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Posted: 5/2/2013
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Orascom Development Holding AG Multinational Developer Engages Cloud Experts to Ensure Business Continuity

Orascom Development relies on email to connect employees with each other and with customers at numerous locations around the world. When business continuity was threatened by unrest in Egypt, Orascom decided to move to a location-independent cloud-based email system. With the help of Microsoft Services Consulting, Orascom made a seamless migration to Microsoft Office 365 and Microsoft Exchange Online, and it now plans to move more IT resources to the cloud.

Business Needs
In January 2011, the world watched as social and political upheaval swept across Egypt. This period of turbulence presented possibilities for positive change but also many challenges. Issues of safety and security, as well as instability of the nation's infrastructure, made it a difficult time for Egypt's businesses. Orascom Development, whose headquarters is in Cairo, ran into problems ensuring continuous uptime for the email system that connects its 18,000 employees, who are spread across nine countries in the Middle East and Europe.

* This was one of the most successful projects we've ever done. With the expert help of Microsoft Services, we completed the migration on time and on budget with zero data loss. *

George Atef
Head of Corporate Information Technology, Orascom Development

“Our entire email network was based on an on-premises Microsoft Exchange Server deployment running in our Cairo data center, “ explains George Atef, Head of Corporate Information Technology for Orascom Development. “When the revolution began, we could not even count on reliable electricity. Email is one of the most critical applications for our business, so extended downtime has a tremendous impact on our operations.“

Orascom considered moving its email system to its data center in Switzerland, but the company was leery of having such a key application dependent on the stability of one location. “There was so much turmoil that it was hard to accurately plan for the future,” says Atef. “So rather than make a huge capital investment in server, routers, and Internet resources, we felt that this was a perfect time to move to a cloud-based solution, deliver email as a service, and convert the cost into an ongoing operating expense.”

Orascom evaluated two possible cloud alternatives: Google cloud services, and Microsoft Office 365, an online service which unites familiar Microsoft Office applications with the power of email, calendaring, collaboration, and communication solutions. “We had long discussions with Google, but when we compared the two solutions, we felt that Google was too risky,” says Atef. “It lacked some major functions as well as smooth integration with our Microsoft Office environment, which is a key part of our employees' daily work. Office 365 was clearly the better choice for us.”

In early 2012, Orascom engaged Microsoft Services Consulting to help adopt Office 365 and deploy Microsoft Exchange Online and Microsoft Lync Online across the company. Because email is so important for the business, Orascom needed to complete the transition quickly, with minimal downtime or data loss—both for desktop PC users and employees who use mobile devices. “The Microsoft Services consultants were very knowledgeable and dedicated,” says Atef. “They treated the project as if it were their own, and they listened closely to our needs. We put together a budget and planned a one-month timeline for the deployment.”

In preparation for the rollout, Microsoft Services worked closely with Orascom IT staff to ensure a seamless transition. “The Microsoft Services team didn't approach this like outside consultants coming in to do the work for us,” says Atef. “They gave our IT staff the knowledge and resources we needed so that we could do the work ourselves and be prepared for any issues which might arise. We felt fully supported.”

The planning proved successful. “This was one of the most successful projects we've ever done,” says Atef. “With the expert help of Microsoft Services, we completed the migration on time and on budget with zero data loss. We even received thank-you letters from the CEO and COO, congratulating us on how smoothly it went.”

Working with Microsoft Services Consulting, Orascom successfully moved its email to a location-independent cloud-based platform, providing IT continuity for the business and a transparent migration for employees who were accustomed to using Microsoft Office. The engagement also provided direction for the company's IT future.

Seamless Transition and Improved Mobility
For employees, the move from an on-premises email system to Office 365 and Exchange Online was transparent. “From a user perspective, nothing really changed,” says Atef. “Employees can still use the familiar Microsoft Outlook interface without knowing or caring whether it is coming from our data center or from the cloud. And because mobile apps are available for Lync Online across multiple platforms, employees who have four or five devices now have a consistent messaging experience, no matter how they connect.”

Deep Expertise and Solid Commitment
Orascom believes that the Microsoft Services consultants involved in the migration project were key to its success. “Our Office 365 deployment was a very sophisticated project, and Microsoft Services handled it in a very professional way,” says Atef. “They helped us figure out exactly what we needed, and if anything wasn't going 100 percent right, they took immediate steps to fix it. Because of the Microsoft Services consultants’ expertise and dedication to our success, I can absolutely say that they were the right choice for the project.”

A Roadmap for the Future
The move to Office 365 went so well that Orascom is now working with Microsoft Services to move more key business applications to the cloud. “Based on this experience, I believe that the cloud is the future for corporate IT across all industries,” says Atef. “We are talking to Microsoft about adopting more elements of Office 365 for archiving and document management, and we want to move our CRM [customer relationship management] software to the cloud. Microsoft is a great partner for this, because they are introducing new software and features before anyone else does.”

Microsoft Services
Microsoft Services is a global team of professionals who are dedicated to helping customers maximize the value of their investment in Microsoft software. Microsoft Services touches customers more than 715 million times a year, helping them plan, deploy, support and optimize our technologies. They also work closely with Microsoft Partners by sharing their technological expertise and product knowledge on a regular basis.

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Solution Overview

Organization Size: 14000 employees

Organization Profile

Cairo-based Orascom Development plans and builds fully integrated towns with housing, leisure facilities, and infrastructure. Orascom also runs 28 hotels and manages an extensive real-estate portfolio.

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

Vertical Industries
Heavy Construction


Business Need
Support and Services

IT Issue
Software + Services


Microsoft Services