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UC Berkeley Picks Google over Microsoft for Cloud E-Mail

Microsoft this week lost the bid to provide cloud-based e-mail and calendaring services to the University of California, Berkeley.

In an e-mail to UC Berkeley staff and students on Wednesday, the school announced that it has chosen Google Apps for Education over Microsoft's Office 365 suite.

"This decision has been reached after an extensive analysis over the past few months that compared Google Apps for Education and Microsoft's Office 365 offerings," the e-mail said. "While both products are feature rich and offer advantages over our current environment, the analysis concluded that the Google offering was the better overall fit for the campus at this time."

UC Berkeley's decision to migrate to Google Apps comes amid reports that Google's contract to provide cloud-based applications to the city of Los Angeles has been plagued with problems, mostly centered around whether Google would be able to meet the different security requirements of the city's departments. (Microsoft had also submitted a bid to the city of Los Angeles, but lost to Google.)

According to a detailed report explaining why it chose Google Apps over Office 365, UC Berkeley actually favored Microsoft's offering when it came to security and privacy, though by a small margin.

"Microsoft offers a better AUP policy, better e-Discovery options, and slightly better terms on the location of data," the report said.

UC Berkeley also gave the edge to Office 365's calendaring, noting that while Google Calendar might be an easy fit for light or average calendar users, "power users" -- who are small in number but account for the majority of all calendar use -- might be put off by the loss of some functionality. Additionally, UC Berkeley anticipated fewer transition problems with Office 365 than with Google Apps: "There is more experience and understanding in the area of transition to Exchange than in the transition to Google, and fewer areas of stark incompatibility between Exchange/Office 365 and Oracle Calendar than between Google and Office 365."

In contractual issues, UC Berkeley also gave Microsoft high marks, saying, "Microsoft has a superior contract due to the following: HIPAA, Data Transfer, and Account Suspension. Limitation of Liability is the most salient area where Google is superior."

But when it came to e-mail, the advantage was overwhelmingly Google's. While UC Berkeley gave Office 365 nods for its on-premises integration and authentication capabilities, Google ranked higher in the categories of migration and deployment speed, support, user familiarity, API, administration and collaboration tools. As the report concluded:

Office 365 offers an integrated experience for on-premise and cloud users. This comes at a greater ongoing, operational expense and complexity of maintaining central infrastructure. Office 365 is a very new service, even universities such as Nebraska that were first to sign-up are still not migrated. Microsoft's previous online service offerings (BPOS, Live@EDU) did not have exceptional track records for performance.

... Functionally, Google has significant advantages that Berkeley can quickly and cost-effectively take advantage of; its most significant weakness is its lack of integration with an on-premise email and calendar solution in the way Office 365 does. Microsoft requires significant central AD and Exchange infrastructure.

UC Berkeley currently uses CalMail and CalAgenda as its e-mail and calendaring systems, respectively. CalMail has suffered several outages recently, with the latest one lasting over two days. The campuswide migration from Berkeley's existing CalMail and CalAgenda systems to Google Apps will begin next year.

About the Author

Gladys Rama is the site editor of RCPmag.com.

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