By Emma Way
Editor in Chief
Over the summer, Washington College went through an email facelift by migrating from Zimbra to Office 365 or Microsoft Outlook.
The Office of Information Technology (OIT) and the Library and Academic Technology (LAT) collaborated on the project and acted as the key decision making bodies in the email transition.
One major reason for switching from Zimbra to Office 365 was for increased storage. “Email storage for the campus community increased to 50GB. This is 50 times more storage for faculty and staff and 100 times more space for students,” said Director of Client Support and Technical Services for OIT John Anderson.
Another reason to convert WC’s email system to Office 365 was for the additional 1000GB or 1TB of digital “cloud” storage on OneDrive, which is an online storage system similar to Dropbox or Google Drive. Not only does this provide students, faculty, and staff with almost unlimited storage, this change to Office 365 cost WC nothing and in fact saved the College money according to Anderson.
In May, Adrian Peterson, the senior project manager, and his team lead information and training sessions with the faculty and staff to help prepare the campus for the transition ahead.
Office 365 first piloted with most staff offices and many faculty members before being fully released to all students and the remainder of faculty and staff members on July 24. “Although the early migrations showed great success, the large migration did not go as planned,” said Anderson.
Problems surrounding the transfer of old emails, folders, and calendar events were of vital concern for OIT, LAT, and of course the students, faculty, and staff going through the migration.
“It was very difficult,” said Director of the Rose O’Neill Literary House and Associate Professor of English Jehanne Dubrow. “I kept having everything replicate multiple times, so I would have an appointment five times… As someone who hates to be late, I was really afraid that I was just going to start missing all my appointments.”
Fortunately Peterson’s team, including WC’s new Chief Information Officer Scott Cowdrey, worked quickly to find a solution to what he initially called a failure.
Cowdrey found a program called 365 Migrator. “365 Migrator… had a tool that enables the conversion of Zimbra files to the Outlook suite,” he said.
After finding and using this migration tool, the rest of transfer process generally went smoothly for students.
“I love Outlook. The huge amount of storage space on one drive is really helpful for keeping my files all in one place, especially for my thesis,” said senior Sean Granata. “Also, coordinating groups and keeping files available for my team members is insanely easy.”
Although much of the student reception has been positive, many students like senior Olivia Donaldson miss the familiarity of Zimbra. “I became so accustomed to Zimbra that it was very difficult to make the switch,” she said. “I think that the switch also should have been done towards the end of last year so they could have made any fixes over the summer rather than once school started.”
There are often hurdles associated with the introduction of new technology, and WC’s migration from Zimbra to Office 365 was no exception. The increase in storage and cost effectiveness however, made it a project the administration was willing to undertake.