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Queen's University

Faculty/Staff Collaboration Tools

Queen's wants to equip faculty and staff with a suite of contemporary e-communications services to support the academic and administrative activity of our University as it operates on a global stage.  Investigation into our options began in Spring 2014.  

One of the options for our collaboration tools is a move of faculty and staff to the Microsoft Office 365 cloud-based service. 

The Associate Vice-Principal and CIO, Bo Wandschneider, is engaging the community in a dialogue about this option, and has already spoken with members of the Enterprise Information Technology Advisory Committee (IT directors from units across campus), ITServices' Faculty Advisory Committee, the Combined Provost and Deans Management Group, the Faculty of Arts and Science Faculty Board, and various department heads and directors from academic and administrative units at Queen's.

In August Bo sat down for an interview with Queen's Communications, to talk about cloud computing.  More recently the was an article on graduate student migration.  He welcomes dialogue and is happy to meet with any individuals or groups who have questions about this proposal.

Send the CIO your feedback

What is Office 365?

Office 365 is a cloud-based e-communication suite that encompasses business-class email and calendaring, as well as online conferencing, secure file sharing and storage, and text and video chat capabilities, all of which are synced across multiple devices - desktops, laptops, tablets, and smart phones.

Why move to Office 365?

  • Queen's needs to redirect the resources we currently use to provide in-house email and calendaring services for faculty/staff to services and capabilities that are more relevant to the University's mission.  Our in-house services consume a great deal of time and resources that could be directed to other technology-based initiatives at Queen's.
  • Office 365 provides a much higher performance environment than the current in-house email and calendaring environment, including functionality, uptime, capacity, and upgrades.  The world is moving toward web-based services that offer continuous enhancements that keep pace with consumers' expectations and demands.
  • Office 365 is more secure than our current, "on-premise" email system, is compliant with world-class industry standards, and is verified by third parties. 
  • After moving tens of thousands of undergraduate student accounts to O365 in 2013, satisfaction was extremely high. Graduate students requested a move of their accounts, which will be done in 2014.  We want to offer the same move to faculty/staff at Queen's.
  • There is a high risk in the current practices of many individual faculty/staff members, who are using services such as Dropbox, Google Docs, and Amazon EC2 to store institutional information without proper contracts and risk mitigation measures.  We know this practice stems from the fact that Queen's has not yet provided the modern, high-performance tools required to get our work done - O365 provides these tools.

What have people on campus said?

  • The Faculty Advisory Committee passed the following motion:

The Information Systems and Technology – Faculty Advisory Committee (FAC) have reviewed background information related to the provisioning of cloud-based collaboration and productivity tools for faculty and staff.  Discussion centered around the Office 365 solution, similar to what is being used by undergraduate and graduate students.  The committee has discussed various issues related to this service in particular, and the more general direction for cloud-based services.

With appropriate due diligence around Privacy Risk Assessment and contract negotiations, the individuals on the Committee support the University moving to the O365 environment for all faculty and staff, with opt out for faculty.  The Committee believes that this would provide significantly enhanced services for the community in a more cost effective way, while at the same time reducing risks in areas such as privacy, confidentiality and availability of service.

  • The Enterprise Information Technology Advisory Committee passed the following motion:

Statement of Direction

Cloud Based Collaboration and Productivity Services for Queen’s Faculty and Staff

Over the past two years, the Enterprise Information Technology Advisory Committee (EITAC) has reviewed and discussed background information, legal perspectives and recommended practices relating to cloud services in general and Office365 specifically. In multiple meetings the Committee has had presentations on Office365 services and functionality that would be of broad benefit for the Queen’s community, and was briefed on legal views regarding privacy, security at advanced data centers which host cloud services, and the importance of rigorous contract negotiations.  

With appropriate due diligence around privacy risk assessment and contract negotiations, the Committee supports the University moving to the O365 environment for all faculty and staff, with opt out for faculty.  The Committee believes that this would provide significantly enhanced services for the community in a more cost effective way, while at the same time reducing risks in areas such as privacy, confidentiality and availability of service.

What are other universities doing?

The University of Alberta moved to Google Apps for Education in 2012.  McGill University, the University of Toronto, and Dalhousie University are just some of the other institutions in Canada making the move to cloud-based collaboration suites, or discussing their options.

But what about our privacy?

  • ITServices and Queen's are exercising extensive due diligence, in line with the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario's "Privacy by Design" framework.
  • ITServices undertook a detailed and lengthy privacy/risk assessment (PRA), which included review and approval both by Queen's legal counsel and an external and independent legal authority, before moving undergraduate students to O365 in 2013.  This work, and new consultations, will inform discussion on moving faculty/staff to O365.
  • An opt-out will be offered to faculty who do not wish to move to the cloud.  This same option was offered to undergraduate students in 2013, and was repeatedly communicated to the students, but no students chose to stay with the in-house offering.

Take a look at some specific privacy-related FAQs...

Q: Will data ownership be lost?
A:  No.  Any contract signed by Queen's will specifically stipulate that ownership of any and all data will be retained by the University.  Microsoft specifically points out that its customers retain all rights, title, and interest in any data stored within O365.

Q: I am going to want to encrypt all of my email - are there tools that will allow me to do this?
A: Email should not be used to send personal and/or sensitive information or data, regardless of whether the email system being used is in-house or cloud-based.  If you are sending personal information via email now, it is at risk, even though the current faculty/staff email solution is in-house.  There are tools to help you encypt information regardless of the email solution you use or will use in the future, as well as Word documents and Excel spreadsheets.  In O365, all email sent between your device(s) and Microsoft is encrypted by default.  If you have questions about encryption, please contact ITServices for help.

Q: Will I see advertising when I use the email and calendar functionality?
A: No. Any contract signed will stipulate that no advertising is permitted.

Q: Because Microsoft is an American-based company, won't we lose the protection of Ontario and Canadian laws?
A: No. Any contract will be written in Ontario and provincial/federal laws will apply.

Q: What about the U.S. Patriot Act?
A: Experts, such as the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Ontario and leading technology and privacy lawyer, David Fraser, have commented on the Act and compared it to legislation that already exists within Canada.  The Act should not change the current risk profile already applied to our collaboration tools.  In fact, we believe the O365 option is more secure than our current environment.


To learn more, take a look at the resources below.

    Last updated: December 2014


        Kingston, Ontario, Canada. K7L 3N6. 613.533.2000