The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

The Student News Site of Macalester College

The Mac Weekly

'Free at last, free at last' – OCS goes for good

By Catherine Reagan

Until Google came to the rescue last spring, students, faculty and staff groaned over the school’s e-mail server, Oracle Collaboration Suite.”OCS was disastrous!” said Will Young, Operations Manager for the Campus Center. “I don’t even want to talk about it, it was just terrible.”

Similar comments peppered other conversations around campus.

“OCS was notoriously unreliable from the start,” said David Sisk, associate director of Information Technology Services. “They promised us many things, one of which was unified calendaring, but they did not come through.”

Under OCS, Sisk said, e-mails often did not appear where they were supposed to be, and the system was in such poor shape that the ITS staff had to reboot it twice a week. Once the flaws in OCS were clear, Sisk and his colleagues began searching for a server that would meet standards of reliability and stability. The selection took more than a year of planning, an assessment process for four different packages, and frequent meetings and debates among the Macalester community. ITS chose Google Apps last spring.

Anthony Tran ’11 works at the ITS Help Desk and was one of the first volunteers to test the new e-mail server.

“Google is a growing company that knows how to appeal to the masses,” he said. “Every day they have more users and more features.

“I think it’s good for the school and I like it a lot.”

Google Apps, a separate product from personal Gmail accounts, is offered by Google as a part of their Education Edition. It includes Gmail along with features such as Google Calendar, Documents, Chat and a customizable start page. The calendar can be set to send text messages to phones that act as reminders for events. It integrates with other calendar packages such as Microsoft Outlook, allowing schedule synchronization. It also allows the user to locate friends’ calendars and to create multiple calendars. Sisk has created calendars for the academic departments and for the different computer labs that classes use.

But, Sisk said, the best feature is that Google Apps does not cost the school any money.

A few other institutions-including Arizona State University, Clemson University in South Carolina and Northwestern University in Illinois -used Google Apps before Macalester. Sisk said Macalester was a leader among small Midwestern colleges.

“Oberlin College and St. Olaf College have switched now,” Sisk said. “They were waiting for Macalester to make the leap.”

Google Apps “is a beautiful thing,” said Ted Fines, assistant director for networked services. “Hands down, it is better in every way, with features and reliability. There are sometimes quirks or bugs like in any software, but Google is very responsive to feedback.”

“Free at last, free at last,” Sisk said with a smile.

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