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.

1 comment:

monica.miranda said...

I'd be interested to know who the 3rd party you used for SSO is?