UW-P kicks Zimbra to curb

Contract with Zimbra ends in August, Microsoft Office 365 becomes new UW-P email system January 2015

During January 2015, the University of Wisconsin-Platteville will transition from Zimbra, their current email system, to the email system that most universities in the UW System use: Microsoft Office 365.

Over the previous five months, Special Assistant to the Vice Chancellor for Administrative Services Matthew Roberts compared four different email server options: continuing with Zimbra, having another company host the campus email system, Google Apps for Education and Microsoft Office 365.

Google Apps for Education, although a close, second choice, was a concern for some faculty because Google generally utilizes the content of emails on Gmail in order to learn more about the user, instilling privacy concerns.

“We had faculty members say that if we went to Google, they wouldn’t use it,” Roberts said.

Aside from initial costs, Microsoft Office 365 will be free to the campus, whereas Zimbra costs the university approximately $100,000 a year.

While contemplating the switch from Zimbra to Microsoft Office 365, this became a major factor in the decision-making process because there have been financial issues on campus due to various budget cuts.

UW-Platteville held a five-year contract with Zimbra, which expires in August, but Microsoft Office 365 does not require a contract because it is free, meaning that the campus can use the email system indefinitely or change systems in the future.

Microsoft Office 365 will provide 50 GB of email space for each user, while Zimbra only provides 1 GB as the default for student accounts.

Eventually, the UW-Platteville campus, which provides the J-Drive of shared space to faculty and students, aspires to part with the J-Drive because Microsoft Office 365 will provide 25 GB of shared space to each user.

“This OneDrive would become your storage space,” Roberts said. “You can share that with other people, as well. You can set it up on your own to share directories, so if you’re working on a project with other students, then everyone can have access to that.”

Microsoft Office 365 will also be much more mobile-friendly than Zimbra, which will be useful to students because smart phones are prominently used on campus.

While UW-Platteville now plans to switch from Zimbra to Microsoft Office 365, other universities in the UW System have already been using Microsoft Office 365.

“We’re using the same thing that other schools are using, which means when they’ve got issues, we can learn from them. If they have tools they’ve developed, we can use those, so here, on campus, that will help in the long run,” Roberts said.

All emails and calendar events will be transferred from Zimbra to Microsoft Office 365 and students will keep the same email address for the new system.

In addition, graduates will also be able to maintain and access their UW-Platteville email address.

“It was a tough decision. All of the products were good, and we know that a lot of people were happy with Zimbra,” Roberts said. “It was a hard decision to go to Microsoft; it was not taken lightly, but we believe that this is the best option for the campus.”