62 Days to the Cloud!

62 Days to the Cloud!

Beginning on July 8, our customer set out to transform their startup infrastructure of a single domain/file/print server to an enterprise class Office 365 environment. The goal was to do this with a flexible compute center at Amazon Web Services. About 80 people were involved. They were using an Application Service Provider (ASP) for Microsoft Exchange services. It has a separate domain and separate user accounts in a multi-tenant service, so the local domain has no installation of Microsoft Exchange.

We started out by opening an Office 365 E3 subscription and began prototyping the migration transaction and typical operations. For user accounts and passwords, the local Windows directory was synchronized with the Microsoft DirSync tool. We chose the MigrationWiz product to move the user mailbox content to the new Office 365 mailboxes. Since we had no access to the forest holding the Exchange mailboxes, the client-access model of MigrationWiz was a natural fit. Over the course of July and August, we made several trial moves with sample mailboxes to verify the process and outcome. It was important to clearly understand the Outlook Profile change that each user would need to make. This approach was selected to create a new Profile and assist users with mapping in any PSTs involved (there were very few).

In preparation for the cutover on September 8, we held several “Town Hall” meetings to showcase the new tools and abilities coming with O365 — in particular, Lync Online with integrated voice and video conferencing. Those sessions were extremely well received by users, and they built anticipation – and demand – for the new services and the cutover. Everyone was eager to make the switch!

But that wasn’t all that was going on. We also built out a Virtual Private Cloud (VPC) with a Virtual Private Network (VPN) connection to the enterprise Local Area Network, and developers started building a new suite of custom applications. At the same time, a cloud base Voiceover Internet Protocol (VoIP) system was adopted. So, we started prototyping that transition and user experience as well.  Since the bulk of the information services were going to be Internet subscriptions, we also added new redundant internet circuits with a failover capability to ensure service continuity.

To make it really interesting, all of this was coordinated with a new site fit up and office relocation. The new location houses all of the Internet connectivity and was configured with redundant devices, device power supplies, and Uninterruptable Power System (UPS). The new site Local Area Network was joined to the original site with a VPN connection, and additional Internet links were added to the original site for redundancy, as well.

Cutover day for the Office 365 services was September 8, with the user base still residing at the original location. It was nearly flawless! Nearly. We did have some issues with calendar objects that were not handled cleanly. This was because some mobile users traveling the week before the cutover did not fully synchronize their mailboxes with the source Exchange system. The remedy for this was not elegant. It involved a lot of recreation of meeting objects, particularly series objects. But, we got through it and, in a few days’ time, the community was using and enjoying the new Office 365 services.

Over the following two weeks, we deployed the new VoIP phone system. Folks transitioned there easily and now had the ability to simply unplug their phones and take them to any other location with a network connection and their voice services followed! (Yes, the network port did require Power over Ethernet – PoE.) That feature of portability was key because the weekend of September 21/22 was the office move to the new site. When the move took place, users simply unplugged and packed their equipment and it all functioned as designed when connected in the new office!

Today, the operation is healthy, productive, and growing. We are moving on to add Multifactor Authentication (MFA) for added security for the data and intellectual property in the cloud services, and we will be adding additional subscription services (Software as a Service – SaaS) applications for enterprise functions like Personnel, Customer Relationship Management (CRM), and others. We also federated the Lync Online services with key business partners.

So now this fledgling enterprise is operating with all Internet subscription services. The only computers on the Local Area Network are two Domain Controllers that also serve printers, and one server for DirSync with Office 365. The former personal and group file shares are migrating to SkyDrive Pro and SharePoint in the Office 365 tenant.

It was quite a summer! And the progress continues….


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