7 Jan 2007

Gmail for SMJK – Project Background

1    Introduction

1.1    The SMJK Schools

The SMJK (Sekolah Menengah Jenis Kebangsaan) is a group of Malaysian Chinese conforming schools classified as Government-aided schools, all are secondary schools. There are around 78 of such schools in Malaysia, with a population of around 129,000 students and 7,500 teachers & administrators. In 1994, these schools obtained approval from the Malaysian Ministry of Education to form a School Council, run by a committee elected from principals from these 78 schools. Most of these schools are the “elite” group of schools, usually with large Chinese student population. Majority of the schools are high profile schools with good management and excellent academic results.

1.2    About SMJK Education Portal

The SMJK Education portal ( is a specially designed web portal for all the 78 SMJK schools in Malaysia. It is a school community, spread all over the 13 states in Malaysia, where there are around 7,500 teachers & administrators and 129,000 students from these 78 schools. All schools participated will get their own dynamically maintained web site hosted on the portal through a Content Management System Initially all the school teachers and Administrators will be provided with email address, they can communicate with each other through the portal to share teaching experience, problems, teaching content etc.

The education web portal also provide disk space for schools to upload their multimedia teaching material so that all schools in the community will have a chance to use it in their schools. There are also forum, chatting facilities provided for special interest group to share ideas. Perridot Systems developed the whole project as well as manage the servers at its co-location data centre. The Project was self-funded by all the schools involved, where a yearly subscription fee was paid for the support service and servers hosting.

The Web Portal was first launched in 2003, with a mail server with 104 GB of SCSI disk space, where every one of the teachers was initially given 20MB mailbox, for their internal communications.

Being a Pop3 mail implementation, the school users has the choice to use a PC email client to retrieve their mails or through a web-mail interface.

1.3    The Implementation of the School Management Systems

In 2005, the 78 schools also received funding from Huaren Foundation to purchased and installed Perridot System’s School Management Systems. Under this sponsorship, 62 of the SMJK Schools had signed up for the implementation, where every school was given a Dell server, a 3Com switch & Router and five modules of the School Management Systems.

With the implementation of the School Management System, apart from the teachers, who greatly benefited from the automated administrative functions, students and parents can also access to all the students information like attendance, library books, discipline, examination results and co-curriculum activities.

2    The Problems faced

2.1    Operation requirements and Short comings

The email servers, being more than 3 years old, and with very limited mailbox size, was not able to cater for the day-to-day’s operation requirements for the teachers.

For Teachers, they have to deal with very large file attachments in Circulars, Guidelines, and Teaching Contents in their emails. The existing 20MB mailbox space is just not able to cope with such traffic and file volume.

The aging server, with the limited 104 GB disk space, is also not able to extend the service to the students and parents. Most students and parents resorted to the free public email services like Yahoo Mail, Hotmail / MSN, and GMail, some were using the few email services provided by the ISPs like TMNet and Jaring.

2.2    The Domain Structure

The adoption of the domain is to create an identity among the community, so that collaborative as well as communicative functions can all be managed centrally through the existing systems.

Each of the SMJK users are using the domain as their email address, the individual school will tag a sub-domain in front of the as their school’s domain for the email.


3    The New Operation Requirements

3.1    New Web 2.0 Portal

In the later half of 2006, with the exploding growth of Web 2,0 applications, the SMJK Council had decided to upgrade existing Web Portal with Web 2.0 features, to take advantages of the many benefits and to improve further their administrative, collaboration and social community efforts among the teachers, students and parents.

3.2    Every Users in the SMJK Schools to get an email account

With the implementation of School Management Systems, and the coming improved Web Portal, it is crucial that everyone in the school communities to have a common identity and an email account with large mailbox, and build in anti-virus and anti-spam features.

3.3    Number of Accounts required

There are approximately 130,000 students and 7,500 teachers and administrators in the 78 SMJK Schools (see Attachment 2 for detail breakdown in school Population), and looking at the new intakes of 20,000 students annually, we would need around 200,000 accounts in the next three years of operations.

3.4    The Disk space requirements

From the above requirement, for a total of 200,000 accounts, each with 2GB of mailbox, would make up a total of 400 Terabytes of disk space.

4    The Funding of SMJK ICT Projects

Most of the SMJK School’s ICT projects were sponsored by entrepreneurs, education foundations and donations for the initial project purchases and implementation, which could easily run into the millions. These schools all chipped in for the subsequent running and maintenance costs.

With the email requirements stated in 3.4 above, the SMJK Schools will not be able to come up with their own funding to implement new mail server clusters that can support a total of 140,000 users and an estimated 400 Terabytes of server storage space.

5    Google Hosted Apps

Google started their Google Hosted Gmail in early 2006, initially called Google For Your Domain (GFYD), later renamed Google Hosted Apps, it was also expanded to the Google Apps for Education for schools. We had applied and obtained approval from Google for an initial allocation of 7,000 Google Hosted Gmail accounts in June 2006.

We had proposed to the SMJK Council for the adoption for these Gmail to replace the existing limited email accounts for the teachers. At the same time propose to extend these Gmail services to all the 130,000 students in the 78 schools.

We began to look at the various migration issues from the existing email servers, Accounts administrative issues for the 130,000 users, as well as further API programming and integration with our School Management System, so that the SMJK users can have a single-sign-on common ID and password for the various ICT services, namely:

a)    Google Hosted Apps like Gmail, GoogleTalk & Calendar;
b)    Perridot’s School management Systems;
c)    SMJK Web Portal for thes schools;

5.1    What is being Offered

Under the Google Apps for Education sponsored beta test, Google had allocated 7,000 Gmail accounts for the SMJK school teachers, each having 2GB of mailbox space, 100 time bigger than their existing 20MB mailbox and each of the users will also be offered the Google Talk client as well as the Google Calendar.

Gmail service will be offered free of charge to the existing school domains,, however, the existing administrative functions coming with the Gmail is only suitable for small number of user populations, for us to manage a user population of 130,000, we need to add in a user management functions in our existing School Web Portal, so that the administrative and management of School Users will be handled by the respective School Administrator in each school.

RSS feed for comments on this post