If you’re a regular user of St. Cloud State’s email system, then you’ve likely experienced some frustration due to intermittent email malfunctions over the past couple weeks. While St. Cloud State’s tech support staff has managed to remedy recent email issues, a long-term fix for these and bigger email issues is just over the horizon. Early next month, St. Cloud State’s email system will transition from Outlook to Office 365 in a move that is hoped to offer students an improved email experience.
About the new system
Daryl Scholz, lead project manager at Information Technology Services, explained what’s different about the new email system and how it will affect students.
“We’re going from having servers on campus that have done our email in the past to what’s called a ‘cloud solution,’ which is Office 365,” Scholz said.
One of the major improvements is storage space. Scholz explained that currently, students have about 200 megabytes of email space. With Office 365, students will have 50 gigabytes of email space.
“What that means is 250 times the amount of space that you would normally get,” said Scholz. Some might question whether this kind of increase in space is necessary for student purposes.
“Some students are having what’s called a quota problem where they’re going over their allotted space,” said Scholz. “This is going to be a nice, easy way for everyone to have the kind of space they need.” Scholz discussed another new feature students may find beneficial, a cloud storage app called One Drive.
“You’ll be able to collaborate in a very similar way to Google Docs,” said Scholz. “If you’re working on a group project, you can share a link with someone and they’ll be able to edit that same document instead of emailing it back and forth.” One Drive will also give students ample storage space for files and projects, coming in at 1 terabyte.
Another noteworthy feature is that the new system will give students access to basic online versions of certain apps that they may not have on their personal computers.
“Students will have online access to things like Microsoft Word, Xcel, Power Point and One Note,” said Scholz. “And then you’d be able to edit all of these documents right on your web browser.”
“I love it,” said HuskyTech student worker Irina Nishat about the new email system. “I’ve been using it since July 2015. It’s an easy interface to work with. It’s great and other MnSCU schools have already made this transition.” Nishat said she particularly likes the increased collaboration abilities the new system offers, as well as the flexibility and reliability of One Drive.
In addition to various feature upgrades for students, there were factors of infrastructure and cost that influenced the decision to switch to Office 365.
“Our servers are getting older. You’ve probably noticed some of the recent email glitches from time to time lately,” said Scholz. “It’s an old, aging infrastructure and for us to replace it would be, I don’t know the exact cost, but about $100,000 minimum.” Scholz explained that by using Office 365, the system utilizes Microsoft’s servers to function rather than having to replace on-premise servers at SCSU.
“Part of the reason we’re moving to 365 is that there’s no additional cost for us to use that,” said Scholz at a recent Student Government meeting.
What students need to know
First, students’ email addresses will not change. What will change is that students will no longer be using their StarID as their username. Instead, they will use their email address as their username. Passwords will not change. Students will continue to utilize StarID for D2L and e-services as usual.
“We’re going to be transitioning on March 4,” said Scholz. “We are going to be sending out an email to students right before that.” In the email, Scholz said students will be reminded of what their email is and that they will have to use it as their username to log into the new email system.
As it so often happens with technology changes, there is bound to be some confusion and a lot of questions. Workers at the HuskyTech service center in Miller Center will field many of these questions during the transition. Axel Shema, a student worker at HuskyTech, said despite the big changes, he’s not concerned.
“I’m not worried about it,” said Shema. “I think people are going to get used to it and are going to respond well to it.” Nishat echoed this confidence.
“I think people will get used to it like they did with StarID,” said Nishat. “They might be afraid, but some might like a challenge… and HuskyTech will be there if anyone has questions. Eventually, it will become second nature.”
For more information about the new Office 365 email system, visit http://www.stcloudstate.edu/office365/.