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We’ve done it. This week I flipped the switch to transition our school district to Google Apps, with GMail as our primary e-mail system.
We had been a Novell/Groupwise shop every since I’ve been in the district. Novell had been a reliable, rock-solid product. However, their latest version was on a linux-based platform, and it was becoming increasing difficult to find network engineers to support our system. Other districts in our county had already switched to Windows Networks with Exchange. We began that process this summer, but with GMail.
This was neither a quick decision, nor a quick process. We had actually been using Google Apps for the past couple of years under another domain owned by the district, so our folks were used to the system. Even so, we put out a survey to our users, asking what features they would like to see in a new system. We also test drove Microsoft’s Live@EDU system as a comparison. Ultimately, we decided to go with Google, since to many of our users were already familiar with GMail.
We started sending out messages for our users to start getting ready for the change last spring. In June I created all of the accounts for our users and started encouraging them to log onto the new system, giving July 9 as our cut over date.
Of course, change isn’t easy. I’ve fielded TONS of calls and e-mails from users who were not able to get into their accounts for one reason or another. Even so, a significant number of our teachers have yet to log into the new system. I think that first week of school is going to be crazy.
For those that have made the switch, the response has been generally positive. I’m trying to go beyond e-mail and promote the whole Google package, including Google Docs, Google Voice, and Google+. We’ll see how that progresses.