don’t really disagree with any aspect of your comment :D I think you have pretty much nailed it!

      You’re right about the maturity of Microsoft’s product.

      However, there is no doubt that the choice was indeed courageous for the time, and was viewed by the industry as such. The safer choice would have been to migrate the students onto either Gmail or Microsoft’s hosted Live@EDU platform, while migrating staff onto some form of Exchange, probably hosted on campus. As it turns out, in the long run, most universities went to Live@EDU for their students and some Outlook/Exchange kind of combination (hosted or not) for their staff.

      I don’t think Marc’s choice was a failure — far from it, I think it was a very good choice to make at the time. But it was courageous.

    • “Google Apps pushed Microsoft to ready their solution and iterate rapidly.”

      I think this is pretty much it, both for the service and the licencing cost.

      We started paying for Google Apps a couple of years ago for our personal domestic use. At that point it was a compelling proposition for a suite of hosted services. The primary one being secure email with our own domain name.

      Today we also have a home Office 365 licence. We made that choice for the de-facto market leading desktop productivity suite. At AUD87 (5 users) for 12 months that too is compelling.

      I don’t use the hosted services from Microsoft though. The collaboration and sharing works so well with Google. Its no longer a case of looking to one place for all answers.

      Also, I have a personal preference not to use MSoft hosted services. I don’t think they have earned my trust for their collaboration with the NSA


      NB. I only read the freely available portion of the article plus the comments.

      • I am pretty much in the same boat as you — Google Apps for email and calendaring, but I also do use Office 365 as a 5 user licence. The pricing was good and you get constant upgrades … plus it was the only way to get Office 2016 for Mac at the time.

      • I actually have email on Office 365 and Google Apps. There’s value in both, but the maturity of the Exchange services is a big draw card.

        I will say that Microsoft have earned a significant amount of respect if only for their dogged resistance in their case against DoJ regarding their overreach on access to data.

  3. My work just moved to 365 this week, I think you definitely need a good internet link, as our internet has now slowed to a crawl :( They even provisioned a new link as part of the upgrade. It does offer some nice features for business, like skype and an extensive SSO capability. I also noticed that outlook is now going at about half its speed. We have reasonably fast machines and I have 16GB RAM, but the whole system seems to be dragging its feet since the upgrade. So 365 is great for business, not so for productivity, at least at the moment….

    • Urgh. Is it possible you’re not getting the services from Microsoft’s Australian datacentre? A few other readers have mentioned the fact that they have received significant speed boosts when the services were migrated on-shore.

  4. Renai – I’d be very interested to hear what the previous CIO for MQU has to say on all of this. I think there was a blinkered view as to what was best for the University based on the bias of said CIO.

  5. Gmail’s threading is so much more sane.

    For light email use it is so much better.

    Our business has recently moved from gapps to o365. To the dismay of the young, and the elation of the old. The only exception being the young but very heavy-use multi-inbox admin staff. They love Outlook, and Outlook just doesnt play with gmail.

    Also, google docs sucks with its strange format docs, and conversion needed for use in word… Insane decision, there. I would just about say i prefer o365 just for Word Online vs gdocs.

    Thanks for pointing out this trend, Renai. Finger on the pulse!

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