Update: On Aug. 1, 2023, Microsoft announced major changes to their cost model for online storage. In response, Virginia Tech has made signficant revisions to the original service decision outlined in the news article below. The revised service decison can be found in the Aug. 4, 2023 campus notice, New information adjusts university’s planned course on email, online storage.

Over the next 14 months, Virginia Tech will move all users from Google to Microsoft for email and calendars and will establish a new operating model for the administration of Google Drive storage.

This transition is in response to a change in Google’s licensing model for higher education institutions. In 2022, Google’s offerings for higher education moved to a volume-based subscription model, resulting in steep cost increases for Virginia Tech and other universities. Users do not need to take immediate action, but it is important that members of the university community understand how these changes will affect them and know the steps they will need to take to prepare. 
At a high level, the changes are as follows:

  • All users: Virginia Tech email and calendars are consolidating on the Microsoft Exchange Online platform. For Gmail users, the university will provide migration services for email and calendar accounts on a staggered basis beginning this fall and continuing through June 2024. In addition:
    • VT Google Groups services will continue with no changes.
    • VT Google Photos (app) will be phased out by July 1, 2024.
  • Current students and employees: Individual Google My Drive folders will be limited to 5GB. Departments will have the ability to increase employee storage allocations. Apps such as Docs, Sheets, Slides, Forms, and Sites will remain available.
  • Departments and units: University departments will be provided with an extra 40 GB of Google storage per employee and may allocate this storage as needed between employee drives and shared drives. In addition, departments will have the option to purchase additional Google storage on an ongoing basis. Beginning May 10:
    • Creation of new Google shared drives by employees will require departmental approval and will be disallowed for students, alumni, and retirees.
    • Requests for new Google Auxiliary Email (GAE) accounts, which are often used by departments to share access to resources, will be fulfilled by creating Microsoft PACE accounts. PACE accounts serve a similar function. Existing GAE accounts will be converted to PACE accounts on a department-by-department basis beginning in the fall.
  • Alumni: Beginning this fall, email accounts for Virginia Tech alumni will be migrated to new 50GB Microsoft mailboxes. The new email addresses will end in @alumni.vt.edu. Access to all Virginia Tech Google apps will be phased out by July 1, 2024. Instructions, tutorials, and support will be available to assist with moving data from VT Google storage onto other storage platforms.
  • Retirees: Beginning this fall, retiree email accounts will be migrated to 50GB Microsoft mailboxes that will keep the @vt.edu suffix. For new retirees, the transition from the 100GB employee email account to the 50GB retiree account may require substantial email deletion or archiving. For retirees, access to all Virginia Tech Google apps and services will be phased out by July 1, 2024, though retirees will retain access to some Microsoft 365 apps and storage. Support will be available to assist with transfers or downloading of data from VT Google storage. 

This is just a brief summary. Complete details are available on the Google changes website.

This plan of action was approved by the Information Technology Governance Executive Committee, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Amy Sebring, and Vice President for Information Technology and Chief Information Officer Scott Midkiff. The recommendations were developed by the Google Workspace Program steering committee, a workgroup that included individuals from all areas of the university. The committee carefully considered the impact of Google’s licensing changes, evaluated options, and weighed stakeholder feedback over a two-year period.

A key factor in the decision was cost. Under the new Google license model, an equivalent amount of Google cloud storage would cost more than seven times what it will cost the university on the Microsoft platform. Our current level of Google storage, which is continually increasing, would cost the university more than $990,000 in the first year under the new plan.

At Virginia Tech, both Microsoft and Google email and calendaring systems have operated in parallel since 2008. “Bringing email and calendars into a single platform will simplify collaboration and scheduling across the university, allow for more focused training and support, and reduce administrative overhead,” said Midkiff. “In addition, use of the Microsoft M365 platform for these services allows us to better protect the security and privacy of email and university and personal data.”  

Successful completion of these changes will require active participation from the entire university community. Account migrations will begin in the fall, but the first changes — affecting the creation of new Google shared drives and GAE accounts — will begin on May 10. All changes and migrations must be completed before July 1, 2024. 

All are encouraged to take proactive steps to review their current storage usages, plan for the deletion of unneeded files and email stored in Google, and consider how they will administer their ongoing needs for online file storage. University departments and units should also review their overall use of storage on the Google platform and consider the decisions they need to make to determine the best path forward for their groups. Specific guidance on making Google storage decisions will be added to the website in the coming weeks.

To support this significant change, frequent updates will be provided. In addition, Virginia Tech will offer support, consultations, training, and details on when specific changes are approaching for individual users, colleges, and departments. Please visit the Google Email, Calendar, and Online Storage Changes website for the latest information, including timelines, resources, and frequently asked questions.

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