Last Friday, I emailed all all staff members and board members in the district with the news that we’re transitioning from Microsoft Exchange email servers (our current email service) to Google (Gmail) for email service on April 27th.
This change should have no impact on the general public – all district email addresses will remain the same, and there will be no delivery delays or loss of data as we transition – but I did want to provide some information here regarding why the change is being made, and what the impact will be on staff members.
Why is this change being made?
One of the most common requests that we receive from teachers is to switch to Google for email. As a Google district, all of our students currently use Gmail, Google Calendar, and Google Drive, in addition to other Google technologies. Staff members use all of these except for Gmail, which limits the functionality of other G-Suite applications, such as Google Classroom. Further, we have received many staff concerns about 1) the need to log in to multiple services for communications purposes, 2) the off-campus performance of our current Exchange email, and 3) difficulties with implementing our current email service on mobile devices and on the guest network.
In addition to concerns about usability and performance, our Exchange solution comes at significant cost to the district. In addition to the time required to administer the service – which is far greater than that needed to administer a Gmail domain – monetary expenses in terms of licensing, data storage, server space, and backup infrastructure have become untenable. Specifically, we expect the transition to Google email to save the district about $52,000 per year.
Google for email service has become ubiquitous in the K-12 and higher education spaces across the country, and offers unlimited data storage to educational customers at no cost to us. Further, since we are already a Google district that makes heavy use of Google Drive, Google Classroom, and other Google services such as YouTube, our domain is already configured and managed for both staff and students, and the time and resources required to transition to and provide ongoing support for staff Gmail are relatively low. Gmail has been proven over the past decade to be a robust, high-performing service with uptime and support that meet or exceed industry standards. We will continue to be able to provide the services that currently provide via Exchange – including email, calendaring, and archival – at low or no cost to the district.
How will this change impact our staff and students?
Our goal in this process is to reduce or eliminate any negative impact of the transition. Email addresses will remain the same for both staff and students, and there will be no delay or disruption in terms of sending or receiving emails. Our student email accounts are already provided through the Gmail platform, so student accounts/access will be completely unaffected.
When we make the change, email will no longer be delivered to our internal Exchange servers, and instead will be routed to Google’s email servers. Staff Gmail logins are already available, though the accounts are not yet receiving messages.
The district will copy the most recent 180 days of email from staff accounts to Google, and staff members will have the discretion to move all of their old email to Gmail. Further, calendar information will also be copied from Exchange to Google, so any calendar notifications that are set in Outlook calendars will be placed into Google calendars (available at http://calendar.google.com)
I hope that this post has answered some of the questions that you have about the upcoming email transition. As we get closer to the switch, more information will be forthcoming, including written and video guides for staff members and a more detailed transition timeline. We’re working hard to keep the impact of this important change to a minimum, and we appreciate the supportive and patient approach of our staff and our community as we work to improve our communications technology offerings.