Google Apps for Education @ PLU
Frequently Asked Questions About Google Apps for EDU@PLU



What might I need to know now?

Privacy and security

Relationships with other systems




Why are we doing this?

Since the mid-1990s PLU has been using this same e-mail platform as the foundation for many of the communication and personal information management services used by PLU students, faculty, and staff. In recent years the age and limits of this system have become increasingly apparent.  Last year I&TS began an initiative to identify a new solution that could replace and enhance our current systems.  That effort resulted in this recommendation after considering more than a dozen alternatives both in-house and out-sourced.

What might I need to know now?
Who is eligible for this service?

All students, faculty, and staff of Pacific Lutheran University.  This also includes clubs, organizations and departmental e-mail accounts.

I just graduated. How will this affect my account?

Currently alums are allowed full access to their account for six months after graduation, with forwarding service for an additional six months. This policy is not likely to change. Any migration from our current email system to a new system will include migrating all accounts (including alums with full access) as well as accounts with forwarding-only service.

How are Google Apps for Education (GAE) different from the "normal" Google Apps?

There are several significant differences:

  • It will be PLU-branded and we will know what the addresses are.
  • We will have integration of a single PLU ePass sign-on.
  • Some things behind the scenes will enable you to share calendars within PLU only, instead of everyone in the world.
  • Google Apps for Education (GAE) @PLU doesn't have advertising like public Google Apps.
  • While Google searches their accounts for information and maintains an index of this information, Google doesn't include the GAE @PLU data in their regular search and index data stores.
  • GAE @PLU is controlled by the I&TS group at PLU. Accounts are added, deleted, and supported by PLU staff much as they are at present.
  • GAE @PLU access is controlled by your ePass account.  The same password that gets you into PLU's online tools, gets you into GAE @PLU.
  • Your GAE @PLU email address will just be your normal "" address.
  • GAE @PLU introduces the idea of community in which we come together in collaborative settings.
Is this the same as Gmail?

Essentially it is.  It allows users, however, to keep their address as well as utilize the calendar, docs, and other functionality in a manner that integrates with other campus services.

How easy is this new system to use?

The screens are intuitive and easy to navigate, although there may be some changes in terminology. For instance, the term “folders” in Thunderbird translates to “labels” in Google mail. You can review additional information on the following site:

Will the new system be more reliable than our current system?

Google’s up-time is better than ours, but ours will be improving and we will be adding some redundancy to minimize problems associated with down-times.

How will our speed and bandwidth be affected?

It's hard to tell but will be at least as good as it is now, if not better. We will be bringing a second Internet connection online which should also help.

What’s different?
  • All users have all services
  • Webmail will be replaced with Gmail
  • Oracle calendar will be phased out for Google calendar
  • 7+ GB mail quotas.  From 150MB to 7+ GB--almost 48x more!
  • Expanded support for mobile device integration
What’s new?
  • Google docs for online document creation & collaboration
  • Google sites (web page creation tool) adds an alternate way to set up public or private web pages for projects/groups/clubs, etc.
  • Google chat allows IM (instant messaging) within the PLU Google apps domain (if user enabled)
What’s not changing?
  • Desktop applications, including Microsoft Office
  •—your PLU address
  • Epass single-sign-on
  • Email clients (Thunderbird, etc.) will not be required to change although people will be encouraged to use the web version
Is there a timeline for the implementation?
  • Equipment purchasing June 1
  • Integration and testing now through mid-July
  • End of workshop week (Aug. 1) targeted for initial migration steps
  • 2 migration options:
    • Full migration of users Aug. 1-30, OR
    • Opt-in beginning Aug. 1 with final migration of remaining users mid-fall semester
During the migration, there will be a minimum of 2 days where access to old email will be limited but any new email will be flowing into Google with little or no disruption in email services.
Have you considered moving to other systems like Outlook?

Outlook was on our original list but we found it to be short of features compared to Google and other products. It was also cost prohibitive. We would have had to build an Exchange system on campus which was way beyond our budget. We also looked at other products, but those were not high on our list due to shortage of features and/or the costs were prohibitive.

What about privacy? I've heard that Google tracks your emails. Do you have any concerns about this?

Initially, Google was not the lead option because of our privacy concerns. However, we discovered that we can turn off advertisements and have assurances in our contract that say "each party is going to protect confidential information as if it were its own." The only reason for searching our email would be a legal requirement to do so. That would involve a subpoena and Google would contact PLU prior to any action on their part. We are confident that our privacy concerns have been adequately addressed.

I understand Google has a lot of advertising—won't that be a problem?

We have an option to turn that off, which we will exercise. Alumni accounts, if we implement those, would have advertising—but that's not part of this proposal. Google will not take our information, scan, it and use it for their marketing. This stipulation is spelled out in the contract with Google.

If there is no advertising, how does Google provide this service at no cost?

Because they’re advertising to everyone else. Google began as a project from another university and this is their way of giving back. This contract is for four years and a lot could change, but it’s a much better deal for us even during the four years. We must move away from our current aging system because it is not sustainable.

Will our email information be located here or somewhere else?

It will be stored at Google. There is also an offline calendar option that would allow us to have local copies of the calendar on our desktops.

Is our current server now a corporation? It seems like we’re outsourcing to a company.

We built our server but pay for PMDF (geek-speak for “Personal Mail Distribution System”).

Is there anything I need to do differently?

You can help the transition by cleaning up your email account. Empty the trash, clean up messages in your sent folder, and remove any messages that are of no use to you. During the transition period, if you want to move your mail from local folders so that it is transferred to Google, you’ll probably need some assistance from User Support.

Will all of my email be moved to the new system? Will there be anything that won’t be moved? If so, will I lose mail?
  • Email that is currently on the server (seen when you login to Webmail) will be moved.
  • Mail in local folders in Thunderbird will not be moved to Google unless you first move them to the server--additional details to be provided prior to the transition.
  • Your email will pass through Google's virus filtering during the migration, so it's possible you'll lose some infected messages.
What happens to mail popped (pulled off the server) just before the migration?

If it’s not on the server, it won’t migrate.

I understand there will be no email access for 2 days during the migration. Is that true?

In order for us to migrate safely, we have to point new email delivery to Google and run a backup on old email. Running that backup on all of the inboxes will take at least 47 hours. After the backup, mail will be moved to Google to scan for possible viruses or corrupt files. It could take more than 2 days, but we’re working on minimizing that time-frame. If we decide to have users opt-in, that request starts the transfer of your email.

Will any information be lost with the mass migration?

Messages of a suspicious nature, whether found to be corrupt or contain a virus, will not be moved.  These types of messages will stay on our current server for further investigation by the owner of the account with assistance from User Support.

Privacy and security
Does the new email system have the ability to encrypt data?

Encryption (protection for the data) is available when you use a client, such as Thunderbird. GMail's web interface doesn't directly support encryption, but there are browser plugin-ins that provide support. We recommend FireGPG ( ); it works very well with GMail.

If I send an email message to you now, it doesn't leave campus. With Google, wouldn't it leave campus and be subject to FERPA rules?

It is not acceptable now to send social security numbers, driver's license information, and credit card numbers through campus email. We strongly discourage sending private information unless it is encrypted (protected). It is not a good practice to send private information through email. Any data is always at risk. We don’t require (but encourage) secure settings on our email system.

Do you have any concerns about privacy or security storing our email on someone else’s server?

No, but if we decided to move away Google will help us migrate the data.

Will this new system stop some of the spam we get?

Maybe. PLU blocks 95% of spam that comes into campus, so we already cut out the overwhelming majority of spam that comes to PLU. Email programs typically have a way to 'learn' what spam messages look like.  Google's filtering technology seems to be good at ‘learning’ that messages you tag as spam will not be sent to you in the future.

Relationships with other systems
What will be the relationship with Sakai?

Messages will still be sent from Sakai.  There might be future integration possibilities between Sakai and Google calendars.

Is there any relationship between this system and the campus events calendar that people are talking about?

How it plays with the campus events calendar is not yet known but there are possibilities.

Are alumni going to be part if this?

This is not currently part of our plans but could potentially be in the future.

Are Mac users affected?

We have a couple of people using Macs who have been testing and have not had any problems.

I have filters in Thunderbird. Can those be imported into Google mail?

No, but you can create new rules for Gmail filters.

If there is mobile support, will Google Apps offer something like a “Mobile-Me” service?

On an iPhone you can use exchange sync and there is something similar for the Blackberry. If you have a Palm One there are more hoops to jump through. It’s up to you to decide how you want to sync. Google has notifications that pop up. You can turn in SMS notifications but they may not be timely. There are also email notification and multiple notification modes. You wouldn’t have to sync on a device. This may not be reliable, depending on your need and access to signals. The mobile web interface is excellent for looking at events.

What about access on mobile devices?

Google has varying support for iPhone, Blackberry, Windows Mobile, Palm, and other similar devices.  Some devices can do full calendar synchronization directly with Google.  Others can only access Google data through a mobile friendly web interface.  And some require a third party software tool to synchronize data.  Synchronization with all of the common devices appears to be technically feasible, but our testing is ongoing and may require purchased software or additional work on behalf of the device owner.

Are distribution lists and listservs available?

We’re evaluating these features but it looks like we’ll keep our distribution list. Google has groups that we can create but our distribution list system has a mechanism to allow access for designates who can send to the list.  Google’s approach is different. We’ll have to determine which approach is more valuable to the campus.

What about mailing lists that are built on a frequent basis and may change from day-to-day?

We will be going through our system and taking a look at things like system-wide announcements. We update those lists every day and we have to figure out how that works on Google.

I don’t like the current limitation in Webmail because I can only send to so many people at a time. Will Google have a better way to do that?

Our current distribution list can handle pretty much unlimited numbers. They are fairly easy to create. You can find an online tutorial available at the bottom of the following page:

If a professor wants to get mail out to students in a class, we now use Sakai. Can you send out Gmail to students telling them resources are on Sakai and the date is on your calendar? Will a student have to go to multiple places to see this information?

Normal email announcements from Sakai will go to student accounts as they do now.  You can send mail from Google announcing updates to calendar. Early on, we will not have this type of integration, e.g., update a student's calendar and trigger an automatic mail message to the student. We have some ideas about the potential to blend some of these features together but it won’t happen in the beginning.

One problem I’ve found with Gmail is that you can’t sign on to a second Gmail account at the same time.

Actually, you can sign in to a second account by opening a different browser.

Regarding the collaboration tools--do you have to go into separate windows?

If you’re in email, you can click on documents and it will pop up an extra tab or window. You can then choose to open a Word document, etc. Google does tend to open extra windows but it’s inside the browser.

I move messages to my hard drive under local folders in Thunderbird. What happens to those?

We’ll probably suggest moving those (in local folders) back to the server for moving to Google. There are some tools to do that but we haven’t yet decided how we’re going to do that. User Support will be figuring out how best to assist people in moving those. If you use the web interface, you’ll probably want to move those messages from local folders. If you continue to use Thunderbird, you may not have a need to do that.

I use Thunderbird and I use Google desktop to index my email and files. If emails are on a server, what will that do to indexing?

We don't know yet.

I work in an office and constantly login to my own account as well as the department’s account. How will that happen in the new system?

You can use Thunderbird to solve that problem or open each account in a different browser.

Calendar is a big issue for me. Accessing other calendars while not putting the event on my calendar is important but not possible now. Will this be different?

You can have multiple calendars in Google and share them (or not) differently.  You can view other calendars on top of your own calendar and add things depending on the level of sharing others set up.  This will be different but it does have cabilities.  You could have a private calendar you can turn on/off.

What about reserving conference rooms?

There are some issues, but you can set up resource accounts as we now maintain on Oracle calendar.  However, there doesn't seem to be a limit as to how many people can create events. 

How will you move data from Oracle calendar to Google? What problems are there in moving calendars over?

We don’t know all of the details yet.  Events, info, location and some details in the notes should be fine. What might be lost is attendee info (you won’t know who put it on) and you won’t know who will be attending or not. We will encourage people to use the new system on the web. We will probably choose not to move all of the calendar information since getting partial data would be worse than no data.

Can we create separate calendars?

Yes, you can have multiple calendars per person, e.g., personal, class, etc.

I have more questions. Where can I get answers?

Additional Frequently Asked Questions and answers will be coming soon to this page so look back often.  In addition, all of the questions asked at our previously held forums (shown below) can be found on this page.

Open Session 1 – University Center 201, Friday 5/8, 10:00-11:30am
Open Session 2 – University Center 201, Monday 5/11, 10:00-11:30am
Open Session 3 – Library Basement Training Room B, Tuesday 5/12, 12:30-2:00pm

As with any question about e-mail and related services send your question to Information & Technology Services <> or contact the Help Desk at 253-535-7525.