We have gmail (Google email) accounts for all 1250 or so of our students, as well as gmail accounts for the staff. Students can use their to forward assignments home, collaborate with other students, and get in touch with their teachers outside of class. I have also had students use them to hand in assignments (either as attachements or as Google documents), as email reminders or class communications (I have a group email list for each of my classes), and I have a shared calendar of upcoming assessments.
We've made up a list of the pros and cons of using Google Apps Education Edition.
- No uptime guarantee
- Who owns your data?
- No control over spam filter, password policies, logs, blacklists, etc (some of this is available through the API)
- No directory lookup for >200 users
- Advertising (although targeted text ads only)
- Free (but there are paid options)
- Easy to setup and administrate
- Bulk account upload/update
- Good Spam Filtering
- Other Apps (calendar, docs, etc.)
- POP and IMAP
- Lots of space (>6 GB per user)
- API (provisioning, usage reports, SSO, etc.)
I recommend GAEE, and in fact there are quite a number of Universities implementing it as well. And hopefully we won't have to worry about Google going out of business.