Google drive

A student in David W. Mullins Library backs up her Google Drive account before the UofA makes the campuswide switch to Microsoft. Most students no longer have access to Google Drive, a change effective Sept. 27.


University officials removed most UA students’ Google Drive accounts Sept. 27, marking the final step in the campuswide switch from Google Suite to Microsoft 365, which started in December 2020.

The change from Google Drive to OneDrive was prompted by a need to secure university data and unify students, faculty and staff on one platform, according to the UA IT services website.

Students were responsible for saving all Google Drive files they wished to keep before their accounts were removed. IT services sent emails Sept. 12 and 26 notifying students that their university Google Drive accounts would be retired. 

Security was a priority in the decision for the migration, UA IT communicator Erin Griffin said.

“We are no longer monitoring Google Drive because we don't have that contract,” Griffin said.  “If something were to happen, that poses a risk, so we want to make sure that students and faculty are as secure as possible.”

Despite university officials knowing in 2014 the contract with Google was set to expire and the decision being announced in 2020, students were still able to use Google Drive with their UA emails until this year, Griffin said.

“Over the last two years, Google Drive has sort of held onto its legacy and we wanted them to not lose their accounts right away,” Griffin said.

The migration seemed to happen suddenly in the middle of the semester, but Griffin said this was for a reason.

“Students are not paying attention to their school email unless they're in summer school,” Griffin said. “Now it's a lot easier to communicate with students and say ‘Hey, this is going to happen, please take your time and make sure you migrate your files.’”

When Carly Lidzy, a sophomore, started at the UofA a year ago, she was ecstatic when she found out she could connect her university account to Google, she said.

However, she was unaware her Google Drive access would be revoked and she would have to move all her documents to a different account a year later, she said.

“I didn’t realize the school had been working towards shifting from Google to Microsoft,” Lidzy said. “If I knew that, I wouldn’t have religiously used my UARK Google Drive my freshman year.”

Some students have mixed feelings about the change. New students coming from high school are familiar with Google Drive, and Microsoft may be unfamiliar, Griffin said.

“A lot of students these days, if not all of them, grew up with Gmail so it's a really familiar system that makes sense to them,” Griffin said. “For the newer generation of people coming into college, (Microsoft is) a little bit different, but it has all the same sort of features.”

Dino Fantegrossi, a sophomore, thinks Microsoft’s products are good quality, especially when access is provided through tuition, he said. However, Google has the same products for free.

“I think it's a bit of a mixed bag, personally,” Fantegrossi said. “You get access to Microsoft Office on any device through your student account and tuition. That's super convenient for those who don't have the means to pay out of pocket on their own.”

However, Fantegrossi cites his personal issues with the company as a downside to the switch, he said.

“I do not like Microsoft and their overseas business practices,” Fantegrossi said. “I don't think it's fair for me or anyone else who would rather not support the company to essentially be forced to give them money through tuition.”

Microsoft has had a presence in China since its founding in 1992, and the country holds the company’s largest research and development center outside the U.S. Fantegrossi views China as a large security threat citing data collection, persecution of the Uighur Muslims and encroachment on Taiwan's sovereignty, he said.

Despite the switch, Lidzy will continue to use Google, because she thinks Microsoft’s products are confusing and outdated, she said.

“It feels like more people are moving towards Google and Google Drive adjacent concepts,” Lidzy said.

Griffin cited the wide use of Microsoft and Google products by employers as a benefit of the switch, preparing students to enter the workforce.

“Over half of all employers use Microsoft and a growing number of Google,” Griffin said. “When you go out into the workforce, you're going to be faced with going from one job with Microsoft and another job later on using Google, so becoming familiarized with both of those environments is really good for you.”

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