Welcome Back: Sorry, no Gmail: 365 premieres

By Sarah Police / Staff Writer

Students waiting until classes start to check their Pitt emails are in for a surprise. 

Pitt’s prior email service, Enterprise Email, transitioned to Microsoft Office 365 on July 27. Those in the Pitt community who previously forwarded their Pitt mail to a private account must reconfigure the forwarding services if they haven’t already done so. 

Microsoft Office 365 allows about 47,000 students, staff and faculty to access new features such as an updated and secure spam filter and an updated University directory. Office 365 also offers tutorial videos about the new platform on lynda.pitt.edu, a website that offers training courses.

According to Dan Menicucci, a Computing Services & Systems Development (CSSD) technology architect, about 34,800 students have already accessed the new system. He said the change for students is still ongoing as CSSD is transferring the Legacy Webmail, or old Enterprise Email messages, into their My Pitt Email accounts.

Most students said they adapted easily to the change and find the new system useful.

Jordan Wilson, a junior chemistry major, said he “was tired of having to delete emails every month because the storage on the old one wasn’t as good.”

The new platform allows students 50 GB of storage, compared to the 250 MB previously available on Enterprise Email. The Pitt community can now access Office ProPlus, a mobile version of Microsoft Office, for free on smartphones and tablets. Many students said they are very excited about this change because of the increased accessibility. 

“This [platform] can connect to your phone much easier than the other — it just takes an app from the App Store,” Wilson said. 

The Outlook Web App, available on Apple and Android devices as separate applications, gives students access to Microsoft Word, Excel, PowerPoint, OneNote and Lync. Additionally, students can link their CourseWeb calendar and PeopleSoft class schedule to their My Pitt Email calendar. Those without Apple or Android can still access their email inboxes through an Internet browser.

Not all students are happy with the change to Microsoft 365, though. Caroline Barnes, a junior communications major, said she wished the University had chosen to use Gmail as the new server. 

Pitt considered Gmail as an option, according to Menicucci, but decided on Office 365 because of a “variety of factors,” including product familiarity for professors. 

“To be honest, I just forward all of my emails to my Gmail account because it’s a lot more convenient,” Barnes said. “I haven’t even looked at the new one.”

According to Menicucci, CSSD asked various University departments to send emails to students about the changes before they went into effect on July 27. Students also received a CSSD email when their old accounts were successfully transferred to the new one.

Unlike the students, faculty and staff were given the option by CSSD to update their Pitt email or continue to have it forwarded through another platform such as Gmail or Hotmail.

Robert Atkin, a professor in the Katz Graduate School of Business, said he updated to the new My Pitt Email. Until more recently, he said the transition appeared to go smoothly from his end.

“More recently, I have gotten the impression that the platform is a bit unstable, i.e., subject to freeze-ups and the dreaded ‘not responding’ state,” he said.

Menicucci said he was surprised to hear reports of slow-loading pages or lagging. 

“I don’t want to say that it doesn’t exist. It’s just not something that I’ve heard about before,” Menicucci said. “But we’re happy to work with anyone who is experiencing that and work through those problems.”

Atkin said he doesn’t think the new platform is easier or harder to use, though.

Like Atkin, Josh Beaty, a faculty member who teaches mass communication process, said he doesn’t really notice the difference.

“I use Apple’s email client for all of my email accounts, so I haven’t noticed too much difference, other than that it’s easier to forward my Pitt email to my Gmail account,” Beaty said.

Menicucci said CSSD will email a survey to all students, faculty and staff about the new platform shortly after the fall semester ends to gather feedback for the future.

“We are really excited about My Pitt Email,” Menicucci said. “We think that once students try it and see what it can do, they will be, too.”

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