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98 Percent of Students Switch to Gmail

By Gautam S. Kumar and Julia L. Ryan, Crimson Staff Writers

In the three weeks since Google began hosting @college webmail accounts, 98 percent of the 5,610 students using @college email addresses made the switch.

With the exception of a few security breaches, most students reported successful shifts to the new email client.

The switch to Google’s Gmail email client was done in tandem with the merger of two Harvard information technology departments into one unit, Harvard University Information Technology.

That organization, founded June 15, united Faculty of Arts and Sciences IT with University Information Systems, bringing together over 450 Harvard staff members.

According to administrators within HUIT, the synergy between the members of the new organization facilitated the email shift.

“The combination of expertise and bench strength allowed us to make the change from one email platform to another in an incredibly short time-frame and without problems,” IT spokesperson Sarah F. O’Connell said.

In particular, O’Connell noted that the team prioritized efficiency in the process.

In mid-May, FAS IT and UIS still served as independent bodies, but together they began examining the new infrastructure for @college email.

Administrators formally decided to make the shift on June 9, hoping to get the new system in place before students returned to campus in late August.

This short time-frame required “all hands on deck” according to O’Connell, who said that HUIT even decided to put some undisclosed projects on hold.

“We are pleased to hear that this is making it easier for students to do their work,” she said.

The new infrastructure replaces the former @college webmail client, Mail2World.

While often criticized by students for being clunky and difficult to use, Mail2World, a Los Angeles-based company that the College turned to two years ago, was never meant to be a temporary fix, HUIT officials said.

In fact, Harvard considered Google when it created @college email accounts but opted for Mail2World instead.

“At the time, it was determined to be the solution that best met all of our requirements, which Google did not,” O’Connell said.

Two years ago, students expressed apprehension over perceived security threats associated with an external company managing @college emails.

“With any outside vendor, there’s a serious concern about privacy and data ownership,” Joshua A. Kroll ’09 said at the time.

But current students have not expressed the same worry.

Alaina Alvarez ’13 said she isn’t concerned about having Google manage her email account.

“It’s a school email so I’m just using it for school purposes,” Alvarez said.

—Staff writer Gautam S. Kumar can be reached at gkumar@college.harvard.edu.

—Staff writer Julia L. Ryan can be reached at jryan@college.harvard.edu.

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