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Pitt Webmail: Microsoft Office 365 vs Google Apps for Education
If you haven’t already heard that Pitt administrators and Student Government Board have been discussing changing Pitt’s current webmail service, EnterpriseMail, to Google Apps, now you know.
However, a recent WPTS interview with Pitt Chief Information Officer Jinx Walton revealed that the University is also considering the Office 365 product from Microsoft as a possible solution.
A change from the current system is imminent, and nobody is arguing against a change, but there will surely be a debate on whether Google Apps or Office 365 is the best platform for the University.
To truly decide which would be better for the University we’d have to do a full cost-benefit analysis, because in the end, it really does come down to the money. However, because we don’t know how much the University would be paying for each product, what software licenses they currently have, what deals are available, and the varying costs for schools of different sizes, we have to compare the products themselves in a side-by-side comparison, ignoring price.
Microsoft Office 365 is essentially a collaboration of Microsoft’s popular software packages built into an online application. This service includes Outlook (email and calendars), web conferencing, instant messaging, file storage and sharing, Office Web Apps, Mobile access on smartphones, constant updates, encrypted data, 24/7 support, etc.
Google Apps for Education includes the basic Google apps that users get for free on their personal Gmail accounts, except it’s all connected to your official University email account. This mainly includes Gmail, Calendar, Drive, Docs, Sheets, Slides, Sites (collaborative site-making application for projects), and Vault (data archiving for files, and email chats).
Both services are entirely dependent on the cloud, which is a huge plus. You can access all of your information from anywhere, and this makes collaboration in computer labs much easier.
Familiarity vs. Compatibility: In the end, it really all comes down to preference. Most students have Microsoft Office on their computers, so Office 365 would be perfectly compatible with the software that students are currently using. Google Apps, however, may be the more familiar option for students looking to collaborate on projects and access their email using the already hugely popular Gmail platform.
I’m hugely a Google user, but I do know that Office 365 is an awesome product. It’s a bit more fancy and loaded with more features which may up the price a bit, but the features may exceed the needs of the average college student.

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