CTS continues search for new e-mail server

Students and faculty hoping for an e-mail upgrade may soon get their wish, as Campus Technology Services (CTS) has started their search for a new server for the Oswego State campus.

According to Chief Technology Officer Joseph Moreau, Microsoft and Google remain the top two candidates, and the possibility remains that a new e-mail server could be in place by next fall.

Oswego State’s current server, Sun Microsystems, has just about reached the end of its lifetime here at Oswego State, Moreau said, and it would be appropriate to search for a less costly heir.

Due to Sun being hosted in-house, the cost of hosting the client has become too much of a financial burden for Oswego State and a cash-strapped SUNY system to take. CTS must pay maintenance out of SUNY’s own pocket when problems occur, and that includes thousands of dollars for hardware failures. The original investment in Sun costs the school $200,000, a number that both Microsoft and Google are pledging not to charge.

"We are getting close to end of life cycle of the current hardware that supports e-mail," Moreau said. "Rather than investing thousands in new hardware, there are a lot of colleges and universities that are looking to software options to help reduce their costs."

One reason that both Google and Microsoft are expected to be so dramatically cheaper is because they will be hosted "in the clouds" as Moreau put it, meaning they are supervised, monitored, and taken care of by their own respective companies instead of CTS, which would then save the college money from paying repair fees.

"There are staff employed by [Google and Microsoft] that monitor these systems 24/7," Moreau said. "That’s difficult for us to do given our staff levels."

Due to the level of competition between Google and Microsoft and the recent trend among both companies to try to gain ground among the college demographic, it’s likely Oswego State could reach a deal that would be far more financially capable for the college, Moreau said.

"Particularly for the Microsoft and Google, they are fighting for market share, they really want to make friends with higher ed.," Moreau said. "They’re next customers are college grads and that’s there motivation for making it less costly."

Both programs would provide schools several new features such as an online calendar and increased file storage and sharing. They both are more powerful, which was something CTS kept in mind when looking for a replacement due to the high volume of email use at Oswego State.

Oswego State remains one of the few SUNY campuses to still utilize Sun Microsystems as an e-mail server. SUNY’s central system administration has recently agreed on a contract with Google that would help drastically reduce the time it would take to hammer out details and procure the product, said Moreau, possibly giving the Google route a slight advantage over Microsoft Live.

Finding a new e-mail server isn’t the only situation that CTS is currently investigating. ANGEL, the college’s web-based teaching program, was recently bought by online competitor Blackboard. With the college’s contract with the company only having one year remaining on it, the takeover by Blackboard is something that CTS will continue to monitor, Moreau said.

"I’d say that unless there is some serious upset that comes our way from Blackboard, we will continue to use Angel as long as its well supported and continues to be provided to us."