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Greek Chapters Enter the Cloud

Like Greek deities returning to their home atop Mount Olympus, campus Greek organizations are entering the clouds. Cloud computing, that is.

Fraternities and sororities are increasingly moving their chapter information and communication into the cloud using software developed by several online services catering to the Greek life community.

WebGreek, founded in 2009, offers individual organizations their own “chapter cloud,” through which they can create a shared calendar, send e-mail and text messages, and sync music collections.

The site was designed for Greeks, by Greeks, says Spenser Tang-Smith, chief of operations. Company founders Patrick Allen and Jordan Pease were both members of the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity while students at the University of California at Berkeley.

Mr. Tang-Smith says the service, which has more than 200 campus chapters and two national organizations on board, was created to solve the inefficiencies of running a sorority or fraternity. For instance, it offers an online polling service to be used in meetings, and allows messages and calendar items to be targeted for special groups, cutting down on the number of extraneous messages filling up the wrong in-boxes. “One of the biggest headaches being in a fraternity is all the spam you get,” he says.

The cost for the service ranges from $20 to $60 a month for a campus chapter, depending on its size.

A competitor, Group Interactive Networks, charges a similar price. It was founded in 2005 and has more than 1,200 member chapters and eight or nine national organizations on board.

Ethan Fieldman, president of Group Interactive Networks, referred to by many as GIN, says switching to his company’s service can be cost-effective for campus Greek groups. A large sorority at the University of Alabama actually saved money, he said, because it had been producing laminated phone lists every semester for each of its nearly 200 members, which was no longer necessary after the group started using the company’s services.

Mr. Fieldman says the company’s servers send more than 30,000 text messages and 40,000 e-mails each day. His service also matches study partners at a sorority or fraternity by analyzing the registered courses each member enters.

The company can create Facebook fan pages or offer templates for external Web sites, but the focus of the company’s service is creating secure pages accessible only to chapter members.

Security is a big issue for Greek organizations, and the specialized cloud services take that into account. “Fraternities are still secretive societies,” says WebGreek’s Mr. Tang-Smith.

WebGreek allows chapters to set privacy settings for different members, so the chapter president can make some information available only to officers or to upperclassmen.

Group Interactive Network’s Mr. Fieldman, who was a member of the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity when he attended the University of Florida at Gainesville, says that officer transition is one of the biggest problems Greek chapters face. GIN’s file-sharing services help with that, he says, because they let current officers share materials with their successors.

“With our system, everybody puts in what they have at the end of the semester,” he says.

While Greek organizations may have more documents moving into the cloud, some material they are notorious for sharing is perhaps too difficult to digitize. More often than not, test banks and class notes remain tucked in a drawer in the chapter house rather than online, Mr. Fieldman says. “Scanning things would be a lot of work,” he says.

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