Debunking 6 GoogleApps for Education Myths

Source: ZDnet, Google vs Microsoft


Fear, uncertainty and doubt (or, FUD). These exist about GoogleApps for Education, even though it's a solution that could save Texas school districts money. I've heard FUD myself, firsthand, and it's curious to see others discuss it. 


Here are excerpts from the Google Certified Teachers (GCT) email list that are relevant to....


1. Google Apps is not backed up, and is incredibly weak on essential management tools unless you start spending serious money annually, as I've previously highlighted.
 Not hosting an onsite email system has freed our technology folks up to do more interesting work like deploy a moodle network, create a word press instance for our community, and to focus on our core mission, which is teaching and learning. Using the stock admin interface we're able to conduct all essential administrative tasks effectively and efficiently.  In our two years of using google for our email and collaboration purposes, we have NEVER lost a document or email message once it was created. I can't say the same thing about word files stored on our file server or messages in our old FirstClass system. The level of redundancy that Google offers just simply can't be replicated by school IT folks. 
***
Here's what Google say: "Data is replicated in multiple data centers for redundancy and consistent availability...  Your data will be stored in Google's network of data centers. Google maintains a number of geographically distributed data centers, the locations of which are kept discreet for security purposes. Google's computing clusters are designed with resiliency and redundancy in mind, eliminating any single point of failure and minimizing the impact of common equipment failures and environmental risks."

2. Unless we are in a position to effectively manage Google Apps like we manage existing school systems and that means investing money on an annual basis,  then I cannot agree. Likewise, I cannot agree where existing or planned facilities are duplicated as a result of using such services as this increases our total cost of ICT ownership.
Even considering that we have the premium Postini message archiving service for all of our faculty and staff (we don't have it for our students), our TCO for our google apps network is significantly less than what we paid for our onsite FirstClass system. 
***
A cloud-based implementation such as GAfE is, in my mind, doomed to failure if it is seen as duplication of existing facilities.  It's more disruptive than that and indeed works best when it is embedded at the
cultural level, becoming as invisible and ubiquitous as electricity or any other utility.  Increasing the ICT TCO?  Hardly: 'free' is never free because there's work to do at the educating and embedding level, but in terms of hardware, networking, management, help desk and all those other things that no doubt currently come under the 'technical services manager' jurisdiction, there's no comparison.  In fact, the importance of many of those elements fades almost to insignificance. I know you work in a very different environment from the tiny state primary in which I'm a governor, but for what it's worth we hardly ever talk about any of those infrastructure things: it's all about the vision for teaching and learning these days, and where ICT does raise its head it's only in terms of how it supports that vision.
3) Is Postini still available for free to GoogleApps for Education (GAFE) users?

Postini is free for K-12 indefinitely now, no deadline date to sign up. If you want to maintain email archives, you pay $11 per account per year to keep archives for 10 years. Since archiving student emails may be cost-prohibitive, consider this workaround by Matt Lovegrove: 

First I made a new email address to capture all emails sent - emailcapture@mydomain.comI then set an incoming rule that states that any email sent that contains the '@' sign in the 'sender' box will be delivered but will also be quarantined to emailcapture@mydomain.com. This means that every email a user sends is delivered, but that a copy is also made available when I login to the emailcapture@mydomain.comquarantine via postini.  Here's what the rule looks like...
Click image to enlarge


I rarely read student emails, but it has been handy to have in place and I have had to go through the logs once or twice when students have told me they were worried about an email they received.

4) Google isn't friendly to "handicapped" students. Google doesn't equate with accessibility.



5) I was under the impression that with a Google Apps Education Edition domain, that the data was considered to be ours, and that we did not need parent permission to give an account to a student 13 years or younger.

We added a signature line in our handbook for parents to agree that it is okay for the school district to create online accounts for students as a means of securing parent permission for Google Apps, Private label wikispaces and other web 2.0 tools like Glogster. Most parents agree and when we contact those that did not and explain, they usually change their mind. 
***

I've spent some time looking into this issue, and that's my understanding, even though many school districts choose to use some kind of permission slip anyway. COPPA applies only to commercial entities, not non-profits or schools. In addition, COPPA allows schools to act as agents for parents in providing consent for the online collection of students’ personal information within the school context.  And, COPPA does not apply to the website operator’s collection of personal information from participating children where a school has contracted with an operator to collect personal information from students for the use and benefit of the school. So as I read it, you're covered three times over with Google Apps for Education. 

I've collected similar interesting and empowering facts about CIPA, COPPA, FERPA, and other related laws here:http://principals.wikispaces.com/legal

6) Anyone can send an email to a GoogleApps email account. That means our students can be emailed by strangers!

While most organizations using Google Apps provide unrestricted email access to their users, some schools and businesses need to maintain a safer and more secure environment by allowing certain users to only send and receive email within the organization. This "walled garden" approach has been a popular feature request for K-12 schools looking to provide additional safeguards for student email. It can also help businesses where the email access of particular contractors and other groups should be limited. 
Today, Google Apps administrators can create policies specifying who their users can communicate with over email, and administrators can tailor these policies for different groups of users. For example, school faculty and staff can have unrestricted email access while students have the freedom to send and receive emails within the school community but are protected from unwanted email interactions with outsiders. (Source: http://googleenterprise.blogspot.com/2011/01/set-limits-on-email-use-within-your.html)



Image Source: http://computerschool.org/computers/google/


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Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin's blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

Comments

Zack Whittaker said…
You forgot to highlight the Patriot Act...
pshircliff said…
Thanks for the discussion
Dr.T said…
Miguel,

Where is that last image from?
Miguel Guhlin said…
@Dr. T, thanks for pointing out I didn't include the link. Here it is:
http://computerschool.org/computers/google/
Anonymous said…
As any IT professional will tell you, there is a massive difference between system resilience and backup.

Google only talk about system resilience, they never talk about backup. There is no doubt that they have a resilient system. However, resilience is not the same as having a backed up system and whilst this is fine for home use, it is inadequate for any organisation who lives or dies by its data.

The reason Google does not talk about backup is because it is incredibly expensive to do regardless of whether the backup medium is tape, disk or a cloud based solution.

So Google ignore it altogether, and try to fudge the meaning of resilience to make out it is the same as backup. It is not!

Backup is about taking a "time based" snapshot of the data and archiving the snapshot for a period of time. The backup is "offline" and totally independent of the live system, it is also portable. A full meaning can be found on Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Backup.

Google's resilience can not cater for deleted files or corrupted files. Restoring data back to a certain point in time is very limited across the suite. This is why 3rd party add-ins exist to fill this gap and these cost the user/ organisation money.

As regards administration, as a comparison take a look at Microsoft's Active Directoy or Novell Directory Services and then compare them to what Google offer. the reality is that there is absolutely no comparison. It makes the administration/ management tools supplied by Google look incredibly poor.

So before taking Google's word, look around, understand what the competition provide and compare. If you are open minded you will see that whilst Google go some way to protecting your data through resilience, that is as far as they go. Anything more and you will have to pay for a 3rd party solution via Google marketplace. which is why they exist and why Google encourages developers to make apps for Google Marketplace.

Of course there is a business incentive for Google to limit their free offering and encourage 3rd party development. They get a cut of the developers revenue through the Google Marketplace.

Remember Google is a business and businesses exist to make money. Google makes money from you either indirectly through its advertising via Google search and Google Apps, and via peripheral activities like Google Market Place.

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