tidBiTS
Informs and engages the UNB community on IT developments and news

Office365 for faculty and staff

Author: ITS

Posted on Aug 9, 2016

Category: Management Briefings

Microsoft recently completed building two state-of-the-art data centers in Canada to host cloud services, including Office365 (O365), the company’s premier collaboration and productivity platform featuring tools such as email, calendars, and personal file storage. Microsoft offers O365 to all users at educational institutions free of charge, which is highly appealing considering hosting the same services at UNB costs over $100,000 a year. UNB has long leveraged Office365; our students have been hosted in the Microsoft cloud, at no cost, since 2011. Until now, O365 has been physically housed in data centers in the US. With Microsoft operating cloud facilities here, UNB can undertake wider deployment of O365 services—among other things, users of O365 will have access to much larger email quotas and personal storage space—essentially unlimited—than UNB can ever hope to offer on premises. Many other Canadian universities have already moved faculty and staff to O365, including Queen’s, Dalhousie, Trent, McGill, HEC Montreal, Acadia, and UdeMoncton.

ITS proposes to migrate staff and faculty email, calendar, and personal file storage to O365 in the MS Canadian data center. We will offer a deferral until March 31, 2018 for those who need it, but the majority of migrations will take place in the summer of 2017. Between now and April 2017, early adopters and selected pilot users will be migrated to ensure we have all the technical and operational issues worked out. To inform the community about these new services, and to provide a forum for discussion and feedback, ITS is organizing presentations to targeted groups, and public town halls will be held on both campuses.

Many UNB faculty and staff members already use free or low-cost cloud services, some without even being aware they are doing it. Consumer services like Gmail, GoogleDocs, Facebook, LinkedIn, DropBox—and many, many others—are housed and maintained in the cloud, usually outside of Canada. Some current UNB enterprise services are also cloud-based; for example, Brightspace, the learning management system from Desire2Learn, is hosted on servers in data centres located in Ontario. Offerings like O365 can be extended to faculty and staff because there is little worry that private or institutional information is being stored outside the country; risk of confidential data leaving our control is lower than ever. Indeed, a US Federal Appeal Court recently ruled the government can’t force Microsoft (and presumably other cloud providers) to turn over a customer’s email held in another country (ITWorldCanada, July 15, 2016).

O365 advances UNB’s IT strategy, directly supporting the overarching university objectives of providing an exceptional, transformative student experience; enhancing financial resilience and responsibility; and building a better university. Once the project is completed the entire UNB community will have access to, for the first time, comprehensive, cloud-based, easy-to-use tools designed to facilitate interaction with colleagues and students anywhere, anytime, all in a secure environment that ensures privacy yet is highly flexible. What’s more, Microsoft continuously adds new features to O365 that expand its functionality and utility. For example, our VOIP system works seamlessly with O365, ensuring voicemail is delivered as expected, while video chat via Skype for Business, which UNB already deploys, makes conference calling throughout the university and beyond a breeze. At last, UNB is realizing the long-held vision of providing a ubiquitous, effective, and economical collaboration and communication service for the entire community.

Terry Nikkel, AVP, ITS, August 9, 2016