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Learn how Queen's is planning for our safe return to campus.

Staff and faculty email moving to Office 365

Senior Communications Officer Craig Leroux recently spoke with Bo Wandschneider, Associate Vice-Principal (Information Technology Services) and Chief Information Officer, about the benefits and security of Office 365.

Bo Wandschneider, Associate Vice-Principal (Information Technology Services) and Chief Information Officer

Craig Leroux: What is Office 365 and why is Queen’s moving to that platform?

Bo Wandschneider: Office 365 is Microsoft’s cloud-based collaborative suite that includes email and calendaring, secure file storage and sharing, and other collaborative functionality all synced across desktop and mobile devices. It provides more features, greater storage capacity and a higher level of security than we can provide on-premise.

Undergraduate and graduate students are already using Office 365 and are very pleased with the service. We are now in the process of migrating staff and faculty email and calendar accounts and expect the process to be complete in February.

CL: Does the move to Office 365 carry increased security and privacy risks?

BW: The university and ITS take security and privacy very seriously. Over the past 8-12 months I have engaged many groups on campus, as well as individual faculty and staff members, in a dialogue about Office 365 and a discussion around security and privacy.

Queen's has done extensive due diligence, including a detailed privacy risk assessment of Office 365, and in fact there are more risks associated with our current practices. The physical and software security of Microsoft’s servers is world-class and much higher than what we can provide on campus. In addition, data sent between your device and Microsoft is encrypted both in transit and at rest on its servers.

Regardless of where data is stored, we all need to pay greater attention to understanding and applying safe handling practices, especially for confidential or sensitive data. ITS has resources available to assist members of the Queen’s community, including an online IT security awareness course.

CL: With Office 365 hosted in the United States, should we not be concerned about the Patriot Act?

BW: Respected privacy experts like former Ontario Privacy Commissioner Ann Kavoukian and privacy lawyer David Fraser have commented on the Patriot Act and noted that similar provisions exist in Canadian law.

Ms. Kavoukian has said that “it is not realistic for organizations to take the approach of ‘locking down’ their communications systems within a local or national geographical boundary. We live in an increasingly interconnected, internet-driven global economy in which data is transferred and stored instantly on computer servers around the world.”

With global communication networks, Queen’s privacy risks are not increased by moving to Office 365.

CL: Can people opt out of Office 365?

BW: While there are many benefits to Office 365, an opt-out process was made available to faculty members who do not wish to move to the new system. There will be opportunities in the future for faculty who opted out to opt back in, should they wish.

CL: Where can we learn more about Office 365?

BW: The collaboration tools page on the CIO's website has much more information, including further details about security and privacy, as well as on the features of Office 365. I also encourage anyone with questions to contact me directly.