Duke Moving Email System to The Cloud

Transition to Microsoft Office 365 service to begin in early 2013

Beginning in early 2013, Duke will move its email system to Microsoft Office 365, a cloud-based service that will better meet the needs of students, faculty and staff across the university and health system and will significantly reduce annual costs, officials said.

The new system will provide a number of benefits, including:

  • Increased mailbox size (from 2GB to 25GB for university Exchange users).
  • Unified email and calendaring across the university and health system.
  • Improved web interface.
  • Access to web versions of Word, Excel and other Office applications.

Users will still access the system using their preferred email client, although some simple configuration changes may be necessary. No email policies will change.

Duke will be among a growing number of universities to move to cloud-based email and will become one of the first comprehensive deployments of Office 365 across both the university and health system. Microsoft is working with several other early-adopter institutions including the University of Washington, Emory, Dartmouth and Cornell.

Duke IT leaders decided on the new email system after extensive research and collaboration with other universities, as well as consultation with Duke leadership, said Tracy Futhey, the university's chief information officer.

Following a formal Request for Proposals process, Duke leaders determined that Microsoft's proposal best fit the university and health system's overall requirements relating to functionality and cost. Office 365 also complies with federal requirements associated with hosting protected health information.

"A robust, reliable and secure email system is vital to Duke's daily operations," Futhey said. "As a cloud-based service, Office 365 offers increased redundancy and a rich feature set for users. Moving to the Microsoft cloud environment will enable us to achieve greater efficiency and will ensure that our users have the level of protection necessary to keep Duke's data private, with a guarantee that our data servers will stay in the U.S."

Duke leadership could now consider the possibility of eliminating its on-site email systems altogether, she said.

The university currently operates two on-site mail systems: DukeMail, powered by Oracle, and Microsoft Exchange. The health system also operates its own Microsoft Exchange system. The current DukeMail system, which has more than 40,000 mailboxes, is running on hardware that is more than four years old.

The transition provides an opportunity for cost savings, since Duke will no longer manage the email infrastructure, and also will facilitate effective collaboration across the university and health system, said Art Glasgow, chief information officer for Duke Medicine.

"Duke is a large, complex organization that serves a range of research, academic and patient needs. The ability to coordinate data and patient care across those areas is of fundamental importance," Glasgow said. "Our goal is to provide reliable, high-quality IT services that reflect our commitment to customer engagement, and this system will help us accomplish that."

The transition will include current students and alumni as well as faculty and staff in the university and health system.

Office 365 will be accessible through a web browser or using recent Microsoft Outlook clients. Users also can connect using popular email clients that support IMAP (Internet Messaging Access Protocol), such as Apple mail, Thunderbird and most smartphone mail applications; they should check with local IT support staff for recommendations on specific devices and clients.

The transition will be conducted in phases, with users notified via email in advance of their migration. Duke's Office of Information Technology will be working with department and school IT leaders to develop the transition timeline.

Additional information, including common questions and answers, will be available online before the transition.