Macquarie University and Google have once again teamed up for an Australian first - this time by agreeing to provide 6,000 Gmail accounts to the University's research, teaching and administrative staff.

Macquarie was the first university in Australia to offer Gmail to its students and recent alumni when it set up 68,000 new accounts in September 2007. At that time, Macquarie joined a select group of universities worldwide, including Trinity College in Dublin, Nihon University in Tokyo and five US colleges, in providing Gmail on campus as part of the Google Apps Education Edition.

Macquarie Vice-Chancellor Steven Schwartz said that the initial launch had gone so well - with students reporting very high levels of satisfaction with Gmail - that there was a compelling argument for the University to move staff emails to a cloud-based service also.

We were spending a significant amount of money each year maintaining our own inferior email infrastructure that, despite our best efforts, was falling further and further behind staff expectations, Schwartz said. That's money we would much prefer to spend on better teaching and research facilities for our staff and students, or on scholarships enabling students from disadvantaged backgrounds to access a university education.

Macquarie CIO Marc Bailey said the move to a cloud-based email service was always going to pose a number of challenges, but that these were worth working through given the opportunity to provide staff with an always-on, reliable email service, accessible from anywhere in the world, and with 100 times the email storage space they were used to.

We knew our staff would have questions about using an external email service, particularly around privacy and intellectual property and regulatory ramifications, Bailey said. But to their great credit, Google worked with us to mitigate all of these concerns and we're now very comfortable in rolling out Gmail to all of our staff.

Other benefits to staff include best-on-planet spam and virus filtering, improved security, lightning fast search, as well as the range of other tools that come with Google Apps Education Edition.

Google's head of engineering for Australia and New Zealand, Alan Noble, said:

Macquarie University led the way in Australia as the first educational institution to give their students the speed, ease and flexibility of Gmail, and now they're leading the way once again with this major roll-out of Gmail to their staff. The move really demonstrates their commitment to being a world-class educational institution, in which staff and students alike have access to the latest communication and collaboration technologies, from wherever they are.

Bailey said that other products - such as Microsoft Live@Edu - had been considered, but that Google's solution was more cost effective both in terms of initial pricing and ongoing operational cost. Another reason Gmail was preferred was the opportunity to have a unified email system for staff, students and alumni.

Deployment of staff Gmail kicks off in January on a small scale, followed by three major stages that will finish in September.

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Greg Welsh
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