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Google Cloud Storage

Chief Information Officer Gene Adams answers questions about SAIC’s plan to end unlimited cloud storage.

By Featured, News, SAIC

A red stoplight in front of clouds in the sky.

Photograph by Michaela Chan.

As previously reported, SAIC and AIC are managing a transition away from unlimited Google Cloud storage. The announcement put graduating students in a state of panic, as they try to squeeze in time to download years of content and contacts from their Google accounts. As Jordan Roth (BFA 2022) said, “It’d be nice if this wasn’t happening.”

I talked to Gene Adams, Chief Information Officer (CIO) at AIC/SAIC about the transition. He notes that “We are still working with Alumni Engagement, CAPX, Student Affairs, CRIT, the Dean’s Office, and other areas to map out plans, pull together informational resources such as a website and FAQ, and communications for students, alumni, faculty and staff.” A set end date to services has not yet been announced. In the meantime, here is Google’s guide for downloading data.

Michaela Chan: Did Google offer to negotiate the change to cloud storage? If so, was the asking price too high?

Gene Adams: We could not negotiate with Google on the change; it is something Google is enforcing across all of their higher ed customers. Google’s new storage model provides schools and universities with a baseline of 100 terabytes of pooled storage shared across all users. There is no option to buy as much storage as you like. We did purchase an annual subscription to the Google Workspace for Education Plus edition which provides us with an additional 140 terabytes of pooled storage to be shared.

MC: Will alumni need to actively acknowledge the notification of service discontinuation before their accounts are closed? Does the school have access to non-school email addresses for alumni?

GA: We have several messages planned to our alum community over these next three months to let them know of the change and give them time to export their data. The Alumni Engagement office maintains a list of contact information for alums that consists of a combination of personal and @saic.edu email addresses. They will of course be reaching out to alums to be sure that we have an active email address on file for everyone. Also, they will be offering an alum forwarding service so that SAIC alums can request an @alumni.saic.edu address that will forward messages to their personal email address.

MC: Unlimited consumption — of cloud storage, of plastic, of donuts, of anything! is an unsustainable expectation. What other green initiatives is AIC Information Services spearheading?

GA: For many years, we have worked with an asset recovery vendor to be sure that all end-of-life computers, monitors, printers, switches, etc. have been securely recycled or disposed of in compliance with environmental standards. We continue to work with Instructional Resources and Facilities Management (IRFM) and the museum Facilities departments to implement network-based building management systems to monitor electricity usage, operate lighting and shade controls, and track temperature and humidity levels in the galleries. Having real-time data and controls allows building engineers to efficiently manage our energy footprint.

MC: What are some challenges of Google’s policy change that are unique to an arts institution?

GA: As you can imagine, we have many more multimedia files in Google Drive and Gmail attachments than most institutions. Our challenge is to settle into a storage model and individual storage limits where we use Google Workspace as the collaboration platform that it is predominantly for native files such as Docs, Sheets, Word, and Excel and other “work-in-progress” files while storing large video files, images and finished products on local file servers or systems with cloud-based storage.

MC: What other trends in cloud computing do you, as CIO of a major institution, anticipate?

GA: We are certainly seeing more and more systems being hosted in the cloud by vendors and expect to see that to continue. This has changed the cost model from a large, upfront purchase of a software license with annual maintenance payments to an annual subscription model which costs more on a year-after-year basis. As an educational institution, we were fortunate to be able to use Google Workspace for free since 2009 and it’s understandable that they are now moving their customers towards the more common subscription model with limits.

Michaela Chan (MFAW 2023) has 7 unread emails, 4 inbox emails, and 987 archived emails in her @saic.edu account. Find more of her work at www.michaelachan.com.

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