OIT begins test process of new webmail server
For students who would rather send e-mail through their Gmail account instead of Eden, the University may have what they're looking for, and it's closer to implementing it.
The Office of Information Technology is testing ScarletMail — a University-modified Gmail account that is part of Google's program, Apps for Education — with more than 800 students, asking them to complete a 10-15 minute task per week to see how students feel about the system before its implementation, OIT Associate Director Keri Budnovitch said.
"The task can be something like sending a message from ScarletMail to an account outside Rutgers or setting up a calendar," she said. "The students involved in the beta have provided very positive and constructive feedback about the applications."
Although problems can erupt when installing new information technology systems, OIT does not foresee any major issues, Budnovitch said.
"We have been testing the ScarletMail domain for many months and have not encountered any significant issues," she said. "Google has transitioned many schools to Google Apps for Education with no major issues reported."
After noticing the success of the program at other academic institutions, the University felt the program would be a good addition for students, Budnovitch said.
"The success of Google Apps for Education at other universities such as Northwestern, Arizona State and Brown was a factor for Rutgers," she said.
Budnovitch said an interesting aspect of Google Apps for Education is that Google is not allowed to sell advertisements for ScarletMail and is instead handled by the University.
"This is a setting Rutgers manages locally based on the Google Apps for Education contract," she said. "It is a side benefit of the program, and there are no plans to change this."
Budnovitch said the program offers many benefits for the University, providing students with additional applications to enhance their school-provided e-mail account.
"Google Apps for Education was selected because of its extensive suite of collaborative applications," she said via e-mail correspondence. "If we were to develop similar applications in-house, it would take much longer and be much more costly."
Some of these new applications are instant messaging tools, sharable calendars and a website tailored for students and faculty — all at no cost.
"There's no hardware or software to install or maintain, since everything is delivered through a standard Web browser — anytime, from anyplace," according to their website.
Google will also handle all of the maintenance for the mail servers, which allows universities to spend money on upgrades instead of server issues, according to their website.
Some University students feel impartial to the change but acknowledged it may be easier to work with ScarletMail because it resembles the Gmail interface they are already familiar with.
Rutgers College senior Francis Rufino said as long as the system works and does not hinder communication with University professors, he has no problem with the switch.
"At first when they switch things, it could have some kinks," he said. "Once they get going though, it helps us all out."
But School of Arts and Sciences junior Chelsea Ruhland said even if there are problems with the system, the University is going to implement it regardless.
"I don't think [ScarletMail] is necessary because I don't see any problems with Eden," she said. "[But] I feel like no matter what, everyone is going to have to adjust to it anyway."
For students like Ruhland, Budnovitch said students would be able to choose whether to stay with their Eden accounts or begin using ScarletMail.
"Students who are using existing e-mail services will have the option of creating a Rutgers Google — ScarletApps — account or continuing to use their existing e-mail services," she said.
The University and OIT plan to make the use of ScarletMail available for all incoming and transfer students in the fall of 2011, Budnovitch said.