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Google Apps at Ryerson University

 

Why Google Apps?

During the 2011-2012 academic year Ryerson engaged in a consultation process that led to the adoption of Google Apps for Education as Ryerson's online collaboration platform. More information about the consultation ia available at http://email.blog.ryerson.ca You have recently received your new Google Apps account and can sign in and begin using Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Docs, and other apps, immediately.

What is Google Apps?

Google Apps is a suite of web-based messaging and collaboration applications that Google hosts on their servers. Google provides these applications as a "service," rather than as software you have to download and install. To access these applications, you normally use a web browser on any computer that's connected to the Internet. You can also use Google Apps on mobile devices. Look for Google's GMail app in your mobile device app store. 

Why did we choose Google Apps?

During the consultation process, we looked for an email and collaboration solution that would provide the following benefits:

  • Access to services at anytime — Google Apps are designed to be highly available often exceeding 99.99% availability throughout the year. Google's Gmail, calendar, and other applications provide a rich set of features that are accessible using any modern Web browser. You should be able to access email, contacts, and calendar from any computer or mobile device with an Internet connection, from anywhere in the world.
  • More collaboration features — It was important to provide everyone in the University with a rich collaboration platform. We wanted to make sure students, faculty, staff, alumni, and others could all easily work together as needed. Google Apps not only provides email and calendar services but includes Google Talk (an instant messaging system) Google Voice which makes available free voice calls in Canada and the US, Google Drive for file storage in the cloud, Google Docs for creating and sharing documents, spreadsheets and presentations, Google Sites, and Google Groups.
  • Better Security and Privacy — Google Apps are provided under a written agreement between Ryerson and Google that offers more protection for privacy than Google's consumer services. Under the agreement Google makes no claims to own University or personal data hosted by Google and only indexes or scans the data for the purpose of providing the service itself. For example, automated indexing your email so you can search it quickly. There is no data mining. Google's level of investment in securing their services is greater than anything Ryerson could afford. Security is an essential prerequisite of privacy. For more information please see our FAQ at http://email.blog.ryerson.ca/2011/11/23/frequently-asked-questions/ and Google's security overview at http://www.google.com/apps/intl/en/edu/privacy.html.  Ryerson has configured Google Apps to minimize the sharing of information by default. For example only employee information is included in the global address book. Student information is not included by default. 
  • Lower infrastructure costs — While Ryerson will continue to maintain our less capable RMail system for those that choose not to use Gmail, the University will not have to invest millions to host a more capable email system and a broad range of collaborative applications like those that are freely available from Google.
  • Ability to consolidate our platforms — Limited capacity in Ryerson's old email and calendar systems (RMail and GroupWise) led to some departments hosting their own email systems. Google Apps provides those departments with the option to reduce their costs by migrating to Google Apps. 
  • Customized solutions — By spending less time managing locally hosted services Ryerson can leverage the Google Apps platform to provide a more customized experience. For example we plan to integrate course schedules into faculty and student calendars - something that was not available in the past.
  • Highly scalable environment — With Google Apps, our email capacity will grow automatically as Ryerson grows and we'll avoid the complexity of managing and routinely upgrading internal systems

 

What does Google Apps include?

Your new Google Apps account will include the following services:

   Gmail icon    Gmail
Google Calendar icon Google Calendar
Google Drive icon Google Drive
Google Docs icon Google Docs
Google Sites icon Google Sites and groups (soon)


Why Google Chat and Google Voice are Not Available?

Google Chat and Voice are great collaboration tools that we intended to provide to the University as part of Google Apps at Ryerson. While testing Google Apps we discovered that we could not provide an adequate level of privacy by default in Google Chat. As a result Google Chat, and therefore Google Voice, are not currently available as part of Google Apps at Ryerson. 

The way Google chat works is it looks at who you frequently exchange email with and allows you to see when any of those people are online and begin a chat with them. While this can be a very useful feature, having it as the default setting is not consistent with our privacy standards. Google can neither disable this feature by default nor configure Google Chat in a way that allows Ryerson to disable it. We will make Google Chat and Voice available when Google makes it possible for us to make privacy the default setting. More information on how Google’s default Chat setting works is available from Google: 
http://support.google.com/chat/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=29795
 
For those of you who are familiar with Google Chat, we have asked Google to make the default setting “Only allow people that I've explicitly approved to chat with me and see when I'm online.” The current default, which cannot be changed by Google for our domain, by using an Application Programming Interface, or by using our administrative controls is: “Automatically allow people I communicate with often to chat with me and see when I'm online".

On May 7, 2013, Google replaced the chat feature within Google Drive with a more capable system based on the Google Chat service that is normally embedded within Gmail. Since Ryerson has disabled the Google Chat service (including Google Talk and Google Voice) for privacy reasons, the change means that chat is no longer available within Google Docs and Presentations. The old chat system is still available in Google Spreadsheets but it will also stop working when Google upgrades it.

At this time we do not plan on enabling Google Chat until Google makes it possible for Ryerson to make privacy the default setting in Chat. We have submitted another request to Google that they allow us to make privacy the default.

 

What are the key benefits?

  • Lots of storage — You get unlimited online combined storage for your email and Google Drive (much more than the RMail quota), so you can keep all of your email online. You'll no longer need to worry about deleting messages or saving them in offline folders.
  • Enhanced message organization and retrieval — With Gmail, you'll spend less time managing folders and searching for messages. For example, you can add one or more tags, or "labels," to your messages to organize and store them more efficiently. And with the Google-powered search feature, you can find any message quickly and easily, whether it's in your Inbox or stored in your message archive.
  • Easier calendar sharing — Google Calendar lets you and your team quickly and easily share your calendars with each other and specify the details you want to show. Calendar sharing is a great way to keep each other informed about your schedules. Now it's easier than ever to find out if someone is in a meeting, on a business trip, or on vacation.
  • Real-time collaboration — Using Google Docs, you can create documents, spreadsheets, presentations, drawings, and more, that you and your team can view and edit at the same time. You can still use Microsoft Office as needed, but now you'll have more options for storing and collaborating on your documents. 
  • Easy-to-build team web sites — With Google Sites, your team has the ability to quickly publish a robust internal web site on which to gather all sorts of shared information, such as documents, spreadsheets, presentations, files, and videos. You can even embed Google calendars, discussion forums, and other gadgets on your site!