Biola Google Apps going live Thursday
As of Thursday, all students, faculty and staff now have the opportunity to utilize Biola’s new e-mail provider, Google Apps for Education.
The shift from the current system, BUBBS, to Google Apps was announced on April 8 at an employee management meeting, according to Gary Wytcherley, senior director of Information Technology.
The transition involves three stages, the first of which, pilot migration, began on April 1, when select members of the Biola community were chosen to appraise the new system. The second stage, early migration, has just been implemented. Students, faculty and staff can switch to Google Apps, but will have to do so without direct support from IT. Instructions will be available online through the IT website. The third stage, open migration, begins July 1. IT will offer assistance to all members of the Biola community, who must complete the transition by Dec. 17, 2010.
“Google Apps for Education is a package of online tools that makes communicating and collaborating easier and more efficient,” according to the IT Helpdesk website.
The Google Apps package will include Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, which allows users to share documents without sending e-mail attachments, Google Groups, which lets users communicate with specific groups of people all at once, Google Talk, used for instant messaging and voice calls, and Google Sites, which allows users to make group websites.
BUBBS was an expensive program, according to the student life website. The core version of Google Apps for Education, on the other hand, is free, according to the Google Apps website. It also touts the absence of advertisement throughout its system.
Biola is paying more for one addition, however.
“We are purchasing one extra feature that does have a charge,” said Steve Earle, director of technology services for IT. “Biola is purchasing Google Message Discovery — e-mail archiving and e-discovery — for all faculty and staff.”
Google Apps also will improve upon some of the lamented features of BUBBS. Gmail boasts a 7GB storage capacity, which will eliminate the need to delete old messages in order to send or receive new ones. There will also be a search function to sift through saved messages, according to Biola’s student life website. Google Apps sessions will be unlimited, meaning users will no longer be timed out.
People accustomed to BUBBS will notice a few missing components. Gmail does not include the convenient “unsend” and “history” features.
The new Google Apps system is not the only new technology to which students must adjust. The replacement for Portal, my.Biola, was released on April 1, in time for fall 2010 class registration. Google Apps and my.Biola are standalone technologies for the most part. Earle said they are not codependent and their almost parallel implementation was accidental.
“But they do complement each other very well, and it’s an advantage that they are happening at the same time,” he said.
The conferences section of BUBBS will be transferred to the my.Biola system under the name “groups,” says the student life website.
The IT customer support community has been fielding questions and suggestions from pilot migration users. So far, the feedback has been good, according to Earle.
“The pilot user group is very positive about the Google Apps for education experience,” he said. “The benefits of a modern e-mail system, integrated with calendars and chat, the increased mailbox size, and superb web interface is a big hit.”
Incoming students for fall will only receive a Google Apps account. Wytcherley cautioned students to be aware, come the end of fall semester.
“By December 18, all students, faculty, and staff must have completed their migration to Google Apps,” he said. “On this date, FirstClass/BUBBS will be converted to ‘read-only’ and will be shut down entirely on or after March 30, 2011.”