4-page Case Study
Posted: 5/29/2012
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The University of Dundee University Eases IT, Broadens Communications with Hosted Solution

As a leading university in the United Kingdom, the University of Dundee in Scotland enjoys a global reputation as a center for teaching and research. With approximately 22,000 students and 3,000 staff, it graduates more students into professions than any other Scottish university. Previously, it used a Novell GroupWise email system for messaging. When significant downtime and mobile limitations caused frustration for its students and staff, it evaluated hosted solutions from Google and Microsoft. The university selected Microsoft Office 365 to help improve the reliability of its messaging system and reduce IT administration and costs. By using the Office 365 online services, the university also sees an opportunity to broaden the communications and collaboration capabilities it offers to its staff and students, including students in the distance-learning program.

The University of Dundee is based in the city of Dundee on the east coast of Scotland. It ranked 140 among the world’s top 200 universities in the Times Higher Education 2010-2011 World University Rankings and rated number one in the United Kingdom in the Times Higher Education student experience survey for 2011-2012. The university is made up of four colleges: Art, Science, and Engineering; Arts and Social Sciences; Life Sciences; and Medicine, Dentistry, and Nursing, and it graduates more students into professions, including law, accountancy, architecture, dentistry, education, social work, and nursing than any other Scottish university.

* The university selected Office 365 over Google Apps because it gives us a robust enterprise-class platform for developing a radical new approach to collaboration and communication that goes far beyond email. *

David George
Chief Information Officer, University of Dundee

The university continues to grow and develop without losing sight of its key mission: to advance and diffuse knowledge, wisdom, and understanding by teaching and research and by the example and influence of its corporate life. It has more than 3,000 staff and 22,000 students, including 3,400 undergraduate and post-graduate students involved in the distance-learning program.

The university considers email a critical tool in how it communicates with students, staff, and applicants. Under its policy, students, staff, and applicants must use their @dundee.ac.uk accounts for all university-related email. Not only does this policy help the university centralize all email communications, but it also helps maintain communications with people who are not on campus, such as students and professionals in the distance-learning program, prospective students applying to the school, and students and academics living or traveling around the world.

The Information and Communication Services (ICS) department at the university is responsible for provisioning email across the community. In recent years, the ICS team experienced challenges maintaining the increasing demand for a higher mailbox quota and availability of its Novell GroupWise email system. The ICS department also saw an increase in the time and money it spent on the expanding email system in terms of staff, servers, and storage. Ellen Keir is the Assistant Director of Business Services within the ICS department at the University of Dundee. Her responsibilities include understanding the needs of the students and staff so that the ICS department can better support them and the university. Keir says, “Our server environment for GroupWise was getting bigger, demands for larger mailboxes were increasing, and, overall, the service was becoming more difficult to maintain within budget. As a result, we experienced downtime which led to user frustration, delays in email communications, and an increased number of calls to the service desk.”

Students and staff complained that the mailbox size in GroupWise was too small, which limited their use of the messaging tool. When the ICS team explored the option to increase the mailbox size from 30 megabytes (MB) to a maximum of 10 gigabytes (GB) per student, they estimated an overall cost increase of £500,000 (US$800,000) over five years.

In addition, students experienced usability limitations when they accessed their email and calendars from the GroupWise web-based tool and from a variety of devices. Because of the administration overhead, the ICS department only offered the GroupWise mobile application to staff, which meant students were limited to what they could access from their mobile phones. Keir says, “We encourage our students to use web-based email and access it from their own devices. But when we heard their frustrations with our GroupWise email system, such as small mailbox sizes, web limitations, and lack of mobile support, we decided to consider a change.”

To explore its options for a new email and calendaring solution, the university created an evaluation team made up of school representatives for faculty, staff, and students. Because the university wanted to lower its IT administration costs and avoid costs related to another on-premises server environment, the evaluation team quickly decided to focus on hosted solutions from Microsoft and Google.”

The Microsoft team visited the university to talk about Microsoft Office 365, the next-generation of Microsoft online services. For institutions of all sizes, Office 365 unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of Microsoft Exchange Online, Microsoft SharePoint Online, and Microsoft Lync Online into one connected, online solution. The evaluation team liked that Office 365 offered the university solutions in addition to email and calendar functionality, such as real-time communications tools and improved collaboration opportunities for sharing documents and other content between staff and students. The team was also excited that it could obtain all of these Microsoft services without having to invest in server hardware or software licenses. Keir says, “During the evaluation, the team really appreciated the effort and approach by Microsoft. For example, Microsoft came to campus and met with various groups, actively demonstrating the collaborative potential of Office 365. This gave Microsoft the edge over the Google teleconference-only approach.”

In addition, Salford Software, a long-time IT partner for the university and a member of the Microsoft Partner Network, spoke highly of Office 365 and offered local support to help the university move to the service. Keir says, “We trusted the opinion of Salford Software because they have worked with us for years supporting our Novell environment, and we felt like they understood our needs quite well.”

Keir adds, “After talking to Microsoft and Salford Software and learning more about the additional services available in Office 365, the evaluation team began to understand what else was possible for its students and staff.”

In 2011, the University of Dundee decided to move from GroupWise to the Office 365 cloud-based services free academic plan. The university selected Office 365 because the service is free, security-enhanced, meets legislative and governance concerns, and helps the university reduce IT administration and costs for its email and calendaring functions. In addition, it recognized that the capabilities included in SharePoint Online and Lync Online can provide students and staff with more enterprise-class communications and collaboration capabilities, compared to GroupWise and Google. David George, Chief Information Officer at the University of Dundee, says, “The university selected Office 365 over Google Apps because it gives us a robust enterprise-class platform for developing a radical new approach to collaboration and communication that goes far beyond email.”

* By using Exchange Online, we increased the mailbox storage and resolved a primary source of student frustration, without increasing our costs. *

Ellen Keir
Assistant Director of Business Services, University of Dundee

In late 2011, Microsoft provisioned 60,000 @dundee.ac.uk accounts in Office 365 for all students, staff, and applicants of the university. Next, with help from Salford Software and Cloud Technology Solutions, another university partner, the university migrated mail for staff and post-graduate research students in anticipation for its go-live date in early January 2012. Salford Software helped the university set up an on-premises infrastructure with Active Directory and Active Directory Federation Services to ensure single sign-on for all users. After Active Directory was in place, the university moved forward with the migration of the rest of the mailboxes.

Over five days, Microsoft, Salford Software, and the ICS team worked together to migrate 22,000 student mailboxes from GroupWise to Office 365. At the end of that week, the student newspaper commented that 99.998 percent of the student accounts were moved to Office 365 successfully. Keir says, “During the transition to Office 365, students and staff experienced zero downtime. That is not to say that the transition did not present some issues to deal with. But in the end, we achieved our migration objectives and our users were very supportive of the new solution.”

With Office 365, the university moved its email solution to Exchange Online, which immediately offers many of the same capabilities as Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. By using Exchange Online, all students and staff have 25 GB of mailbox storage by default for their email, calendar, and contacts. They can apportion this storage between their primary mailbox and the personal archive, a specialized mailbox that appears alongside users’ primary mailbox folders in the Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging and collaboration client or Microsoft Outlook Web App.

Exchange Online also supports the Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 messaging and collaboration client, so students and staff who use Macintosh computers have access to a rich client on the desktop. However, most students take advantage of the Outlook Web App to access their email, calendar, and contacts from virtually anywhere, including community PCs available in computer labs around campus and their own devices, such as laptops and iPads. Students can also easily connect to Exchange Online from their smartphones, including iPhones. Keir says, “The students like the responsiveness and feature-rich capabilities in the Outlook Web App, compared to the GroupWise web-mail version.” This includes the ability to complete tasks easily from the Outlook Web App, such as add and manage additional email accounts from a single place, check calendars and schedule appointments, set “Out of Office” automatic alerts, and book conference rooms for student meetings.

With Exchange Online in place, the university can shift its focus to take advantage of Lync Online and SharePoint Online. It plans to introduce Lync Online to a subset of students before the end of the current school year, and then add all students by the September start of the 2012-2013 academic year. By using Lync Online, students and staff can view presence indicators in applications, such as SharePoint, the Outlook client and Outlook Web App, and the Microsoft Lync 2010 client, to find colleagues quickly. From there, they can click to start an instant messaging (IM) session, document-sharing session, PC-to-PC call, or a web or video conference. George says, “We believe Lync online has the potential to facilitate a paradigm shift in the way our students and staff communicate and collaborate."

In addition, the ICS department is exploring how the university can take advantage of SharePoint Online as a content and document repository, which it expects will be especially useful for students in the distance-learning program. It believes that it can use SharePoint Online as an extension to its e-learning tools with capabilities such as team sites, wikis, blogs, and search.

Tom Mortimer, Director of ICS at the University of Dundee, says, “With SharePoint Online and Lync Online, we view Office 365 as a much more strategic product, providing improved functionality and a robust service for the university and our students and staff. We are now in the stage of exploring what else it can do for us, specifically how these tools can help support distance-learning programs and enhance our e-learning tools.”

With the move to the Microsoft hosted environment, the university has identified Office 365 as a key tool, supporting the institution in delivering its communications and collaboration objectives. The university also reduces its IT costs and administration time and improves the reliability of its messaging solution.

Improves Reliability
After experiencing significant downtime with its previous messaging solution, the university views the improved reliability with Office 365 as an important step to ensure its students and staff can communicate on a daily basis. With Microsoft hosting the solution, the university takes advantage of premium antispam and antivirus protection, geo-redundant data centers, around-the-clock IT-level phone support, and a financially backed 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement. “Before moving to Office 365, the ICS department would receive almost daily notifications of errors and outages plaguing our GroupWise email system. After switching to Office 365, we haven't received a single notification,” says Mortimer. “Because Microsoft is hosting Office 365, our team can focus on other IT activities, while services, like disaster recovery, are greatly improved. We can expect our hosted messaging solution to work for our students and staff around the clock.”

Reduces IT Costs and Administration
The case for Office 365 was also about reducing the total cost of ownership of the university’s messaging solution. The university expects to reduce costs by £500,000 (US$800,000) over five years, based on reduced IT administration and maintenance, lower infrastructure costs, and reduced staffing levels required to support the email system and its users.

* By using one connected solution, our students and staff can communicate and collaborate more efficiently and our distance learners can have the same experience as our campus students. *

Ellen Keir
Assistant Director of Business Services, University of Dundee

For example, by moving to a Microsoft hosted solution, the ICS department can provide better services for students and staff with minimal support. Microsoft manages its migrations, upgrades, updates, and security updates for Office 365 to keep the university current with the latest releases. With the experts at Microsoft supporting the solution, the university can avoid having to train or hire new IT staff, as it would have required with another on-premises solution. For hardware, the ICS department no longer has to acquire new servers or support the 40 servers previously dedicated to the GroupWise email system. Keir says, “We required a high level of support just to keep the GroupWise servers running. We now only have to manage Active Directory on-premises and Microsoft handles the rest. Our existing hardware will be retired or repurposed for academic purposes.”

The university has also avoided costs that would have been required had it decided to increase storage for the GroupWise email system. Keir says, “By using Exchange Online, we increased the mailbox storage and resolved a primary source of student frustration, without increasing our costs. This will save us at least £500,000 [US$800,000] in infrastructure and staffing costs over five years, which would have only bought us 40 percent of the amount of storage that we now get with Office 365.”

In addition, the ICS department anticipates a 30 percent reduction in the amount of service calls to the help desk in 2012 compared to 2011. It based this estimate on a steady decrease in calls tracked monthly since the migration to Office 365 was completed.

Improves Communications and Mobile Productivity
By using cloud-based email in Office 365, students and staff can access email from virtually anywhere and any device, supporting the university’s bring-your-own-device strategy. With this improvement in mobility, the university believes its students and staff can communicate better and stay informed while traveling, participating in a distance-learning program from across the world, or checking email from their laptops or mobile devices between classes. For example, the distance-learning program includes students who are now professionals in the medical and dentistry fields and need to complete a certain amount of hours of professional development each year. These people are working and very busy, but they still need to communicate with the university in ways that suit their lifestyle. “Our students are excited to have email access from their smartphones and other devices,” says Keir. “Now they can communicate with the university and share calendars with colleagues, no matter what device they use or where they are in the world.”

Enhances Sense of Community
After the university enables Lync Online and SharePoint Online, it expects to offer its students and staff a better community experience. The students and staff can take advantage of the enterprise-class communications and collaboration capabilities to learn from each other and collaborate on school projects and research. Keir says, “Our goal with Office 365 is to enhance our sense of community at the university and provide communication tools to help our students learn more and prepare for their futures. By using one connected solution, our students and staff can communicate and collaborate more efficiently and our distance learners can have the same experience as our campus students. This makes everyone feel more part of the university.”

Helps Prepare Students for Employment
By using the same Microsoft services used in the business world, the university believes it is exposing its students to a corporate standard for communications and collaboration tools. “The more familiarity students have with these types of productivity tools, the better equipped they are to move into the employment world,” says Keir. “We find that the students expect to see corporate examples at this level of their schooling, so we want to deliver.”

Microsoft Office 365
Microsoft Office 365 brings together cloud versions of our most trusted communications and collaboration products—Microsoft SharePoint Online, Exchange Online, and Lync Online—with the latest version of our Office desktop suite and companion web applications for businesses of all sizes.

Office 365 helps save time and money, and it frees up valued resources. Simple to use and easy to administer, it is financially backed by a service level agreement guaranteeing 99 percent reliability. Office 365 features robust security, IT-level phone support, geo-redundancy, disaster recovery, and the business-class privacy controls and standards that you expect from a world-class service provider.

For more information about Microsoft Office 365, go to:

For More Information
For more information about Microsoft products and services, call the Microsoft Sales Information Center at (800) 426-9400. In Canada, call the Microsoft Canada Information Centre at (877) 568-2495. Customers in the United States and Canada who are deaf or hard-of-hearing can reach Microsoft text telephone (TTY/TDD) services at (800) 892-5234. Outside the 50 United States and Canada, please contact your local Microsoft subsidiary. To access information using the World Wide Web, go to:

For more information about Salford Software products and services, visit the website at:

For more information about the University of Dundee, call (44) 1382 383 000 or visit the website at:

Solution Overview

Organization Size: 3000 employees

Organization Profile

The University of Dundee is a leading university in the United Kingdom, internationally recognized for its expertise across a range of disciplines, including science, medicine, engineering, and art.

Business Situation

The university looked to replace its GroupWise Novell email system with a hosted solution from Google or Microsoft to improve reliability and communications and lower IT costs.


The university selected Microsoft Office 365 because it gave the university an opportunity to go beyond just email and broaden the communication capabilities that it offers to students and staff.


  • Improves reliability
  • Reduces IT costs and administration
  • Improves communications and mobile productivity
  • Enhances sense of community
  • Prepares students for employment

Software and Services
  • Microsoft Office 365
  • Exchange Online
  • Lync Online
  • SharePoint Online

Vertical Industries

United Kingdom


Salford Software