Starting Monday, UNC Charlotte students will suddenly be able to do a lot more with their email accounts.
Like share documents, set up automatic forwarding and enjoy more storage space - 70 times more.
This weekend, the university is switching its student email system from an 8-year-old Microsoft Exchange Server platform with on-campus server to the company's new - and free - Live@edu service. The university calls the new email system "NinerMail."
UNC Charlotte planned an email outage July 23, and today to complete the transfer, which should be finished by day's end. Students' email addresses will remain the same, but they'll find the new account is far easier to integrate with their mobile devices and able to support document sharing in Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint.
Mainly, though, they'll be able to take advantage of 10 gigabytes of email storage and 25 gb of file storage - compared to 500 megabytes, or 0.5 gb, under the old system.
The university approved the switch in August. Staffers in UNC Charlotte's Information Technology department have worked since January to transfer all the data and documents stored in students' accounts from the existing server to "the cloud," the system of Microsoft servers scattered throughout the country, said Jay Dominick, UNCC's vice chancellor for information technology, who's overseen the project.
"We've been working on this a long time, longer than we ever would have thought," Dominick said. "If you'd told me in January, when we started, that it would take us six months to do it, I would've laughed." With about 25,000 email accounts to transfer, it just took longer than expected, he said.
The Live@edu service for students costs the university, and therefore taxpayers, nothing. UNCC faculty, administrators and staff will continue to use an on-campus server instead of Live@edu because Microsoft would charge for faculty and staff use. Also, UNC Charlotte officials aren't comfortable with third-party access to employees' accounts, Dominick said.
The Live@edu service is one of two communication, file-sharing and data storage systems - Google's Apps for Higher Education is the other - designed for university students and increasingly popular with four-year colleges and universities.
"It's becoming the default way of providing email to students," Dominick said. "What we're finding as universities, as are companies, is that we want the market to provide those services that the market can best provide. Google and Microsoft - we'll never be able to provide better service than those two guys, so why not have them do it?"