Tracking Google and Microsoft Adoption in Higher ED

Earlier this month, New York Times columnist Natasha Singer wrote How Google Took Over the Classroom, a detailed look at the rise of Google in primary and secondary education. (Also worth a listen is the NPR interview on All Sides with Ann Fisher).

The article did not address Google at the post-secondary level, but Joshua Kim of Inside Higher ED asked “I’ve been looking for recent data on the Google vs. Microsoft enterprise e-mail battle – but I can’t find anything recent. Can you help?”

Challenge Accepted.

I have a history (or a mild obsession) of tracking edtech. Back in 2010 and for a few years after, Forbes blogger Eric Lai and I tracked the growth of the iPad in K12, Higher Ed and the enterprise. I have been tracking the growth of Google Apps (now gSuite) and Office 365 in K12 and to a lesser extent Higher Ed since 2014.

Back in December, I posted a domain / DNS analysis of adoption in K12 for O365 and gSuite, so I thought it would be a good time to update the numbers for Higher ED.

The methodology is the same as I used for K12 districts, a scan of DNS records, looking for specific known markers in MX, TXT and other records. However, for Higher Ed the data is likely more accurate given that the root domains are well know (.EDU)

For this analysis, I pulled the US based listing from a list of EDU domains on GitHub. The list included only the root EDU domain, and individual colleges or campuses (sub-domains) may run different email systems than what is used on the primary domain but this approach of  using a large data set provides an overview of the adoption of Google and Microsoft email systems.

I scanned the DNS records of 2,276 US EDU domains and got the following results for domains that had DNS MX records that indicated they were routing mail directly through Google or Microsoft servers. The Google numbers are lower than I had expected.

Google MX Records  18.31%
Microsoft MX Records  40.84%


One result worth noting was that 30.96% of the sites returned DNS markers that were indicative of a domain that had started the process of verifying domain ownership with Google . Take together with the 18.31% of domains that are actively routing mail through Google, this would strongly indicate that  12.65% of root EDU domains had either started or were using Google and are now not using Google for mail.