When a non-profit private university looked into so-called “free,” cloud-based email solutions as alternatives to GroupWise, the spreadsheet analysis was surprising. After doing the math, GroupWise came out on top in several categories.

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About Millikin University

As Director of Information Technology for Millikin University, Pat Pettit is always looking for cost-efficient ways to improve IT services. When she installed GroupWise® in 1996, it was because of the innovative features it included (for no additional cost), plus its low administrative burden and high scalability—ideal for a university environment.

That’s why, 16 years ago, Millikin became one of the first universities to offer email as a standard application to everyone—faculty, staff and even students. Today, Millikin University offers an “email address for life” at no cost to current students and alumni.


Recently, Pettit looked into the free, cloud-based email solutions being offered to higher education by Google and Microsoft. She was already considering an upgrade to the university’s GroupWise 8 system.

“Our employees are very much in love with GroupWise,” she says. “I knew that taking that away from them would cause lots of grumbling. The past few years we’ve been talking about migrating to a cloud solution, but the more investigation we did, the more we realized a true comparison was needed."

The IT director found that other universities switching to free email solutions were only doing it for student accounts; faculty and staff were on a different system. Also, student accounts didn’t retain email messages, calendar entries or address books when migrated to the free system.

“We wanted to have our students and employees on the same system, with the same availability, and we didn’t want anyone to lose their email data,” Pettit recalls. So, her investigation continued.


User satisfaction needs aside, Pettit knew the upgrade-or-migrate decision required a careful look at the numbers. She created a spreadsheet to compare the collaboration solutions offered by us, Microsoft and Google—and the associated costs for upgrading or migrating.

“We discovered that, over five years, it would’ve cost us US$35,000 to switch to a ‘free’ solution,” she says. “That doesn’t include the costs for the business processes we’d have to rewrite, end-user training costs, and consulting fees for the migration.”

The spreadsheet analysis clearly showed that upgrading to GroupWise 2012 was the best choice. In her comparison, GroupWise had these advantages:

  • No extra servers required for directory federation
  • No special web client required
  • High availability service included
  • No need for training or consulting
  • Business processes and email data protected
  • Faster implementation (half the time to upgrade vs. migrate)
  • One solution for faculty, students and alumni


Instead of heading down a costly migration path, Millikin University upgraded to GroupWise 2012 over the summer break, completing the process in four weeks. “We could’ve done it faster, but we made a strategic decision to do it more slowly to make sure we had no problems,” Pettit explains. “The beauty of GroupWise is that we could still be communicating during the upgrade process, because GroupWise 2012 worked with the GroupWise 8 client.”

Besides cost savings, another benefit of the upgrade is productivity. “The faculty and staff are happy to keep their GroupWise, and the IT department is happy we didn’t have to write workarounds,” she says. “GroupWise is ingrained in our processes and the way we do business. We didn’t want to fracture that model.”

The university also uses Open Enterprise Server for its GroupWise servers, Clustering Services for high availability, and Identity Manager to provision new users with GroupWise and Data Synchronizer.

“We did a survey of incoming freshman and found that more than half want to do their email and calendars on smartphones or tablets, so Data Synchronizer is a must,” she says.

What started as an IT director’s look at free email options ended in an upgrade that now saves her department time and money, and keeps her end users productive. Pettit’s advice?

“It pays to do the math. ‘Free’ isn’t necessarily free when you take into account all of the costs involved.”

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    An independent, four-year private university founded in 1901 in Decatur, IL with about 2,300 undergraduate students and 500 employees




    United States

    North America



    • Upgraded to GroupWise 2012
    • Saved US$35,000 in hard costs compared to “free” solutions
    • Also saved the costs of end-user training, consulting fees and rewriting their business processes

    "GroupWise is ingrained in our processes and the way we do business. We didn’t want to fracture that model."

    IT Director
    Millikin University

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