Essential to any push that would move USF into the upper echelons of four-year state schools is an e-mail system equipped to handle the volume of messages and provide the array of services needed by a University of this size in this era of digital interconnection.

Technology officials are now considering whether they should pursue a plan to equip the University with just such a system by outsourcing e-mail services to Microsoft or Google.

In the language of binary, one, or yes, is the only logical program of action.

And the words coming from administrators are encouraging. They seem to recognize that outsourcing is the best way to create an e-mail infrastructure worthy of a top-tier research University, one whose technological needs, already

growing rapidly and exponentially, promise only more growth in the coming years.

But, to further parse the courses of action under consideration, Google is the best option.

Both Microsoft and Google would offer huge increases in storage space for e-mail inboxes and an array of plug-ins and other applications not available for USF’s WebMail. Both would likely save the University money by allowing it to free up hardware now used to manage the more than 30 million e-mails transmitted over USF’s network every day for other needed computing duties.

But Google, as any devoted Gmail user will testify, is better. The Google Apps for Education program uses an open-source interface, which allows other developers to make modifications that add to the basic Gmail program structure. That means more applications and features and a better product than the proprietary programs that undergird Microsoft’s Windows Live at Edu.

It also means a better system that can be tweaked more easily and evolve more organically.

In the age of new media, the paradigm of proprietary programs is no longer necessary. Web 2.0 allows users to take advantage of the collective resources and intelligence of the Web to directly benefit students.

A committee of students and SG members will convene soon to work with technology officials to shape the future of the e-mail system. It’s important that this committee has enough students with the technical savvy to make an informed decision about the best course.