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Incoming Wharton undergraduates will receive access to a Google Apps account from Wharton Computing, as opposed to the Microsoft Outlook accounts that are currently provided to Wharton students.

Credit: Courtesy of Milan Savani

Wharton’s new class of 2017 will already have a mini-milestone under their belt when they step foot on campus — they will be the first Wharton class to adopt Google Mail as their email platform.

Starting this year, Wharton students will have the option to access their emails directly through Google@Wharton accounts rather than through the on-premise Microsoft Exchange server that Wharton students currently use.

Google@Wharton will provide an ad-free email experience, allowing students to maintain both a professional and personal email account from one centralized email address while utilizing all of Google’s familiar applications.

While Wharton’s switch to Google follows that of the College of Arts and Sciences, recent studies have shown that its decision also follows the trends of top universities nationwide. According to a 2012 Google study, 72 of the top 100 universities (as determined by the 2013 U.S. News and World Report’s rankings) are utilizing Google Apps for Education, up from 62 in 2011.

Margaret Troncelliti, senior IT director of administrative computing at Wharton, explained that Wharton Computing’s decision to adopt the new system was based on several advantages Google offered.

For one, Google is simpler and more convenient, since “a large percentage of students forward to Gmail anyway,” she said. Google’s multitude of apps will help students — many of whom already use its various accounts and tools — to consolidate and share information and projects.

Troncelliti also noted that Google Apps for Education could provide a solution to past problems with calendar sharing.

Problems arise because “so many students forward away from their on-premise accounts,” she said. “Students all have a Wharton on-premise calendar but they don’t all use it. We’re hoping that [Google Mail] will help change this.”

Along with functionality, Troncelliti noted that privacy and security were essential components of the negotiation.

“A key piece was getting a contract signed [with Google] which ensures certain data protection,” she said. “We never would have moved forward without that kind of contract.”

Wharton is now the third undergraduate school within the University to migrate to Google Mail, following the College and the School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“[The College’s] success was certainly a factor,” said Troncelliti. “We also got a few tips from them about deployment.”

Currently, Wharton Computing is only rolling out the new Google platform for incoming freshman, but will allow all undergraduate students to move over to Google at any point this year if they so desire. She expects Google to become a more popular option as word of mouth spreads.

“We are going to see how it goes [with the freshman accounts] and what issues we run into,” Troncelliti said. “Our guess is that there will be a tipping point,” she said.

However, some students questioned just how significant the changes will really be.

“I really don’t think there will be a huge difference because I forward all my mail from Wharton to another mail system on my personal computer,” rising Wharton sophomore Peter Jeffrey said. “I think I’ll just continue forwarding my emails to my other system on my computer.”

While rising College and Wharton freshman Milan Savani admitted that there have been issues with the transition — such as some vague instructions and broken links — he ultimately was satisfied with Wharton Computing’s technical support.

“Overall, they’ve made some mistakes but have been immensely helpful in setting up our emails and recovering from errors,” he said in an email.

However, many students remain optimistic about the impact of the changes.

Rising Wharton sophomore Lauren McCann also believed that Google will simplify the task of managing her work.“Nearly all of my other programs are synced up with my Google account and it’ll be great to finally have my email there as well,” she said. “A Google format will streamline everything.”

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