When you’ve got a campus with 70,000 students and staff on it, all requiring some form of integrated cloud service, be it for email, scheduling, documents, or what have you, the decision-making process over which service to use is not a trivial one.
Fortunately, UC Berkeley considered it not only necessary, but a duty to the public to not just consider the options carefully but to explain those considerations. They’ve put up a nice detailed comparison of Google and Microsoft’s offerings (Apps and Office 365) as they relate to University business. Anyone or any institution thinking of doing a similar deployment may find it interesting reading.
For the rest of us, perhaps an executive summary will do:
Google essentially won out on flexibility and ease of use for both those implementing the system and their users. Migration from Cal’s local services to Google’s would take far less time, cost less money, and be far less complicated than if they had gone with Microsoft, whose installation process involves putting in local servers and replacing key services.
But it was far from a knockout; in fact, Google receives a drubbing in calendar features and integration, and in the specifics of the contracts. Microsoft’s robust calendar, built on years and years of enterprise work, is far superior to Google Calendar, which is made to be a simple, accessible, social tool. And Microsoft appears to have a contract that is more sensitive to, say, HIPAA requirements and other things important to a research university. Microsoft also ekes ahead on security, which isn’t surprising.
It seems that Berkeley felt that the most important thing was to have a good-enough system (with room for improvement) that’s familiar to its users. A quarter of Berkeley students are already on Gmail, which indicates the ubiquity of the service, and Microsoft was less yielding on a few features that would have to be migrated to their own solutions. Universities are patchworks of overlapping semi-compatible systems, but Cal appears to feel that Google’s system integrates and improves more than it fails (or necessitates changes in).
University digital infrastructure is a strange beast, and judging by the fact that both of these high-profile services have serious shortcomings, it may be that there’s room for someone to step in with a better solution. Students often have their own emails that they’d like to keep for as long as possible, and an @berkeley.edu one just isn’t important to them. They also are extremely likely to have smartphones, and those ownership numbers are only growing. We’ve seen some work on digitizing the content in our universities, but we’re still waiting on the breakthrough that definitively brings the university experience into the 21st century.
Berkeley’s existing agreements with Microsoft are unaffected (bulk software licenses and lots of specialty software). The announcement sent to students can be found here.