College Email Systems: What Works Best?

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By Jesse Bray

There once was a time when the email server provided by a college or university to its faculty and students was considered to be a major benefit for attending or teaching at that school.

Times have changed as a majority of the student email accounts that universities are providing are quickly being forwarded to another preferred email address, if not abandoned altogether. This trend has led many colleges to consider alternatives to hosting their own email servers, even driving some schools to eliminate email services altogether.

Here are three major options, as well as their benefits and drawbacks:

Hosting the Servers

While no longer the only option, hosting a web server still provides several advantages for schools. For one, hosting servers provides an extra level of control and a thick layer of security. While this may not be important for all students, it is important for faculty who share confidential student information, grades, and testing data using their university provided email address. Even for those universities and colleges choosing other options for their student email services, having the school host servers for faculty email may be wise.

On the flip side, hosting your own servers is a very expensive process that requires hardware, software, and maintenance. It’s difficult to keep up with the quickly moving world of technology, so even after the servers are created, they’ll need frequent updates if they’re going to function at peak performance.

Outsourcing the Hosting

If a university doesn’t want to handle the email hosting itself, it can always outsource it to a group that will take care of the nitty-gritty details. This means that someone else will handle the expensive hardware, software, and maintenance costs and will keep your email services current as well. This option is more affordable with some services offering a “pay for what you use” alternative that may be best for colleges noticing students moving away from the provided email service.

Drawbacks include a lack of direct control, the loss of a layer of security, and an inherent cost. According to Rackhost, as of August 2010, 20 percent of colleges use this method instead of doing their own hosting.

Using a Free Server

It is possible for colleges to team up with free email services to host their email. This includes servers like those provided by GMail. These kinds of servers are usually reliable and up to date, and they’re available at absolutely no cost. While this may be what students are accustomed to using, it also dramatically limits the options for students and faculty.

For example, students may not use their email address directly, providing the service is still useful. Having an .edu email address, creating an automated way of contacting students and faculty, and having a customized university email system are still valued by many campus constituencies.

Author Information

Jesse Bay represents Rackspace, one of the top email hosting providers.

Adv. — Need cash for tuition this semester? A Sallie Mae Smart Option Student Loan can provide for you a way to close the financing gap.

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