Saturday, December 18, 2010

Reflections on Moving from Groupwise to Google Apps

Reflections on Migrating to Google Apps (7 months later)

In March, 2010, we (the Technology Department of Maine Township High School District 207) migrated 1000+ staff members from Groupwise 7 to Google Apps for Education.  We migrated every staff account mailbox (total size of mailboxes were around 1TB), calendar and contact list.  In 10 days we had migrated 96% of the mail portion of the accounts, with the final 4% wrapped up a week later.  Our migration website (which was updated and managed during the entire process) is here:

Now I want to analyze, 7 months later, where we stand with Google Apps.

Our original goals of the project included:  reduction of cost for hardware and software licensing; less downtime for maintenance and upgrades; more flexibility in platform selection, especially mobile device access.

Reduction of cost for hardware and software licensing:
We have not purchased any hardware in the last 6 months for Messaging or Collaboration tools, these needs were all met by Google Apps. While we did not pay for the core Google Apps products (including Google Message Security (formerly Postini), we did elect to pay for the Google Message Discovery (at the Education rate), which was a school board-directed requirement for staff email. Because of current staff levels and the compressed time-frame for execution of the project, we hired a 3rd Party consultant to set up Single Sign On and LDAP Directory sync.  This was also an extra cost. 
Less Downtime for Maintenance and Upgrades:
There has been very little downtime of Google Apps, the downtime is usually caused by typical internal network disruptions.  In these cases, users are still able to access their Google Apps through their mobile devices. Upgrades for Google Apps have been seamless, we typically allow access to all Google Apps, including the Labs for all staff members.  Even the Labs features have been very stable. 

Flexibility in Platform selection
We have been able to offer the ability for staff to enjoy the same level of connectivity and at home or on their own personal mobile device as they have within the District. We have been able to decrease our need to support multiple devices and platforms as Google Apps is very easy to access from these devices; often there is easy-to-use documentation that the end user can self-service their device. 

And finally, here are some key points and observations:

What we have learned since the migration:
Mobile devices are much more heavily used for accessing Documents and Mail Forms and spreadsheets are more more heavily used for creating easy-to-use surveys with the data getting dumped directly into a useful spreadsheet Collaboration has increased greatly not only between staff members, but between Teachers and Students Staff members have learned to be more flexible (sometimes against their will) with changes (usually additions) in the Google Apps feature set.  That being said, many staff have started to use the Labs features and have heavily customized their Google interfaces. 

What I wish I would have known before the project:
Google Apps, using the https protocol, created an extra load on our content filter, this caused a few weeks of poor Google Apps (and the rest of the Internet) slowness Even though we planned for an increase in bandwidth usage as we encouraged staff members to leave Google Mail open on their desktop, nailing the bandwidth target has proved challenging How 3rd party Google Marketplace Apps can make management of the Google domain run more smoothly How we would need to fine tune our Postini spam filters to allow proper mail flow between our staff and student domains, as well as allowing internal servers to send mail out to the Google accounts (like our Helpdesk or Emergency Alert systems) 

Overall, our District had a very smooth transition to Google Apps and we are now beginning to see some true, quantifiable returns on our decision.  Our future plans include a pilot project to move more data storage over to the Google Apps cloud, and to enable domain syncing for our student domains and upgrades to our management packages.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Beginner's Tutorial to Gmail

I just finished a quick, easy-to-follow guide to setting up your first personal Gmail account.  Check it out here!

Friday, February 19, 2010

More working with SADA

For this part of our Groupwise to Google migration, we are trying to make sure we can move our 3 Groupwise Post offices (total of ~1,500 users) Inboxes in a "reasonable" amount of time.  We are aiming for a cutover during Spring Break, so I have about 10 days to move mailboxes.  I will try to baseline the speed this weekend or next by running about 30 mailboxes per server.  Right now, the pipe is only about 6Mbps, but are testing a setup that will get us up to 100Mpbs out to Google.  Seriously hoping the 100 works out.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Migration Partner - SADA Systems

We have been interviewing a number of vendors to help us with our Groupwise to Google migration and have settled on SADA Systems.  We have had a pretty good relationship with them earlier as they (very successfully) did our SSO sync/login project.  They have a pretty solid migration strategy and I hope we get the project kicked off early next week!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Integrating Zoho with Google Apps for Edu

I'm looking right now at enabling Federated Login using OpenID to allow Google accounts to access Zoho.  Has anyone used this successfully?  Did it break anything?  We are using Zoho Projects now to manage our Groupwise to Google migration. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Useful Nexus Links (google phone)

What do all the screen symbols mean?  Check it here
10 Essential Nexus Apps
How to clear the notifications bar

Dual Delivery for Groupwise and Gmail

I'm trying to set up the test group for mail delivery between Groupwise and Gmail, anyone have a best practice?

In Groupwise, what about a "Delegate" email rule?

Another take on the Google Teacher Academy for Administrators

Here is a retort/response to a David Jakes/Mark Wagner discussion from Wagner at Cue.  I am really interested in Google spreading the "Google Organizational Culture" which I think provides and interesting setting for using the Google tools.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Add an Email Subscription button to your Blogspot site

Here's how to add an Email Subscription button to your Blogspot site using Feedburner:
(assuming you have a blogspot site and a Google login)

1. log in to your blogger account, this will also allow you access to feedburner
2. go to
3. where it says "Burn a Feed Right This Instant" there is a box, type your blog address in the box
4. on the next screen, enter a title for your feed: use your blog title, also choose RSS for your "feed"
5. from your Feedburner control screen, click on the title of your blog
6. you should now see the controls for your feedburner info, press the "Publicize" tab
6. click on the Email Subscriptions section
8. pick a language (like English), then scroll down to "Use as a Widget" and change it to read Blogger
9. you'll be directed back to Blogger, where you press "Add Widget"
10. you'll now be directed to the "Edit Layout" section and the "Subscribe Via Email" box should be added
11. press the Save button

Monday, February 1, 2010

Gonna test some Phones

As part of our migration from Groupwise to Google Apps for EDU, we will be phasing out our BES server. We are now getting ready to compare the Droid (G1) and the Nexus One (N1). Can we use an unlocked Nexus with a voice-only plan, but use our internal Wifi for data? One thread is here

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Testing IMAP pull from Groupwise into Google Apps

Testing my IMAP connector for pulling Groupwise mail into Google mail.  On any user (so far) other than myself, I can get it to run properly.  However, I'm getting a

An unknown error encountered during the conversation with the IMAP server

error. The Learn more is not very helpful

So far so good

Last night I was checking the stats of our mail (and spam) flows to Postini from the Postini console and noticed zero statistics.  Checked the guide and found out the reports update every 24 hours or so, so this morning, checked again and found some stats!  At least at our South location, I was surprised to see the low volume of mail, I thought it would be much much higher.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Postini update

Mail is flowing!  Made a few easy DNS changes, changed a few Google Apps domain settings and mail is moving!

Just signed up for Postini for our student domains

Just signed up for Postini for our student domains, getting ready now to start looking at the management console.

Check out this article:

Postini on ZDNet

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Google Apps IMAP Migration - Groupwise

I have successfully used the Google Apps IMAP migration tool with 3 Groupwise users, trying it out to see how much we will do on our own.  While Groupwise is officially in the "unsupported" category, I'm having some success so far.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

OMG - Cloud Storage!!

While sitting at a Google Apps user's group, this went up!   Can I finally begin to stop providing so much storage space for home drives???

Google Apps User Group - Chicago

I'm sitting here currently participating in a new Google Apps User group for Teachers and Administrators at Attea Middle School in Glenview, IL.  The discussion is interesting, there are about 50 teachers/administrators here.  Seems like about 90% of the group has some set or subset of Google Apps for EDU set up, but there is a huge gulf of Google experience between all the participants.

I just talked a bit about participating in the Teacher's Summit last year and how interesting it was to hear directly from some of the Google product managers.