Outsourcing E-mail

Higher Education and K-12 institutions have always either lead in the IT field with innovative solutions or been way behind in technology to the point of not having any.

Open source has always been an option, although generally for the technically inclined but several years ago the big guys (Google and Microsoft), brought hosted E-mail offerings to the table that would out perform any locally installed solution and without a price tag associated with it.

A new player recently entered the market with their very attractive offering. ZCS from Zimbra.

Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) is a groupware product created by Zimbra Inc., located in San Mateo, California, USA. The company was purchased by Yahoo! in September 2007.[1]. The software consists of both client and server components. Two versions of Zimbra are available: an open-source version, and a commercially supported version (“Zimbra Network”) with closed-source components. These software versions are available from Zimbra for download and independent use, from Zimbra-authorized partners, and included with service from a Zimbra-authorized hosting provider.

So what are the options?

  1. Outsource
    1. Google Apps for Education
    2. Microsoft’s Live@edu Service
    3. Zimbra’s Hosted Collaboration Suite
  2. Maintain/deploy in-house

Even thought there are legitimate issues with outsourcing, like privacy of e-mails, loosing control over the capability to access logs in case of an incident and ads displayed to the constituents amongst others; the option to provide this same level of service in-house is not economically feasible.

Lets take a look what these services offer:

Features Google Apps Microsoft Live@edu Zimbra
Mailbox size 7.1Gb 10Gb 7Gb
Attachment size 20Mb 20Mb 25Mb
Calendar (Private) Yes Yes Yes
Calendar (Public) Yes Yes No
CalDav compliant calendaring Yes No Yes
Docs Yes Yes Yes
Spreadsheet Yes Yes No
Presentation Yes No No
Forms Yes No No
Messaging/Chat Yes No Yes
Offline Feature Yes No No
Workplace No Yes No
Shared Drive No 5Gb No
SMS Scheduling Yes No No
SMS Notification Yes Yes No
POP3 Yes Yes Yes
IMAP Yes Yes Yes
Access other accounts Yes N/A Yes
Folders No Yes Yes
Labels Yes No No
Threaded conversations Yes No Yes
Rules and filters Yes Yes Yes
Built-In protection (Legal) N/A Yes N/A
Apple Support Yes No No
Spam Rating 10 7 7
Integration Rating 10 7 8
Site Management 9 8 8
Widgets/Web 2.0 Mash-up framework Yes No Planned
Mobile Apps (BB, iPhone, etc.) Yes No No
Data Portability (move you data to another solution) Yes Limited Yes
Backups No Optional Optional
Web Site/Portal Yes Yes No
University Domain Yes Yes Yes

Microsoft and Google are free provided that they can display ads for alumni and Zimbra costs $2 per year per student.


Microsoft Live@edu:

Microsoft Live@edu video
Live@edu with Exchange Labs
Web Collaboration

Google Apps for Education:

Google Apps video


Compare Hosted EDU Products


Educause 2008

This years Educause conference took place in Orlando, Florida.

Educause is a nonprofit association whose mission is to advance higher education by promoting the intelligent use of information technology. Membership is open to institutions of higher education, corporations serving the higher education information technology market, and other related associations and organizations.

The association provides a social networking Connect site that supports blogs, wikis, podcasts and other platforms for IT professionals to generate and find content and to engage their peers; professional development opportunities; print and electronic publications, including e-books, monographs, and the magazines Educause Quarterly (EQ) and Educause Review[1]; strategic policy advocacy; teaching and learning initiatives; applied research; special interest discussion groups; awards for leadership and transformative uses of information technology; and a Resource Center for IT professionals in higher education.

Major initiatives of Educause include the Core Data Service, the Educause Center for Applied Research (ECAR), the Educause Learning Initiative (ELI), Net@EDU (advanced networking), the Educause Policy Program, and the Educause/Internet2 Computer and Network Security Task Force. In addition, Educause manages the .edu Internet domain under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce.[1]

The current membership of Educause comprises more than 2,000 colleges, universities, and educational organizations, including 200 corporations, with 16,500 active members.

Below are pictures from the conference:

[slickr-flickr tag=”educause 2008″ id=”61116089@N00″ group=”n”]

My schedule at the conference:

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Friday, October 31, 2008

Overall I thought it was an excellent conference, there weren’t as many people this year as previous ones.

The exhibit hall was fun as always. Some exhibits were great and others sucked which brings up another subject. Marketing.

There were two exhibits that stood out amongst the crowd. The first one from Bradford Networks and the other from Trapeze Networks. These guys not only gathered leads, but engaged their prospective customers allowing them to deliver their sales pitch. Two companies that I will definitely be following up with.

Other companies that did well on their marketing pitch were Turning Technologies, Novell, CDW, Zimbra, Elluminate, and Microsoft. Although the only thing Microsoft had going for itself was as great demo on a smart-board of Image Composite Editor.

Microsoft Image Composite Editor is an advanced panoramic image stitcher. The application takes a set of overlapping photographs of a scene shot from a single camera location and creates a high-resolution panorama incorporating all the source images at full resolution. The stitched panorama can be saved in a wide variety of formats, from common formats like JPEG and TIFF to multi-resolution tiled formats like HD View and Silverlight Deep Zoom.

The things that characterized the good exhibits can be summarized in a few words. They were accessible, had an inviting environment, gave away free stuff (like free iTouch and laptops every hour) and had either professionals or very seasoned sales people giving the presentations.

On the other side of the coin, were the very big and expensive exhibits which just didn’t deliver.

Some that deserve mention are AT&T which has a very expensive three environment exhibit representing campus life and U-Verse all over the place. Alcatel-Lucent had a not very inviting exhibit and their staff sat down most of the time. Citrix was just offering a $5 Starbucks card for filling out a survey. Cognos had a closed exhibit that wasn’t inviting to anyone.

Its not that these companies were cheap, which they were; but they are spending a lot of money for lead generation when they could also be qualifying the leads and delivering their product demos to a captive audience.