On April 17, certain Stanford undergraduates were offered the opportunity to be among the first to transition their University IT services – email, calendar, contacts, etc. – to Google Apps. By July 13, the current Zimbra service will be retired, to be wholly replaced by Google’s offering. The history of this transition is somewhat ironic. Yahoo’s Zimbra itself supplanted Oracle Webmail in 2008, beating out bids from Microsoft’s Outlook / Exchange and Google’s Gmail for the Stanford contract. Four years later, Gmail has emerged victorious.
Like any transition, we do not expect the change to be seamless. Any students or staff who access their Stanford email through an email client – on a smartphone or desktop application like Thunderbird or Alpine – will need to manually reconfigure their settings. Likewise, any filters or email signatures set up in Zimbra will need to be manually reimplemented in Gmail. These one-time costs are to be expected with any IT transition of this magnitude, and Google Apps will likely deliver tangible benefits for the University. Google’s vast infrastructure will offer better uptime while reducing costs; Vanderbilt University reportedly saved $750,000 in its transition to Google Apps.
Essentially, the design of the migration process encourages users to agree to a set of contentious terms with Google that have nothing to do with University email or calendar. And if you don’t like Google’s controversial terms, you’re punished by being denied access to your Stanford email until your HelpSU ticket is processed. This is deceitful and wholly unacceptable for a service as critical as official University email. The Editorial Board is disappointed that Stanford IT Services is seemingly disinterested in ensuring respectful business practices by its official partners, and the Board calls upon Stanford to clean up this poorly implemented migration process.