Investigating the Future of Email and Calendar at SFU

The Email & Calendar Solution Investigation project concluded in March 2017. The information on this page is for archival purposes only. For information about the Email & Calendar System Replacement project, please click here

SFU Connect, powered by the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) was first implemented in 2009. Due to the evolving needs of the University, a project to investigate a new email and calendar solution was conducted. The project explored Microsoft’s email solutions as the next potential officially supported solution. The options were:

  • Microsoft Exchange Online (via Office 365), and 
  • a locally hosted Microsoft Exchange Server.


The goals of the investigation were to:

  • Enable the University to establish a better understanding of the email and calendar needs of the SFU Community, and also a set of ongoing issues to address.
  • Based on this understanding and considering constraints, evaluate which of the options is best for SFU going forward with input from the community.


Those who will be impacted will include all members of the SFU Community who currently have active SFU Connect accounts. This includes all current students, staff, faculty members, users of sponsored accounts and retirees.


  • In the Fall of 2016, a set of requirements and unaddressed issues was established based on input from the SFU Community. 
  • Following that, a fit/gap analysis with viable solutions was conducted based on the established set of requirements and constraints.
  • Finally, the project team determined the best solution based on a number of key factors. To learn more about these factors, as well as other important information, please see the FAQ section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the University choose to move to a new email and calendar system?

The current system (SFU Connect), powered by Zimbra Collaboration Suite, was first implemented in 2009. Since then, Zimbra as the product's vendor, has been sold and acquired three times by new parent companies and no longer maintains a visible roadmap for future product releases. The latest version of the product was delayed numerous times which still resulted in poorer product quality than previous releases. The potential risks associated with these symptoms of vendor and product instability strongly support the case for exploring other solutions.

What methods were used to gather information from the SFU Community?

The project team reached out to the SFU Community by email, interviews, meetings, focus groups, and surveys. The team also spoke with other universities who had recently undertaken similar transitions to gain insight on their current experience and lessons learned. As a result, a list of email and calendar needs were identified and documented.

What factors were considered to determine the best solution?

In addition to input from the community, there were a number of key factors to take into account, including:

  • Cost vs. value,
  • Vendor Support, 
  • Integration with current and future SFU systems,
  • Privacy compliance, and
  • Ethical treatment of data by service providers.

Why was the focus on evaluating the two Microsoft solutions?

The decision to narrow the focus to Microsoft’s email solutions included the following factors:

  • Microsoft Outlook is already being used by many members of the University community as their preferred mail client,
  • third party applications and services outside of email and calendar systems are focusing their efforts on integrating only with mainstream email solutions such as Microsoft Exchange, and
  • both Microsoft’s Outlook client and Exchange server are generally regarded as the industry standard solutions.

Both of these options offer the ability to use desktop clients (e.g., Outlook), in addition to a web client accessible via browser, to access email and calendar data. The University will be proceeding with an open selection process to ensure that other vendors and products that may meet our requirements are fairly considered.

Would I still be able to use other mail clients aside from Outlook?

Microsoft Exchange will support many of the existing third party mail clients (e.g., Apple Mail, Thunderbird) through protocols including IMAP and POP. If you currently use these clients, you will be able to continue using them after the transition to the new email solution.

What did the investigation project consist of?

Last year, input from the community was collected and analyzed from August through November 2016. A report summarizing findings on cost, risks and the preliminary fit/gap analysis was presented to the One I.S. Stewardship Committee for review in January 2017. Following that discussion, the project team focused on a more detailed fit/gap analysis in conjunction with additional investigation on cost, BC FIPPA compliance, staff training requirements, and other factors. The end goal of that investigation was to provide supplementary information that would assist in the decision between products.

Who can I contact if I would like more information?

Send your questions and comments regarding this project to

To report any SFU Connect-related issues or inquiries, please refer to the points of contact here.