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Over the next several months, Smith will be moving from Novell GroupWise to Google Apps for Education as our supported platform for email and calendar services.

What are the benefits of making this change?

In changing to this platform, Smith is seeking to provide:

  • Improved system reliability. Migrating to the Google platform will provide email and calendar services backed by multiple Google data centers as well as Google's guarantee of 99.9% uptime. In emergency situations, such as an extended power outage, the college’s email system will continue to operate, facilitating communication among all members of our local and extended community.

  • Improved access across devices. Your email and calendar will be accessible from any modern computer with Internet access anywhere in the world. All features of the system will be available through a web browser – no specialized email client would be required. In addition, you will be able to access your Smith email and calendar from mobile devices including Apple iPhones and Android phones.

  • Lower costs. Moving to Smith Mail and Smith Calendar will eliminate the cost of maintaining the GroupWise system. No new server hardware will be required.

  • Increased security. Google data centers are highly engineered and provide best-in-class security and disaster recovery.

  • Increased functionality. Changing to a Google Apps for Education platform will provide every user with 25 GB of storage, spam and virus filtering, and IMAP and POP access. It will also provide integrated contact management, video, and instant messaging.

  • Access to the full Google Apps for Education suite. Google Apps for Education includes many other applications designed to foster sharing and collaboration among students, staff, and faculty. Adopting this platform will allow members of the Smith community to begin using those tools right away if they wish, or to wait until training became available during follow-up phases to our transition to Google Apps for Education.

Will my email address change?
No, your email address will remain [currentusername]

How will the transition happen?
ITS will provide documentation and training for all faculty and staff. The changeover will happen department by department. At a selected time for your group or department to switch to Smith Mail and Calendar, ITS will copy all the messages, appointments, and contacts stored in your GroupWise system to the new environment.

At the completion of the transition process, you will no longer use GroupWise to manage your email and appointments. Instead, you will use the Google-based Smith Mail and Smith Calendar, accessed through the Google Chrome browser (recommended) or another web browser of your choice. For those who prefer to access Smith Mail through a client, ITS will support Apple Mail for Mac users and Microsoft Outlook for Windows users.

When will the transition happen?
We plan to start the transition process in January 2012 with students, and begin migrating academic and administrative departments in February and March. All users will be migrated by April 2012. We will provide training in a variety of formats for departments and individuals.

Will Google have access to our data?
No. Google takes appropriate security measures to protect against unauthorized access to or unauthorized alteration, disclosure, or destruction of data. These include internal reviews of data collection, storage and processing practices, and security measures, including appropriate encryption and physical security measures to guard against unauthorized access to systems where personal data is stored. Google restricts access to personal information to Google employees, contractors and agents who need to know that information in order to process it on their behalf. These individuals are bound by confidentiality obligations and may be subject to discipline, including termination and criminal prosecution, if they fail to meet these obligations.

Will there be Google advertising on Smith Mail?
Smith Mail will be completely ad-free and your content will not be processed by Google's advertising systems. The Google Apps Terms of Service contractually ensures that Smith College is the sole owner of its data.

Have other schools transitioned to Google Apps for email and calendars recently?
Numerous colleges and universities use Google Apps for Education. Some that have recently moved to Google Apps include Colgate University, Hamilton College, Oberlin College, and the University of Michigan.

I like our current desktop client. Can I continue to use it?
You will not be able to continue using Groupwise after the college's migration to Google Apps is complete, ITS will support the Apple Mail client for Mac users and the Microsoft Outlook client for Windows users.

If I need help with the new mail and calendar system, can I still contact Smith’s User Support Center?
Yes. USC staff will provide walk-in and telephone support (413-585-4487) for Google Apps and answer any questions sent by email to The USC is open 8-5 Monday through Friday whenever the college is open.

How will ITS communicate with us?

You will receive information via the Gate, The Sophian, eDigest, the faculty listserve, meetings with groups, open forums, and email.

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More Questions and Answers

Q: Google "guarantees" 99.9% uptime. How does this Google guarantee relate to actual performance? How does this compare to our current system?

A: What this means: 99.9% uptime translates to about 9 hours of downtime of services per year. We are not aware that Google has failed to meet this. If they did, we're not sure if we'd have any legal recourse for compensation of resulting damages, but the hit to their reputation would be far worse than any losses we might incur.

How this compares: Overall, the Smith GroupWise system has been very reliable, but there are periods of time when subsets of the Smith community lose service for short periods when a specific component needs to be updated, or fails unexpectedly. GroupWise, along with other services, are also unavailable for more extended periods of time whenever we experience a data center environment failure such as a power outage or air conditioning failure. Power outages are the main cause for GroupWise downtime, and this year have put GroupWise well under the 99.9% uptime threshold.

Q: What are the expected cost savings per year of going to Google?

A: We have not completed a Total Cost of Ownership analysis for the complete GroupWise system, but here are some of the cost contributors: about 35 servers specifically dedicated to GroupWise services (15 physical servers, plus 20 servers hosted in a virtual server environment); total of 3-4 terabytes of data on highly redundant disk storage; licensing and support maintenance costs for the GroupWise application suite, malware/virus scanning, and related services; backup costs (including backup software, backup servers, storage, tape libraries and media); data center power and A/C costs; and staff time to manage and support this complex system.

Google has these kinds of resources available in abundance already, so adding users to their existing environment does not represent a significant cost increase for them. Google provides basic email, address book and calendaring services for educational institutions at no charge.

Q: What does "best-in-class" security mean? What other providers are in Google's class? This sounds like advertising rather than real information. What is the security record of Google email compared to Groupwise?

A: Yes, it is advertising, but there is truth behind it. First, the only other hosted email provider that comes close to Google's class is Microsoft, but even they are second to Google, especially in adoption by higher education institutions. We are aware of two things: Google has a massively large and dedicated staff devoted to IT security and they take it very seriously. Microsoft also takes security very seriously, but their overall track record is not exactly pristine. From what we've gleaned over time, our opinion is that Google's security is state of the art, and as good as we could hope to find from any email service provider.

GroupWise services at Smith are also very secure. The application itself is very secure, but there are always security flaws that are discovered and patches issued, and there is inevitably a sizable time lag between when a security vulnerability becomes known to those who might exploit it, and when a patch is developed, disseminated, and finally applied by ITS staff to eliminate that vulnerability. And although ITS system administrators also take security very seriously, we do not provide dedicated security staffing, and do not provide 24x7x365 staffing to monitor and address security issues. Google does.

Q: Regarding access to data, have there been any breaches of Google-protected email data in the last year? How were they discovered and resolved? What were the consequences?

A: To the best of our knowledge, there have been no recent technical breaches into GMail, ie. breaches that exploited a vulnerability in Google's hosted service itself - at least that have made it to the public eye.

There have been breaches of GMail via account compromise, the most notable involving a massive effort using "spear phishing" (coercing users to reveal their account password) against select individuals (mostly in the military, political, and media fields) that originated in China. Another notable breach occurred when a hacker obtained account credentials using stolen Internet security certificates that allowed him or her to masquerade as a legitimate encryption endpoint and so to gain unauthorized access to some network traffic; this happened in Iran. Neither of these events were the result of a direct, successful attack on GMail services.

Q: I just don't believe any claims that Google makes about not collecting and selling data about my content and use that might be valuable to advertisers. This is how it makes money. I would be interested in knowing more about why Google wants our business.

A: Google's privacy policy ( states that they do not own "Smith's" data, and do not sell it. To the best of our knowledge, specific information about you, as well as information that is specifically yours, is not sold or released without your explicit permission.

We can't speak to Google's business model, but Google certainly makes money by statistical trend analysis, and by providing businesses with the results of those analyses.  Attracting more users to their services (and away from competitors) increases the accuracy and value of their statistical analyses. They also recognize that more widespread use of Google services in education translates over time into greater adoption by businesses (that must pay a fee) and by personal users (more "eyes" for their advertisers).

Finally, the founders of Google were from Stanford University, which still owns the patents on their original search methodology. The founders still respect the academic community's historical reliance on free and open access to the Internet in support of academic endeavors. Their decision to provide free non-commercial services to educational institutions (and other non-profits as well) honors those roots.

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 |  Last updated January 10, 2013

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