I spent a pleasant Friday morning at a Google UK education event. Like many Universities we’re investigating how to provide services to our alumni and a common request from graduates is to keep their email address.
There are a number of options. Scale up our present Unix-based email. Implement a new email system. We use Exchange for staff. But implementing a Exchange for students and alumni would be too expensive. Alternative their is the hosted route.
Both Microsoft and Google offer hosted services free to Universities. I’m not sure if IBM is offering anything, if they are, they’ve never contacted us. Although email isn’t my area – I went along to look at the hosted apps service to consider how we might integrate some of these products into our current services.
Google make a very tempting offer, basically Google Apps, Talk, Video, Sites and Email for free. Ok nothing in life is free, but when they offer several GBs of email storage per student, it doesn’t take a great mathematician to work out that most (UK) University’s can’t offer this level of support. It just isn’t finically viable. So their offer is extremely tempting.
I suspect you’ve all played with Google Apps. They’re not as mature as any of the Office suites available but as an online collaborative tool they pretty decent.
Several Universities have already switched their services and the transition to Google was remarkably quick – usually taking less than six months from the point of deciding to investigate hosted services to roll-out.
I’m not sure if it’s worth the license for commercial organisations but for ‘free’ it’s a very good offering. If IBM don’t watch out, the entire education market will have moved to Microsoft or Google before they’ve even started.