CIO's Blog

Stephen Frazier, Western Illinois University


Gmail and Google Apps to Replace Zimbra

gmail-logoAn edited version of the following article appeared in the April 11 issue of the Western Courier.


Western Illinois University is moving from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Apps this spring and summer. This change has been over two years in the making, and originated with a proposal submitted in March 2014 to WIU’s IT Governance process.

“The idea behind IT Governance is to engage the entire campus community as full-fledged partners in IT decision making,” said Stephen Frazier, WIU’s Chief Information Officer who leads 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.”

The proposal was reviewed by WIU’s Student Government Association, the Faculty Senate, and the Administrative Alliance (an IT Governance workgroup) for review and feedback. In November 2015, a task force comprised of individuals from across the University formally recommended that the University implement Google Apps. This recommendation was reviewed and approved by the President’s Leadership Team in early February 2016 and University Technology was subsequently directed to begin the transition.

The use of Google Apps by educational institutions such as Western is completely free, so the move from Zimbra (which has significant yearly costs and requires considerable man-hours to maintain) is an important cost saving measure. The business-class edition of Google Apps that WIU will be using is similar in feature sets to the free versions that anyone can access, but Google offers more support and storage for educational institutions.

University Technology’s goal is to have everyone (students, faculty, staff, retirees and alumni) moved from Zimbra to Google Apps by August 19 – just before the start of the fall semester. Nearly 700 early adopters have already been migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps. These early adopters are helping University Technology to ensure that the migration process of copying content from Zimbra to Gmail and Google Calendar is as flawless as possible for everyone else at the University that will be migrating between now and August.

“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.”

All users of WIU’s Google Apps will have unlimited storage for email, documents and files, which is a huge benefit over Zimbra’s storage limitations.  Additionally, they will be able to access the Google applications using the same ECom username and password they’ve always used to access systems like Zimbra and WesternOnline.

Matt Mencel, who serves as University Technology’s technical lead for the migration, said that “the unlimited storage space is a huge benefit to all users, students and employees alike.  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.”

What won’t change?  According to Mencel, “Your WIU email address will remain the same, and all of your existing email messages and calendars will be copied over to Google services for you automatically.”  He added that “there are some things that users will need to manually do after they are migrated, such as re-create email contact groups and copy their Zimbra briefcase files to Google Drive. But we’ve automated the migration process for everything else that we can.”

Frazier said, “We know that many people are anxious to move to Google Apps!  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!”

He also stated that WIU’s Google Apps transition team has created a website to answer questions regarding the move to Google Apps, as well as provide resources on how to use the various applications that Google provides. Visit wiu.edu/GoogleApps for details, and contact the uTech Support Center at support@wiu.edu if you have further questions.

Frazier said that the transition team is bringing Google’s best collaborative, cloud-based solutions to the University.  “We are joining well over 40 million other people who are using Google Apps for Education”, he said.  Frazier is optimistic that faculty, staff and students will explore and find new ways to work and learn using Google Apps for Education.

 


Google Guides and Early Adopters

gg_early_adoptersThe Google@WIU Transition Team has been hard at work preparing for WIU’s migration from Zimbra to Google Apps for Education!  Last week, they held a series of meetings for members of the University community who have been designated as “Google Guides.”  These guides will serve as local resources in their department and assist their colleagues with the migration. The Transition Team has already started migrating guides over to Google Apps to give them a head start on learning about the applications and so that they can receive additional training.

If you were one of the nearly 800 people who signed up to be an Early Adopter, this may be the news you’ve been waiting to hear.  The Transition Team is  ready for you, too!  Watch your email starting this week.  If you’ve been selected as an Early Adopter, you’ll receive an email indicating your scheduled migration date.  Some Early Adopters will be moved to Google Apps as early as this Friday.   A small group will be moved over first, and then the rest will be moved during the next few weeks.

The Transition Team will depend heavily on both the Google Guides and the Early Adopters to identify problems with the migration process or ways of doing things in Google Apps.  Their comments and questions should be sent to support@wiu.edu.

In the coming week, the Transition Team will be asking department directors, chairs and the deans to consider scheduling a time to migrate their entire department from Zimbra to Google Apps in one fell swoop. The Team recommends that departments migrate en masse if at all possible.  This will:

  • Make sure that everyone is using the same platform for consistency, compatibility and training
  • Ensure that calendars and appointments are not missing for intradepartmental meetings

Once again, thank you for your patience and assistance during this transition process!  The process has begun and nearly 200 people have migrated already.  I urge you to check wiu.edu/GoogleApps frequently for updates, resources, and FAQs regarding WIU’s migration to Google Apps!


Google Apps Update – March 2016

google-apps-icons-fbsize

WIU is Going Google!

Western Illinois University has chosen Google Apps to become its new email and calendar platform. University Technology (uTech) has been working on the migration and will begin moving select students and employees from Zimbra to the new services as early as this month!  You can read more about Google Apps and the history of how the University made the decision to move to this platform at wiu.edu/GoogleApps.

A WIU Google Apps Transition Team has been meeting regularly since late February in order to make plans.  There are many hurdles to overcome – technological, instructional, and contractual in nature.  Nevertheless, the team is moving forward with the aggressive goal of having everyone moved from Zimbra to Google Apps before the start of the fall 2016 semester.

In late February, the transition team invited members from the University community – students, employees, alumni, and retirees – to volunteer as early adopters who will alert the transition team to potential problems.  The response was amazing!  People had volunteered within minutes and the list has grown to include over 700 individuals. We will start migrating some of these volunteers in late March.  If you signed up, watch your emails to see if you were among those chosen!

In addition, we’ve asked the department chairs, deans and directors to nominate tech-savvy individuals from their areas to serve as “Google Guides”.  These Google Guides will be migrated along with the first early adopters and they will serve as local resources in their department by assisting their colleagues with questions relating to the migration and the new Google Apps programs. There are now over 150 employees and students who will serve as local Google Apps experts for their colleagues!  Besides turning to Google Guides for answers, uTech will make information and tutorials available on the wiu.edu/GoogleApps website.

A complicated transition such as this can be difficult and we appreciate that everyone – especially the Google Guides – will need to invest some time into learning about the new services. With their help and yours, WIU can quickly and efficiently make the move to Google Apps and start enjoying all the benefits that these new services have to offer.

The following is a rough timeline to help you plan for your migration. 

  • Late March: Google Guides and select early adopters to be migrated to Google Apps
  • Early April: No new Zimbra accounts will be created; all new WIU employees and incoming students will be given Google Apps accounts
  • Mid-April through May: Migrate remaining early adopters and migrate entire departments of faculty/staff (on an opt-in basis per request of department chairs/directors)
  • Starting June: Allow individual students, employees, alumni and retirees to opt in for immediate migration
  • August 19: All remaining users will be migrated from Zimbra to Google Apps

Please note that these dates may change depending on our progress. uTech will post this timeline and keep it updated at wiu.edu/GoogleApps, along with a list of resources, FAQs, and a list of Google Guides.  Please bookmark that page and check back there often!


Scanning of WIU E-mail for Sensitive Information Underway

Throughout this spring semester, automated processes will be scanning the Zimbra email accounts of all Western Illinois University community members (faculty, staff, students, and alumni) to identify sensitive information (social security numbers and credit card numbers) contained in email messages and attachments. The date when individual email accounts will actually be scanned cannot be determined because of the way email accounts are distributed across the mailbox clusters. However, we will email the campus community sometime in the late spring or early summer when the process has completely finished.

This is part of Western Illinois University’s ongoing commitment to protect its electronic assets. Scans of desktop computers and infrastructure servers in recent years have resulted in the remediation of over 37 million instances of sensitive data. Until recently, however, we have not had the means of scanning Zimbra accounts where this type of information is also stored. In addition to protection efforts, the remediation of sensitive information in Zimbra accounts is necessary to prepare for the possible migration of email accounts to another email service provider (such as Google or Microsoft).

When the automated scans identify possible credit card or social security numbers in an individual’s Zimbra account, it will send a notification via email to the account owner. The subject of the notification message will be “Sensitive Data Scan Report”. If you receive one of these messages, click on the link in the message to view instructions and then determine the nature of the information that was identified by the scans. Delete the email message or the attachment containing the sensitive information. You may also secure it outside of the email system, preferably in an encrypted format. However, do not simply copy it to your desktop or a shared folder where it will still be discoverable.

If no action is taken within a week of when the alert message is sent, the data will be archived and removed from the email account. If you have questions on how to protect sensitive information that needs to be retained, need access to the information once it has been archived, or are concerned about the validity of any email notification that you receive, please contact the uTech Support Center at (309) 298-2704.

It is everyone’s responsibility at Western to help ensure the protection of WIU’s electronic data. We appreciate your help, understanding and commitment to these ongoing efforts!


Email in the Cloud

The following is an executive summary of IT Governance proposal #42 -“Implement Google Apps for Education at WIU” – written by Dr. Justin Ehrlich, Computer Sciences professor and co-Chair of the IT Governance Marketing/External Alliance.

This proposal will be presented at the next IT Governance Council meeting at 3:00 p.m. on Thursday, January 28, 2016 (in Horrabin Hall 1/QC Complex 2204). The meeting is open to the entire WIU community, and students, faculty and staff will be given an opportunity to make brief remarks concerning the proposal.  You are welcome and encouraged to view details on this proposal and provide additional feedback (note that the proposal details and forum are only accessible from an on-campus computer or via WIU’s VPN).


 

Last year an IT Governance proposal was made to move from Zimbra to a cloud-based service. The basis of this proposal (Proposal #42) was to save the University money by using Google Apps for Education (GAE) to host our email and calendar, while at the same time offering more services such as unlimited drive space, shared folders that can be set up by individuals, a superior interface, real-time collaboration (Google Docs), and alumni life-time WIU email addresses.

By using Google to host our email and calendar, we won’t have to continue to replace or maintain our Zimbra software and VMware servers, saving us between $55,000 and $72,000/year and between 250 and 500 hours/year of personnel time, allowing these resources to be used for other areas and services.

The proposal has gone before the Student Government Association, Faculty Senate and the IT Governance Administration Alliance, all of which voted that we make the move to a cloud-based service. While the SGA voted that the switch be made directly to GAE, the Faculty Senate and IT Governance Alliance asked that a task force be created to compare the available platforms and to decide which platform, if any, might serve WIU the best.

Last semester the task force was formed by a representative from the Quad Cities appointed by the Vice President of Quad Cities and Planning, two administrator and staff representatives appointed by the ITG Admin Alliance, four University Technology members appointed by the Chief Information Officer, the director of Center for Innovation in Teaching and Research, the chair of the ITG Executive Committee, and five dean-appointed faculty members to represent the colleges and library. The task force narrowed the available options down to Microsoft Office 365 for Education and GAE, and ultimately decided on GAE for its superior interface, functionality, and campus familiarity. To augment task force’s decision, a survey was sent out to the entire campus. Of the 1,420 respondents, 79% responded that the University should move from Zimbra to a cloud-based platform, 93% reported a familiarity to Google gmail, and 71% responded that we should move to GAE. The accumulated survey data is included in chapter 4 of the full report, and the comments are located in appendix II. The task force received a few emails, which are anonymously included in appendix III.

While Google Apps for Education is free, Google will have access to our data. Under contract Google will not run ads or analyze University or student data for purposes of ads, but they can still analyze users’ activities for purposes of improving services. Also Google will not make any guarantees as to where the data resides. While we will be able to choose to base our data in the United States, pieces of our data may be migrated for performance reasons. For instance, if a faculty travels to the UK and accesses data stored in the cloud, that data may temporarily be migrated to the Dublin data center. While this might be considered an added risk, under contract Google is subject to FERPA. The FERPA clause stipulates that Google is considered a “School Official” and must protect our data in a way that is FERPA compliant. Further, the University remains the owner of all data stored in GAE. To provide administrative access to the users’ data, Google provides a tool, Google Vault, that features e-discovery, email archiving, email and file searching, removal, and audit reports.

The original proposal called for the University to replace the P:\ drive with Google Drive. However, after researching Google Drive, we found that there is no easy way to implement Google Drive in the computer labs due to not being able to map a drive letter unless the files are synced. We’ve also received requests from the University community to retain the P:\ drive for a variety of reasons. The task force looked at the costs of maintaining the P:\ drive and found that it is insignificant when compared to maintaining the Zimbra servers, so we recommend not replacing the P:\ drive. However, we do recommend enabling the Google Drive functionality, as this won’t require any additional costs and adds a lot of functionality, including collaboration tools using Google Apps.

In conclusion the cloud services task force recommends that the University replace Zimbra email and calendar with GAE. The campus community should have all of the GAE features available to them, including Google Classroom, Google Sites, Google Drive, and Google Docs. While migrating to GAE will take time, we believe that if the process is started this semester, the University can be fully migrated by the end of Summer 2016 in time for the Fall 2016 semester.

A complete report on this proposal includes the timeline of this proposal (chapter 2) comparison that the task force made between GAE and Office 365 for Education (chapter 3), the survey aggregate data (chapter 4), the Google Apps for Education terms of service (chapter 5), notes from other institutions (Appendix I), the survey comments (Appendix II), email questions/comments (Appendix III), and frequently asked questions (Appendix IV).


We welcome additional feedback, comments and discussion on this proposal via our online forums. The forums, as well as the complete details on the proposal, are accessible from on-campus computers or via WIU’s VPN.

 


uTech Support Center Services Moved to University Union

Walk-In Computer Support now available in the University Union

Welcome back to the spring 2016 semester, Western!

Last Sunday, January 17, 2016, the University Union concourse location (previously solely occupied by the uTech Computer Store) became uTech’s primary walk-in support center location. In addition to the personal sales and repair services currently offered, much of the support services historically offered from uTech’s Stipes Hall location now call the Union home.

uTech (in the Union) will assist patrons with installing various software packages as well as configuring mobile devices to work with the campus wireless and Zimbra. In addition to warranty repair services, several fee-based services will also be available for personally-owned devices such as removing malware, attempting data recovery from malfunctioning portable drives, operating system reinstallations, and non-warranty repairs for both Windows and Macs. Opportunities for students, faculty, and staff to make personal computer, mobile device, and accessory purchases will continue to be available. All of these services will be offered solely through the Union location. Patrons seeking these services in Stipes Hall will be re-directed to the University Union location.

uTech (in Stipes) will continue to provide test scoring, item analysis, and evaluation processing as well as troubleshooting WIUP and STARS login issues in person. Troubleshooting ECom login issues in person will be available at both locations.

This is a significant change for uTech and WIU. However, by shifting much of our walk-in service to the more central Union location, we are making these services more available to students, faculty, and staff at the south end of campus. In addition, the Union facility lends itself to allowing uTech to provide more hours of operation for walk-in services – our normal hours of operation for walk-in services will be extended in the Union until 6pm during the week. We are also thrilled that we will now be able to consistently offer weekend hours while classes are in session. The new setup takes advantage of the natural tie-in between technology support and technology sales.

We truly believe that the format for the uTech Union location will prove to be a very valuable resource to the WIU community. Our top-notch full-time and student staff will be able to provide greater access to an improved service. We also realize that old habits are hard to break, so please be patient as uTech makes this transition.


University Technology Reorganization Update

University Technology at Western Illinois University is continuing its transformation process!  Beginning on January 2, 2016, the department will be reorganized to become more efficient and effective.  Planning for this change began nearly a year and a half ago when Administrative Information Management Systems (AIMS), Electronic Student Services (ESS), Quad Cities Technology, and University Technology (uTech) were combined under the name of University Technology.

While there are many aspects to the reorganization, the most evident changes will be:

The formation of a new Applications Group. In the past if people went to AIMS asking for a program or application, AIMS would provide a mainframe-based solution.  uTech and ESS, however, would provide a Windows or Linux-based solution.  Now that AIMS, ESS and uTech are together in one organization, one group will handle all of these requests and be in a position to make the best decision on which platform to use.  This new group, called the Applications Group, will also maintain 3rd party applications and report to the director of AIMS.

Additional support for the IT Security team.  Bob Emmert will be heading up a new security team. Along with other initiatives, they will be working with an IT security firm, Dell SecureWorks. This firm has just finished a comprehensive IT security audit for WIU.  In addition, they are monitoring server traffic and watching for malicious or fraudulent activity.

The uTech Support Center will be relocated.  The uTech Computer Store will now be part of uTech’s Support Services headed by Kevin Morgan.  The Support Center (Help Desk), which is currently located in Stipes Hall, will be moved into the uTech Computer Store in the University Union. This will be more centrally located for walk-in support. Phone support, however, will continue to be provided from the Stipes Hall location.

Although reporting lines will change on January 2nd for some people within uTech, not all staff will begin their new duties immediately.  A transition period is needed to allow them to learn their new support roles and turn over some of their former duties to others.  Also, University Technology will form a liaison council during the spring 2016 semester.  The directors and some of the managers in uTech, along with college tech reps and staff in various organizations served by uTech, will meet regularly with the CIO to help identify service needs and priorities.

More details about uTech’s reorganization plans can be found on the uTech website at www.wiu.edu/utech/.  If you have any questions about the reorganization, please don’t hesitate to contact me.  I hope that everyone has a relaxing winter break and a wonderful holiday season, and I look forward to working with each of you in the year to come!

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.