UNIT provides new ‘Outlook’ on e-mail

Matthew Minnella

Beginning this week, UNIT is gradually rolling out Villanova’s new e-mail client, Microsoft’s Outlook Web Access (OWA).

The initiative began this week with the freshman class on Monday.

The sophomore, junior and senior classes will switch e-mail systems each Monday of the next weeks respectively.

Graduate students and assistants will have their systems upgraded along with the senior class on Oct. 1.

The system migration is being staggered so the University’s servers are not overwhelmed by having approximately 10,000 accounts transferred simultaneously.

By handling one class per week, it allows for roughly 350 each day during the nighttime while there is less traffic on the e-mail system.

To date, approximately 4,000 e-mail accounts, mostly faculty and staff, have had their systems transferred over.

The change in e-mail clients is almost two years in the making, with the process beginning in the spring of 2006 when the new system, as well as alternatives, was brought into consideration.

The project began last fall under the guidance of Maura Ewing, who managed the project from the beginning and is still guiding the program through its deployment.

After considering other systems, OWA was chosen for several reasons. First and foremost, OWA offers a greater range of functions than most other e-mail systems.

Secondly, there has been a propensity to use and familiarize graduates with the Microsoft Office Suite due to its popularity among employers.

OWA expands on the capabilities of the current e-mail system, iPlanet by Sun Microsystems, by adding various functions such as a calendar, task lists, an improved contacts function and a Global Address list that serves as a complete directory for the Villanova community.

Students, faculty and staff will now be able to create events and send invitations to others through OWA.

Thanks to a function called the Schedule Assistant, one can see others’ availability for events – provided they have input their schedules into OWA’s calendar – before events are set (only one’s availability, not the actual details of one’s schedule, will be visible).

To make the transition simpler, any remaining messages in students’ mailboxes, as well as all existing contacts, will be transferred over to the new system.

Once the new system is fully integrated, UNIT will try to gauge students’ reactions and feedback on the new e-mail system’s functionality and ease of use.

“We [at UNIT] are anxious to see our students’ reactions to what we think is a much more functional system,” Chief Information Officer Stephen Fugale said.

In addition to this latest upgrade, UNIT is slated to possibly upgrade the University’s operating system from Windows XP to Windows Vista, as well as upgrade to Microsoft Office 2007, in the fall of next year, but due to the long testing process, no final details have been released.