Students at Alberta College of Art & Design (ACAD) have something new to talk about this fall – a school-wide e-mail system.

The Calgary-based school is implementing the e-mail system to foster a sense of community.

“One of our goals of the college is to create a more cohesive community in terms of the communication between administration and students, information flowing in the right direction,” said Lance Carleson, president and CEO of ACAD.

He said that before the e-mail system, “there was literally no way for me to send a global announcement to all the students. And that’s just not me. Nobody could.”

Stephen Lamb, director of computing and technical services at ACAD, said the college needed a system that could manage a large volume of transient accounts. The previous e-mail system, a standard POP3 e-mail system with a Web interface, only provided accounts to approximately 400 faculty, staff and students in select programs.

The college also needed an e-mail system that was easy-to-manage for the college’s modest IT staff and affordable enough to fit in the college’s slim IT budget.

Lamb said ACAD chose Electric Mail as its vendor because it delivered more than the college needed without requiring additional infrastructure investments.

“I think generally we’re getting better value in terms of the costs,” said Lamb. He said Hosted Email, Electric Mail’s Web mail, provides virus and spam filtering and a large volume of messages without taxing ACAD’s staff or budget. Hosted Email also synchs with Microsoft Outlook to allow users to share contacts and calendars, a community-building feature the previous system didn’t provide.

Electric Mail’s Messaging Maestro, a Web-based e-mail management tool, allows Lamb’s staff to create, configure and manage the e-mail accounts themselves. The simplicity of the system is another bonus for ACAD – it took one person less than an hour to create and configure 1000 new addresses for ACAD’s e-mail system.

In addition to providing a way for students and staff to communicate to every person in the college, Hosted Email will simplify the registration process and offer an e-mail system that is branded with the school’s colours.

Hosted Mail works by routing ACAD’s mail through Electric Mail, where it is filtered for viruses and spam. Ian McDonald, general manager and vice-president of sales at Electric Mail, said that in the first two days of operation Electric Mail had prevented 12,000 spam messages and 27 viruses from reaching ACAD e-mail accounts.

Hosted Email went online at ACAD on August 1. The college provisioned 1,000 additional email accounts for students, who began to log-in on September 6.

McDonald said smaller organizations like ACAD often find managing their own email system to be too costly or too complicated.

“E-mail can distract technical resources from the important business that needs to get done,” said McDonald. He compared the dedicated e-mail IT technician to the mail boys of yesteryear who spent their days pushing carts of parcels around the office.

“It makes no sense anymore,” he said. “From a pure IT position, many organizations have slim budgets. The more they can offload, the more we can cover off for them, the better they are.”

Comment: info@itbusiness.ca

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