Outlook mail accounts headed for the cloud

Over the next few months, faculty and staff email accounts gradually will be transferred to Microsoft's cloud-based service. The transition promises to be fairly easy. If you view email on your Outlook desktop application, you'll continue to do so, using the same application you currently have. If you access email via Outlook Web App (OWA), you'll find a few changes in a fresh interface. But the OWA website largely retains its familiar look.

In this Q&A, information technology services (ITS) staff provide details on Iowa State's move to Microsoft Office 365's mail service.

Why make the change?

Microsoft's cloud-based service offers several advantages over the current Outlook Exchange service on campus:

  • Microsoft provides secure, backed-up storage for all faculty and staff email. Currently, all employee email is stored on campus. Once Office 365 is fully implemented, reduced storage needs should save Iowa State several hundred thousand dollars annually.
  • Each employee will get 50G of email storage, twice the current allotment
  • An instant messaging system (Lync) will be included on the Outlook 365 email accounts


Details on the migration to Office 365.

What is the cost of Office 365?

Under its Office 365 education plan, Microsoft provides 50G mailboxes, instant messaging and video conferencing capabilities at no cost to Iowa State.

Will the new system meet federal requirements for information security?

Microsoft assures that its storage system conforms to federal requirements, such as the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which protects the privacy of student educational records; the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which protects individuals' health information; and federal regulations on exporting technologies to other countries.

Are other universities adopting the Office 365 mail system?

Many universities have adopted Office 365, including Wisconsin, Kansas State, Nebraska, Washington, California-Davis, Southern California, Duke and Florida.

Will Office 365 work on mobile devices?

Yes. Setup on mobile devices should be as easy or easier than it is now.

What's the schedule for moving faculty and staff mail systems to Office 365?

ITS will begin migrating email accounts soon and the process will continue throughout the spring and part of the summer. A transition schedule will be developed and published on the ITS website. ITS staff will work with departments and units to schedule transition times that are convenient.

What happens during the migration process?

Generally ITS staff will migrate all email accounts in a department overnight. The next morning, individuals will follow a short set of emailed instructions to set up their new accounts. Tech support and training sessions will be available throughout the migration period.

Am I getting new software with the migration?

You'll continue to use the same desktop application that's installed on your computer -- that is, Outlook 2013 or 2010 for PC or Outlook 2011 for Mac. However, the Outlook Web App, which is part of Exchange 2013, will be new to most. The current Outlook Web App is the 2010 version.

Is training for Office 365 available?

The Office 365 web page offers instructions on using the mail program. Additionally, an ITS team will be doing "road shows" to introduce Office 365 to key campus groups. The schedule for Microsoft Office transition will include the "road shows" schedules as well.

How does the messaging service work?

Microsoft's Lync application provides instant messaging capability. It's already installed on the Office 365 Outlook Web app and on university computers with Outlook 2013 for Windows. If you want messaging capability on Office 2010 for Windows or Office 2011 for Mac, you'll need to contact your IT coordinator or the Solution Center, 4-4000, for help installing the software. You'll only be able to exchange messages with those who have Lync installed, are online and have their messaging status set to "available."

Are there any issues that have cropped up during early migrations?

About 400 mail accounts have been migrated so far with minimal problems. Some individuals who try to schedule meetings with those whose mail accounts have been migrated may be prompted for their own Net-IDs. Supplying their Net-IDs and passwords generally provides the fix.

Are there plans to transition student email accounts to Outlook 365?

Google's Gmail will remain the standard email account for students. However, students will have access to Microsoft Office 365 Pro, which includes the email program. Those who wish to use Outlook 365 can set up their own accounts.