Betach Helps University Move to Cloud-Based Email to Boost Security & Improve Communication

 

University of Calgary provides email accounts for its students, faculty, staff, alumni, emeriti, and retirees. The university was running three different email systems and wanted to move to a single platform, so it chose Microsoft Office 365. During the migration, the university experienced a malware attack, but it developed an innovative solution that quickly got all email accounts back online. The university is saving time and money with Office 365, and users now have more flexible access to their email and data.

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COMMUNICATION CHALLENGES

University of Calgary, in the western Canadian province of Alberta, educates more than 56,000 undergraduate and graduate students. The university provides its students with a high-quality education that prepares them for success in life, and it also conducts research that addresses society’s most persistent challenges. Through the creation and transfer of knowledge, the university contributes to the country’s global competitive advantage, and strives to make the world a better place.

Achieving these goals requires a strong technology infrastructure to give teachers, students, and staff the tools they need to communicate and collaborate, and University of Calgary was facing some challenges in this area. “We had three different email systems on campus, including two on-premises email platforms, and that was not an optimal scenario,” says Masood Akhtar, IT Program Management Consultant at University of Calgary. “In addition to the cost of supporting and maintaining multiple pieces of software, we were experiencing some performance-degradation and system-availability concerns with our on-premises software.”

A REPLACEMENT EMAIL SOLUTION

University of Calgary began looking for a single email solution that would work for all users. It ended up choosing the Microsoft Office 365 suite of hosted productivity applications, including Microsoft Exchange Online for email. “The security features built into Office 365 were very important to us,” says Akhtar. “Consolidating our existing email systems into one played a huge role in the decision making as well. We also appreciated the degree of scalability that Office 365 provides, plus the reliability and availability we knew we could expect from a Microsoft online service.”

The university also appreciated that it would automatically have access to the latest software upgrades at no additional cost and with no on-premises work necessary. Increased storage space and easy access to the software were also key features. “Under our old system, users had three gigabytes of storage space, but with Office 365 they have 50 gigabytes,” says Akhtar. “And we purchased Office 365 Pro Plus, so our employees can install up to five copies of Microsoft Office on their personal devices at no extra charge.”

DEPLOYMENT PLANS AND PILOT TESTING

Once University of Calgary had made its decision to deploy Office 365 for faculty and staff, it enrolled the help of Microsoft partner Betach Solutions to assist with the implementation. Betach began by helping the university comprehensively document its existing email environment and develop Windows PowerShell scripts to effectively migrate all email to Exchange Online.

The University of Calgary project team developed a comprehensive Organizational Change Management plan that included stakeholder evaluations, impact assessments, training, communications, engagement planning, execution and implementation planning, user-experience mapping, and user-acceptance tracking. The team also implemented a change-agent network for more than 40 faculties and business units and 432 departments with over 100 change agents. To smooth the transition, the team applied full community experiential design to the overall Organizational Change Management plan.

The university team then put together a pilot deployment with a diverse group of university staff, and ran through the initial email migration with them. Based on the results of the pilot, the team was able to fine-tune the migration scripts and project documentation, and set expectations for the remainder of the users to be migrated.

With the pilot complete, the university began what it expected would be a straightforward rollout of Office 365 to all staff, faculty, alumni, emeriti, and retirees across the school.

A HOSTILE SOFTWARE ATTACK

On May 28, 2016, University of Calgary fell victim to a malware attack that crippled multiple IT systems and more than 100 campus computers by encrypting all the data on them. (Malware is malicious software that can affect the functioning of a computer or prevent access to the data on it.)

When the malware attack happened, the university was about 20 percent of the way through its staff and faculty deployment of Office 365. Because Exchange Online email is hosted, and does not reside on an on-premises computer, those accounts that had already been migrated were unaffected by the attack. However, the university needed to do something fast to restore email functionality for the remainder of the staff and faculty. This meant finding a way to quickly migrate more than 9,000 email accounts and more than 20 terabytes of data to Office 365.

The university worked with Betach and Microsoft to solve this challenge. In the end, Microsoft and the university’s Office 365 project team developed an account-migration solution using dial tone recovery, a feature of Microsoft Exchange Server designed to restore users’ access to their email if their original mailbox has been rendered inaccessible. Initially the process went fairly slowly, but then University of Calgary Technical Lead Nic Wang collaborated with the Microsoft support team to develop a much faster solution. Using this new technique, the university was able to complete the migration of all 9,000 accounts in only 36 hours. “We split the 9,000 accounts into smaller files of one hundred accounts each,” explains Wang. “We then ran 90 concurrent processes to migrate each of the smaller files, and that enabled us to finish the task quickly.”

With the accounts migrated, the team still had to find a way to move the 20 terabytes of mail data. Although some vendors were telling the university that such a migration could take several months, Betach came up with a cloud-based solution that utilized the Microsoft Azure cloud platform—and as a result, the data was successfully migrated in only 48 hours, with a 100 percent success rate.

BENEFITS ACROSS THE CAMPUS

Now that University of Calgary has completed its Office 365 migration, students, staff, and faculty are able to enjoy the many benefits that the software provides. In addition to Exchange Online, the school is using Skype for Business for communication, and Microsoft SharePoint Online for document storage and collaboration. The university’s detailed preparation for the migration resulted in a high level of acceptance for the new software. “Because the Organizational Change Management team worked closely with the technical team, supported a comprehensive change-champion program, and focused heavily on human-centered experiential design, we’ve had a 96.8 percent adoption rate,” says Patti Blackstaffe, Organizational Change Management Lead for University of Calgary.

The university is realizing financial savings with Office 365 as well. These savings include only paying licensing costs for one single hosted service and eliminating the multiple on-premises systems the university used to have, as well as the reduction in support costs and training that comes from only having to support a single system.

The move to a single email system has had significant impact on IT faculties and staff. The university was able to remove all of its old email-server hardware from the data center, freeing up three storage racks of space. And now that the university is using a hosted-email solution, personnel no longer need to spend their time maintaining email servers, and can devote their energies to other tasks. “Using Office 365 has eliminated the need for our system administrators to install updates and patches, which results in tremendous time savings,” says Wang. “In addition, the switch to Office 365 has greatly reduced the university's infrastructure footprint, and as a result, it has significantly reduced our IT capital and operational costs, and simplified our IT practices.”

University of Calgary is now able to provide better service to its many users, and is looking forward to deploying OneDrive for Business and other Office 365 tools to further facilitate collaboration and reduce costs. “Our move to Office 365 gives students, faculty, and staff a reliable, scalable platform that sets up the institution to be a highly productive environment through its vast technology offerings,” says Jerome Beaudoin, Chief Information Officer for University of Calgary. “With Office 365, we are providing our students, faculty, and staff with greater integration and support for multiple mobile platforms, so our community can seamlessly access emails, contacts, and calendars anytime, from any device. Office 365 in the cloud has helped set the stage for future cloud initiatives for the university.”

 

Our move to Office 365 gives students, faculty and staff a reliable, scalable platform that sets up the institution to be a highly productive environment through its vast technology offerings.

Jerome Beaudoin: Chief Information Officer

University of Calgary

With Office 365, we are providing our students, faculty, and staff with greater integration and support for multiple mobile platforms, so our community can seamlessly access emails, contacts, and calendars anytime, from any device.

Jerome Beaudoin: Chief Information Officer

University of Calgary