LIS is pleased to announce a plan to implement Google Apps for Education at Luther under the name Norse Apps. This online productivity suite will include Luther-branded versions of Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk, Google Documents, and iGoogle (Google Start Page). Implementation will begin in Spring 2008 and complete by summer 2009.
LIS has been piloting use of these services since mid-2007 and based upon our review, some significant benefits to Luther to implementing these services would be:
- Better Quality of Service – By partnering with an international leader in online collaborative services, we can offer a state-of-the-art suite of online tools locally.
- Improved Reliability – By hosting these services with an international leader in providing these services, we gain reliability, redundancy, and scalability, beyond what is feasible for Luther to provide individually.
- Emergency Preparedness – With offsite hosting of email, and easy access from any web-enabled computer or telephone, this critical communication tool would be much more likely to be functional during a significant emergency on campus.
- Cost Savings – We estimate that Luther can save approximately $30,000 annually in hardware costs, service costs, and staff time after full implementation.
- Lifelong Email for Alumni – Alumni will now have the choice of keeping the Luther Norse Apps account active or forwarding their Luther email elsewhere.
- Campus-Wide Integrated Calendaring – All members of the Luther community would have access to calendaring, a significant expansion of our current service.
- Integrated Portal – The suite of services includes a brandable portal that integrates with other online tools more easily (and cheaply) than other options.
- User-Provisioned Document Collaboration Tools – Students in particular will benefit from document sharing and collaboration features.
LIS has a strategic planning goal and initiative to carefully consider third-party partnerships to deliver some information services. We need to look closely at our allocation of technology support resources in order to apply them in ways that distinctively support our mission of an undergraduate liberal arts institution. Given the evolution of web-based email and collaboration services, this is an opportunity for us to provide a proven suite of commodity Internet-based services with a third-party partner, allowing us to reallocate resources to locally-distinctive products and services.
LIS is currently preparing web-based migration utilities to provide an easy and seamless transition experience for users moving into the new application suite. Once these tools are in place, we will begin wider publicity on campus to encourage users to begin the migration process. The beta program LIS has been using to test the suite has now ended, and we are no longer accepting applications for individuals to transfer to the new system until our new web-based migration tools are in place.
A full project proposal is attached to this message describing the applications, timeline, and what this migration will mean for end users.
A special thank you to all the LIS staff, students and faculty who have participated in our trial period. We look forward to a successful launch of these exciting new services in the spring.