Google adds to ongoing connectivity struggles at colleges

Posted: May 6, 2010 in Industry Commentary, Posts, Rethink Remote Access

As we recently noted, as colleges move quickly to adopt new technology, IT administrators are struggling to map existing information security policy with the new solutions. In the most recent example, the University of California has stopped its 30,000 member staff-and-faculty from using a hosted version of Google’s e-mail service, Gmail. This ban comes after the university scrapped plans to roll-out a Gmail service to the entire campus.

The reason? Members of the faculty were worried that Gmail, and its social arm Buzz, aren’t secure enough to protect university content. The core issue is how to secure information once out of university networks. According to InformationWeek, UC Davis officials have also noted that “outsourcing e-mail may not be in compliance with the University of California Electronic Communications Policy.”

UC-Davis’ move follows Yale University, which put plans to switch its email provider to Google Apps for Education on hold earlier this year, pending IT review.

While the biggest problem for Yale and UC Davis is mostly around data stored on the cloud and security, both incidents illustrate the pressures on IT administrators at universities to keep up with changing tech preferences.

A topic near and dear to VPN Haus ties in quite well to this last point: how to rethink remote network access. Students are just short of demanding WiFi support for devices such the iPad and other mobile tech. Campuses are rolling out hotspots with increasing frequency to accommodate. However, policy stands in the way of progress. For the recent UC-Davis and Yale news, it seems campus policy conflicts with provider policy, which also seems to put Google on a troubled policy footing with the entire UC system.

We’ll continue to monitor how colleges handle security and networking problems that emerge around new technologies. We’d also like to hear your thoughts on this ongoing struggle and how IT admin can better serve students and faculty, especially as frustrations like this are going to continue to arise until permanent solutions are put into place.

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