As a first step, the university engaged in a significant consultation with students to better understand what their expectations and concerns were – in the areas of privacy protection and systems security in particular. These concerns were addressed in advance of rollout through what Cooked described as a very rigorous privacy impact assessment and threat risk analysis which convinced the team that they could better ensure privacy/security by outsourcing delivery of e-communications to a third party cloud provider – Microsoft.
In preparing for implementation, the IT group was able to draw on its considerable in-house experience with Microsoft Exchange to evaluate the familiar Live@edu offering, but also to work with Microsoft on developing an authentication strategy for the U of T site that would interface with the cloud offering to address the privacy concerns that had emerged from student consultation. Once that was in place, delivery of the service was turned over to Microsoft. Cook described migration as “pretty straightforward, because the advantage of cloud is that someone else is running the service. The implementation itself was staged, we brought in some enthusiasts at the beginning, and we rolled out first to our incoming students for the 2011/2012 year.” Midway through the year, the service was opened up to the remaining upper year students and by this coming June, Cook expects that the majority of the university’s 70,000 students will be on board.
With cloud deployment, it will be easier for the university to maintain what Cook called “contemporary standards” in service delivery, and he expects to migrate to Office 365 for education in the next 12-18 months. Cook expects this migration will be transparent to student users, but also to IT staff as the “bulk of the heavy lifting in cloud falls to our partner.” Overall, Cook characterized the migration to Microsoft’s cloud solution as a much more smooth experience than was anticipated. He attributed that positive outcome in good part to the open communications the team adopted from the beginning of the project – which provided users not only with appropriate information on what the actual deployment was, but also with regular updates on who would be included when, and what to expect next. According to Cook, regular communication with the community was key to success of the deployment.