Head shot of Mike Weaver, assistant to the vice president for research at the University of Iowa

As assistant to the vice president for research at the University of Iowa, Mike Weaver is responsible for seamlessly syncing calendars for the department’s top administrators.

And, since the Office for Research and Economic Development made the switch to Office 365 last November, Weaver says it’s been much easier for him to make scheduling changes.

“I think the biggest advantage is the ability to securely log into calendars from a web browser or cell phone,” Weaver says.

The Communication and Collaboration Project kicked off last summer as the UI looked to expand Office 365 service to faculty and staff. The project, one of the 16 OneIT@Iowa TIER initiatives, aims to standardize email services to reduce support variability.

“UI students moved to Office 365 two years ago and have reported positive feedback on the change,” says project team co-leader Ryan Lenger, communication and collaboration service manager in Information Technology Services. “It’s been exciting to expand the service to faculty and staff, which will unify campus into the same modern user experience, improving reliability, security, and access.”

Benefits of the Office 365 upgrade include a 50-times larger email storage capacity—nearly eliminating the need to delete messages to create inbox space—and one terabyte of cloud file storage through OneDrive, so employees can access files from anywhere, sync across all devices, and share files and folders with co-workers.

The upgrade also creates access to online Microsoft Office apps for easy collaboration and  seamless integration with instant messaging, video conferencing, and online meetings.

Office 365 is compatible with smartphones and mobile devices, accessible through the Web, and students, faculty, and staff can install the full Office Suite for free on up to five personal computers and devices.

Weaver says the upgrade also has allowed those in his office to collaborate on editing important documents in real time.

“The upgrade allows multiple people to simultaneously edit one document, eliminating the need to send revisions and reconcile changes,” Weaver says. “It’s a huge advantage.”

Moving all students, faculty, and staff into the Office 365 system positions the UI to leverage many future cloud services provided by Microsoft.

So far, individuals using Office 365 have reported high satisfaction. A post-migration survey has been sent to each person involved. The feedback improved each subsequent unit move to Office 365.

In preparation for the change, the UI partnered with several institutions to negotiate strong contractual agreements with Microsoft, including a Business Associates Agreement to cover HIPAA, or medical privacy, data. University email content is encrypted and only the UI has access to the data.

As of January 2016, 98.5 percent of the UI campus is using cloud-based Office 365 email, meaning more than 50,000 mailboxes have made the transition.

If users continue using desktop versions of Microsoft applications, like Outlook, they will not experience a change.

The smooth implementation of Office 365 was made possible by extensive collaboration of nearly all IT professionals, along with many departmental and college administrative staff. The effort was guided by two project leaders—Lenger and Scott Fuller, director of technical operations at the Tippie College of Business—and managed by Isaac Podolefsky, a project manager in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

What are the benefits of the upgrade?

• 50-times larger email quota

• 1 TB of cloud file storage through OneDrive (current home drives are 25 GB)

• Optional use of online Office apps (Excel, Word, PowerPoint, OneNote)

• Integration with instant messaging, video conferencing and online meetings

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