Cloud-Based Email Service for CityU: Usage and What’s Next?

by Joseph Leung
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The new email system for students, supported by the cloud messaging solution, Microsoft Office 365 Exchange Online (hereafter referred to as Office 365 or O365), has been launched since 29 January 2013. When CityU students graduate, they can carry on using the same email addresses and accounts as their CityU Alumni contact means to stay connected with their classmates, professors and the University.
 
The cloud-based Office 365 not only provides email service but also integrates with Calendar, Contacts (address books), Tasks, Notes, etc. and can easily be accessed anywhere with a PC, Mac and popular mobile device such as an iPhone, Android phone and Blackberry.  In addition, each Office 365 account is allocated a storage quota of 25 GB which is a significant increase in the email quota for students.
 
The implementation of the new email system (domain name @my.cityu.edu.hk) had been phased in to replace the old system (domain name @student.cityu.edu.hk) in two stages as described below. This was to allow time for students to get familiar with Office 365 and departments to update their local student mailing systems/lists from @student.cityu.edu.hk to @my.cityu.edu.hk.
 
Stage One (29 January 2013 – 16 April 2013)
In stage one, both new and old student accounts operated in parallel. All incoming emails in the old accounts were copied to the new accounts automatically. Any email that was sent directly to the Office 365 email address could ONLY be seen in the corresponding O365 account.
 
Stage Two (17 April 2013 – 31 July 2013)
In stage two, old email accounts would become read-only. Student users are able to log in their old email accounts to retrieve old (stored) emails but they cannot receive or send new emails there. All subsequent new emails sent to the old @student.cityu.edu.hk email addresses from 17 April 2013 onwards will be redirected and only be received and seen in the students’ new O365 accounts.
 
Starting 1 August 2013, the old email system (@student.cityu.edu.hk) will be shut down and no one will be able to log in. Students are, therefore, advised to retrieve their needed emails from the old email system before 1 August 2013. The email redirection from @student.cityu.edu.hk to @my.cityu.edu.hk will continue until end of 2014 to allow sufficient time for students to update their email correspondents with their O365 email addresses and departments to update their email distribution applications. Moreover, starting from 1 January 2015, the email redirection will stop and @student.cityu.edu.hk will become invalid and only @my.cityu.edu.hk will be reachable.
 
So far as it goes, around 27,000 students and alumni are now using O365 for email communication. Those very few who are not using O365 yet should perform the “one-time account activation” immediately and start to use O365.
 
Mailbox usage has been recorded since January. The total size of disk storage space used has already reached 1100 GB with the largest mailbox consuming more than 5 GB.
 
Some feedbacks were received from users. They appreciated the friendly interface, Inbox Rules and Calendar especially the large email quota. The latter has indeed brought convenience to the users as more email and large file attachments can now be kept for a much longer period.
 
To enable students to learn more about the features of Office 365, Microsoft and the Computing Services Centre (CSC) had jointly organized two “Talks on Office 365” on 22 and 25 March 2013 which were announced in the CityU Announcement Portal (CAP). Furthermore, a list of “Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)” has been prepared which can be accessed on http://www.cityu.edu.hk/csc/deptweb/support/faq/email/o365/o365.htm . The most frequently asked questions that we have received so far are in the following categories: 
  • Access O365 by Gmail/Outlook/Mac/Mobile phone
  • Switch back the light version of Outlook Web Access (OWA) to the premium mode.
  • Forget passwords
  • Transfer old mails from the old accounts to the O365 accounts 
The coming development of O365 will be to release Lync Online and SharePoint Online to facilitate instant messaging and social networking. Further ahead will be to migrate the 90,000 alumni from @alumni.cityu.edu.hk to O365 which requires detail planning as huge amount of email accounts is involved and the users are harder to reach.