This post was published in February 2010, so the information in the post or about me in the sidebar may no longer be correct.

EC3 at the University of York

During my first week at uni I posted about how I thought it was really cool that York were considering moving email, calendar and collaboration services to the cloud; EC3.

Tim pointed out on my original post today that the proposal was totally rejected, which is confirmed by the university’s own page:

The recommendation was that cloud computing services should not be taken up as a means of delivering central email, calendaring or instant messaging services for the University. The main factors contributing to this recommendation were concerns around issues of data protection, privacy, security and contractual arrangements.

They dumped it? The March 2009 issue of Keynotes (I’m a bit behind on this news, then) leads with:

The Cloud Computing project which has seen extensive work both within and without the Computing Service, and which has attracted much attention, has now concluded. The Project Team, writing on page 6, give an overview of the reasons to reject the use of cloud computing services at this time, a decision which, judging by the results of the extensive user consultation, will attract both disappointment and relief from amongst our users.

I’m disappointed. But not for me, for everybody else. The vast majority (80, 90%) of my friends use the university’s webmail service to get their email. I’ve posted about it before, and why it sucks. Because it looks like this. It’s 2010, and we’re still dealing with webmail that looks like that? Webmail that shows only fifty messages at a time and doesn’t group conversations? As we know, most users leave the default checkboxes, don’t bother to configure things and don’t dive into options. Sure, you can forward your email to a different, personal, even Gmail account. Do most people? Of course not.

It’s a shame. When I first arrived at York, that flyer gave me hope that things might be different here. I’d grown up in a world where my school used an ancient version of Internet Explorer and blocked access to Google’s Gmail & Microsoft’s Hotmail. But it’s fine, because now I can see this university is just like any, and every, other corporation. Ah well.


Tom, last year’s (2008–2009) YUSU President, comments via Twitter:

I was part of that consultation last year. Their reasons are compelling - data protection and research privacy being the big two

That’s good to hear, as I trust Tom’s opinion over that of an IT department that I’ve never met.


By Farhan Mannan on 05 February 2010 at 17:04:

Is moving something to the cloud a front-end thing or a back-end thing? I’ve been reading up on/learning Erlang and a lot of its applications seem to be massively concurrent apps like IM, email, online databases etc. but with the traditional (?) client-server model

By Chris N on 05 February 2010 at 17:41:

I think you’re making two issues which are very different the same. There is decent webmail software, the University just doesn’t use it (but are presumably now looking into upgrading), and you can get that without necessarily having off-site e-mail.

By Tim on 05 February 2010 at 19:04:

yeah, apparently the next project is to “evaluate a range of new or upgraded systems to be hosted internally”, according to that EC3 page. You just know they’ll get it finished for next september when it won’t affect me.

By Alex Muller on 05 February 2010 at 20:48:

Farhan: changing my email provider to Google with this domain was as simple as changing a few DNS records. I’m not sure how it’d be for the uni though…

Chris & Tim: True; I hope they’ll be investigating (somewhat short-term!) decent webmail software now. While you could use decent webmail software, moving to Google Apps or Microsoft Live@Edu would remove the need for that, while providing other benefits (and problems, of course).

By Tim Ngwena on 06 September 2011 at 12:59:

Late to the game but UNI has now done a 180 on this with Google now having serveres available in Ireland to run the service. Long story short, servers based in the US put some of the data protection policies under question given american law on data protection, however now that they are in ireland and in the EU … its made it possible.

Either way its good thin for everyone with not just email but timetabling, global adress boks and many of the other google apps features which have moved on in the last year.

By Alex Muller on 06 September 2011 at 19:21:

Thanks very much Tim, great to hear!

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