Duke is assuming an “out with the old, in with the new” philosophy concerning its email database.
The University has chosen to replace the current DukeMail system with Microsoft 365 University, an offshoot of the cloud-based computer system designed specifically for academic institutions beginning early 2013. The decision to switch was made after students and faculty expressed increased difficulty using Duke’s current email database, and because the cloud technology offers improved security, said Cara Bonnett, Office of Information Technology managing editor.
“The trend toward cloud-provided email began several years ago, but it’s only recently that the terms offered by one of the major cloud vendors contained the level of protections for Duke data that met our standards,” Bonnett wrote in an email Tuesday. “A move to the cloud will mean that time, money and effort previously spent running an on-campus email system can be used to provide other IT services to our students, faculty and staff.”
Major benefits will include a more modern web interface, integration between mail and calendar functionality, and fewer email outages, Bonnett added. The system provides students access to Internet versions of common Windows productivity tools such as Word and Excel.
The University was encouraged to make the change after observing successful cloud systems at other universities, such as Dartmouth College and Cornell University. OIT expects to officially notify students of these changes later this Fall or in early Spring after the concrete schedule for implementation is put in place. Users of the University’s email database will have to make minor configuration updates to their mail client in order to switch to the new system, Bonnett said.
Duke students have expressed mixed feelings on the current email system, fearing a dramatic transformation but noting the troubles they have had with DukeMail in the past.
“It kind of worries me that I’m going to have to go through a whole bunch of changes,” said freshman Casey Tissue.
Sophomore Erin McInerney said she enjoyed the organizational aspects of the current layout.
“I like being able to make folders,” McInerney said. “I’m an organization freak, so it’s very convenient that it’s easy for me to stay organized.”
Although she is concerned about the impending makeover, Tissue said that she has had issues accessing email on her phone, since the mobile screen cuts off the full interface.
McInerney, happy with the system herself, said she has heard peers express dissatisfaction.
“Most people don’t like our email system,” she said, adding that many of her classmates automatically forward Duke emails to their Gmail accounts.
Bonnett said that individuals who forward their Duke emails to a separate system, such as Gmail or Hotmail, will still have the ability to keep those settings.
Ultimately, McInerney said that she is willing to make the switch as long as she can maintain her Internet privacy and keep some of the same utilities.
“As long as my functions remain the same, I don’t really care if there’s a difference,” McInerney said. “As long as my privacy is protected and I can still read my email, that would be great.”