University of Toronto faculty and staff will be upgrading to the Office 365 software over the course of the fall semester. Following the issues that came with transferring email data over the summer, the U of T administration is looking to make sure this process is as smooth as possible.
“Office 365 is the same environment that the students have been in for quite a while now,” said Bo Wandschneider, U of T’s Chief Information Officer.
Wandschneider said that the primary motivation for the move is to put faculty and students onto the same platform, which is important because “it just enhances the ability to collaborate between those two groups.”
Currently, faculty and staff carry out most of their work and communication through the UTORexchange and UTORmail services, both of which will be replaced by Office 365. The new software is “a comprehensive online e-communication and collaboration service provided by Microsoft,” according to the FAQ section of the official transition website.
The website, office365.utoronto.ca, is the main resource for any member of faculty or staff with questions related to pre- and post-migration; it also provides tips for navigating the new software. The home screen of the website keeps a counter of who has migrated over to the new software, including the number of email accounts and the number of departments — it’s currently set at one department and 239 users.
Wandschneider said that they migrated the IT department before the others because they wanted to assess any potential issues that could arise. “There were a few, what I would say, minor issues, little hiccups here and there,” Wandschneider said. A round of corrections will follow this first migration, addressing the issues that arose, before the software transfer goes through a second pilot test.
In the meantime, Wandschneider is working with IT staff to ensure that all faculty and staff are prepared. He is confident that the migration will be generally painless because for the people who already use Outlook, “it’s going to be pretty simple; they’re basically just changing to a different place to get their mail.”
Office 365 offers new media and platforms for creativity and collaboration, including Skype for Business and OneDrive, with a terabyte of storage space. “I think people are going to be really excited by the new functionality. I had lots of faculty members approach me and say, ‘When can we go?’” said Wandschneider.
Office 365 should be available to all faculty and staff at the university by the end of the fall semester.