Gmail and Google Apps to Replace Zimbra by Fall 2016

Tabi Jozwick

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Western Illinois University is making the transition from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Apps, and University Technology hopes that the transition will be completed before the start of the Fall 2016 semester.

 According to an email the Google Transition team sent on Tuesday, the transition to Google Apps began in November. People from across Western formed an Information Technology (IT) Governance task force to formally recommend that Western implement Google Apps. The recommendation was reviewed and approved by the President’s Leadership Team in early February 2016 with University Technology to start the transaction.

 “The idea behind IT Governance is to engage the entire campus community as full-fledged partners in IT decision making,” said Stephen Frazier, Western’s Chief Information Officer and Executive Director of University Technology. “The proposal to move to Google Apps was made through this governance process. The basic premise of the proposal was to save the university money while offering additional services such as unlimited drive space, shared folders that can be set up by individuals, a superior interface and real-time collaboration.”

 In late February, Western’s community asked for people to volunteer to be early adopters in the Google Apps transition. Over 800 people have signed up to be an early adopter and the process of migrating the early adopters has started. For those who signed up to be an early adopter, watch for an email on when the migration will start.

 In addition, over 150 Western employees and students have been selected to serve as a Google Guide. The Google Guides are hand-picked to be the first to migrate to Google Apps. They will be the first level of support in their departments. Once a person has migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps, the Google Guides will be there for any questions or assistance.

 “Popular applications such as Gmail, Google Calendar, Drive, Groups and Contacts will be the core applications that the university will support from the start,” said Frazier. “Other applications such as Hangouts, Docs, Sheets, Sites and more will also be available for use, but the support that we can offer when it comes to using and troubleshooting those apps will be limited.”

 “The unlimited storage space is a huge benefit to all users, students and employees alike,” said Matt Mencel, who serves as University Technology’s technical lead for the migration. “And the collaborative nature of sharing documents and files using Google Drive and apps such as Google Docs will make group projects much easier to work on together.”

 Mencel also indicated that everyone’s Western email address will be the same and the email messages and calendars would be automatically copied over to their Google accounts. However, users will have to recreate their email contact groups and copy their Zimbra briefcase files to Google Drive manually.

“We know that many people are anxious to move to Google Apps,” Fraizer said. “We will be communicating frequently via email over the next few months with more information on the process. We anticipate moving entire departments to Google Apps during April and May, and then allowing remaining individuals to schedule a date/time to move starting in June. Please check your email between semesters for details.”