IT Connect
Information technology tools and resources at the UW

Email Modernization Program: FAQ

Why is UW making changes to email services?

The UW is modernizing its email services for three main reasons:

  • To ensure that current students, faculty and staff have access to the latest email collaboration and productivity tools
  • To facilitate responsiveness to public records requests
  • To protect sensitive data

This decision was made after careful review of the technologies and resources required for delivering these services, as well as consideration of the anticipated impact to our alumni, former students, and former staff. The decision also reflects the advice of the UW’s Office of the Attorney General, the Institutional Privacy Official, and Records Management Services.


Am I losing my email address?

No, you will not lose your email address. You may continue to use your address to send and receive email, but you will need to forward email sent to your address to a private email service, such as Google or Microsoft, and set up the ability to send from your See below for instructions.


What is the difference between an email address and an email service?

An email address is not the same as an email service. An email address is your address. An email service refers to the technology infrastructure that stores and delivers your mail, such as Deskmail, Microsoft Exchange Online/Office 365, or Gmail. Although the UW will no longer provide email services to former students, faculty and staff, the current changes will not affect your ability to send and receive mail from/to your address. You will retain your UW email address. However, you will need to take steps to have email sent to you at your address forwarded to a private email service.


Can I still receive email from my email address?

Yes, you will be able to continue to receive email sent to your address. In order to do this, you will need to forward email sent to your address to a private email service, such as Google or Microsoft. This means that when someone sends an email to your address, you will receive this email in your new email service. The sender will not need to change your email address. You can set forwarding for your address here:


Can I still send email from my email address?

Yes. Many email providers will allow you to send from your address, but you must first set up this service with your new email provider. Once you have completed the setup, the email will come from your address. Google has instructions on how to accomplish this here. Instructions for using are here.


Will I lose my UW NetID with this program?

No, you will not lose your UW NetID with this program.


How are costs influencing the decision when cloud email services are free?

Although Google and Microsoft offer the higher education community some services for low-to-no-fees, delivering the services do involve costs to the UW. The services from Google and Microsoft do not include end user support, the engineering time to integrate them with the University’s information technology systems, or the legal and compliance staffing and resources needed to comply with state and federal laws. These represent significant and rapidly increasing costs, as the Google and Microsoft services have complex functionality, employ rapidly shifting technical architectures, and contain tremendous amounts of data when compared to UW’s simple, homegrown email systems.


What does legal compliance have to do with email services?

The Google and Microsoft email, collaboration and productivity services offered by the UW are subject to numerous state and federal laws, such as the Public Records Act, FERPA, HIPAA, and other regulations. These laws and regulations require the diligent protection of certain information, thoughtful records management, and the careful review and release of information for regulatory, investigative, and other purposes. Given the tremendous growth in usage of these email, collaboration and productivity services in recent years, allowing retirees and alumni to continue to use these UW services has made compliance with such requirements increasingly time-consuming and expensive.


Why is my email a privacy concern?

Email and data on any UW email service may be subject to legal discovery or a public records requests made to the UW. This means that the UW may be legally obligated to release your information to the requestor, even if it is of a personal nature. This exposure applies to any email you send and receive on an UW email service. A benefit of moving your email to a private email service is that your data will not be exposed in this way.

In addition, the effort and expense of responding to discovery requests, including the staffing to sort through and provide this data, or to defend the decision not to release records, has grown tremendously over the last couple of years. These compliance and privacy challenges are just a few examples, and drive the concerns of the UW’s Office of the Attorney General, the Institutional Privacy Official, and Records Management Services.


Can I keep my UW email service if I am actively involved with work at the UW?

We understand that many alumni, former employees, and others in our broader community contribute to the mission of the UW. To support that work, the UW will make it possible for alumni, volunteers, or retirees who are still actively working with the UW, to keep their UW Microsoft or Google services, as long as they are endorsed on an annual basis by a current UW employee. The tool to provide this endorsement will be available in March. The link to this tool, when ready, will be on the Email Modernization program web pages.


Can I pay for UW email service?

No, under state policy, this is not permitted. According to Washington state law, RCW 28B.63, and UW Administrative Policy Statement, APS 59.5, the UW cannot sell the UW Microsoft or Google services to alumni or retirees. Doing so would also violate the University’s contracts with those companies.


Why is Deskmail being decommissioned?

Email services have changed dramatically in the years since the UW developed and introduced its own homegrown systems (i.e., Deskmail, Alpine, Web Alpine and Pine). In particular, Google and Microsoft have become the dominant providers for higher education, government, and business. Both companies have invested heavily in upgrading and integrating cloud-based email services, coupling them with a wide variety of collaboration and productivity tools. At the same time, the UW’s homegrown solutions have aging codebases that are no longer actively maintained and are running on end-of-life hardware, increasing the risk of system failure over time. As a result, it is cost prohibitive for the UW to upgrade its homegrown solutions so that they keep pace with the email services and technology standards set by Google and Microsoft.


I use Outlook. Why is Deskmail relevant to me?

Outlook can be used with numerous email services, including UW Deskmail, Exchange Online/Office 365 or Google Gmail. This means that you could be using Outlook, but still have email stored on Deskmail. This email will be lost if you do not migrate to another service before Deskmail is decommissioned. To see if you have email stored on Deskmail, follow these instructions.


What do I need to do if I have official UW records in my email?

Please work with your former home department or unit to remove and retain official UW records if you have them, taking care to preserve UW records according to records management guidance and the General Records Retention Schedule or the UW Medicine Records Retention Schedule.

If you have questions about how to do this, please contact


As an alumni, member of UWAA, or a retiree, don’t I have UW email services for life?

You will retain your address and can continue to use it to send and receive email. However, you will need to forward email sent to your address to a private email service, such as Google or Microsoft. You can set forwarding for your address here: In addition, you will need to set up the ability to send from your Google has instructions on how to accomplish this here. Instructions for using are here.


What about Emeriti Faculty and Emeriti Librarians?

Emeriti Faculty and Emeriti Librarians are considered active members of the UW community, and will be able to continue to use a UW email service (UW Exchange Online/Office 365, UW Gmail) unless using Deskmail. If that is the case, Emeriti Faculty and Emeriti Librarians will need to move to either UW Exchange Online/Office 365 or UW Gmail.