Emory Report
December 11, 2006
Volume 59, Number 14




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December 11 , 2006
E-mail@Emory: directions, opportunities

John Ellis, director, Client Technology Services, Academic and Administrative Information Technology, Office of Information Technology

Last January, the Office of Information Technology proposed a new strategic direction for e-mail at Emory University that included adopting Microsoft Exchange as the standard e-mail platform for University faculty, staff and administrators.

We planned to continue enterprise-level support for LearnLink for students and interested faculty and staff, and to continue Novell GroupWise for Emory Healthcare. To help ease the transition to Microsoft Exchange, we proposed supporting full-featured e-mail clients on three major platforms — Outlook on Windows, Entourage on Mac and Evolution on Linux — as well as providing the opportunity to use other clients.

We have hosted forums with faculty, staff and students and have benefited greatly from these discussions. The new IT governance process also has been influential in shaping the proposed directions for e-mail. With governance approval, we have implemented a comprehensive global address list for use with Microsoft Exchange.

We also have implemented a new managed anti-virus and spam filtering service for University e-mail systems.

There are, however, several e-mail related initiatives still pending final governance approval, including the final parameters for e-mail quotas, creating a billing model for additional e-mail storage, and migrating remaining MeetingMaker users to Microsoft Exchange for scheduling. These pending decisions will continue to help shape our strategic direction for e-mail communications.

New opportunities may allow us to add significant value to our initial directions. We are currently moving forward to consolidate two voice systems at Emory into one platform, including common voicemail. This platform is based on Voice Over IP technology. This technology, along with other already licensed products, will allow us to bring together voice, e-mail and fax into one common “unified messaging” environment.

The consolidation will allow Emory to realize the benefits of simplified real-time communication. While traditional communications systems deliver messages into several different types of message stores — voicemail systems, e-mail servers and fax machines — unified messaging makes it possible to store all types of messages in one system.

Voicemails and faxes get delivered to your inbox and can be viewed along with your e-mail messages. From there, you can forward voicemails or faxes just like e-mail, search for them, or annotate them. Alternatively, if you are away from your inbox, you can listen not only to voicemails on your mobile phone, but also have e-mails read to you. Unified messaging is a next-generation technology that will increase productivity by allowing people to communicate more effectively and efficiently.

The e-mail platform currently used by Emory Healthcare, Novell GroupWise, is not supported by the unified messaging solutions under consideration. This situation provides yet another opportunity — to move Emory Healthcare from GroupWise to Microsoft Exchange. Obviously this opportunity requires a detailed assessment and, if feasible, careful planning. That work is just getting under way, but the potential is well worth the effort.

A single, unified approach to e-mail communications at Emory promises many advantages over our current environment. A single messaging environment would allow for better control over e-mail message delivery, common policy enforcement, more cost-effective disaster recovery options, and allow us to free up resources supporting other e-mail environments.

From the end-user perspective, a single approach would make e-mail client configurations much simpler and would prevent e-mails from being lost or unread because they were delivered to an unused e-mail account due to incorrect forwarding.

Users would no longer have to remember which set of login credentials to use — one set of credentials would work across the Emory enterprise. This change would be especially beneficial for those who work in both an academic and health care setting.

Opportunities like these do not come often. Of course, as with any major change, there will be trade-offs to consider. But we do think that the potential for adding significant value is there, and well worth a hard look.