Publiceret: 1/4/2011
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Aston University University Enhances Messaging While Saving IT Time and Cutting Storage Costs in Half

Aston University provides programs for about 12,000 students in Birmingham, England. The university used older, open source email systems for students and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for employees. It was time-consuming for IT staff to manage two platforms, especially the UNIX-based systems. Also, students wanted larger mailboxes and more modern messaging features. Aston upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 with Service Pack 1 for employees and some postgraduate students, and moved to Microsoft Live@edu email for undergraduates and classroom postgraduates. Aston now provides a consistent messaging system to all university users, with high reliability and performance and new capabilities for archiving and voice mail. It has also reduced email management time, saved U.S.$156,000 by eliminating the UNIX-based infrastructure, and cut email storage costs by 50 percent, or $140,000.

Situation

Aston University is a world-class teaching institution located in Birmingham, England, with a focus on technology, business, science, and engineering. It also has strong programs in languages and social sciences. Aston serves more than 12,000 students in its undergraduate and postgraduate programs and has about 3,200 employees.

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* We’ve calculated savings in excess of $156,000 by moving from UNIX email systems to Live@edu .... Additionally, by upgrading to Exchange Server 2010, we’ve reduced our storage costs by 50 percent.  *

Fahri Zihni
Director, Information and Communications Technology
Aston University

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Until recently, the university used Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 as its messaging platform for employees. It used two different open source solutions (Dovecot and Exim) to serve its approximately 11,900 undergraduate and postgraduate classroom students and 500 postgraduate research students.

The mixed email environment, and the UNIX-based systems in particular, caused frustration for both the IT staff and students. The open source systems did not offer modern email features such as a user-friendly interface and calendar sharing, and performance grew progressively worse as the systems aged. Students clamored for larger mailboxes, which the university was unable to provide because of high storage costs.

The IT staff spent increasing amounts of time keeping the UNIX systems running and resolving issues. “Email is mission-critical for us, and we demand a very high level of reliability and resilience,” says Fahri Zihni, Director of Information and Communications Technology at Aston University. “Managing email was becoming a full-time job for one person, and there are only five technical staff members managing the server-based infrastructure.”

On the Exchange Server front, the IT staff desired simpler management, better email archiving, and the ability to reduce storage costs and grant users larger mailboxes. IT staff members took turns staying after hours several days each month to apply security updates to the messaging servers. For email archiving, employees transferred older messages from their Microsoft Office Outlook messaging and collaboration client (as Outlook Data Files, or PST files) to their personal computers, where they were nearly impossible to manage and search.

Solution

In late 2009, Aston University decided to upgrade to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 for its 3,200 faculty and staff members and 500 postgraduate research students. Exchange Server 2010 provided improvements in messaging management, storage, and usability.

Aston looked at three options for its 11,900 undergraduates and classroom postgraduates: moving mailboxes to its on-premises Exchange Server infrastructure, migrating students to the Microsoft Live@edu service, or giving them Google Apps accounts. Live@edu includes an Exchange Server–based web email service for students called Microsoft Outlook Live, which uses Microsoft Outlook Web App as the interface and provides 10 gigabytes (GB) of mailbox space. It also includes 25 GB of Windows Live SkyDrive storage and Microsoft Office Live Workspace for the online storage, access, and sharing of documents.

Ultimately, the university decided to move the undergraduates and classroom postgraduates to Live@edu. Compared to Google Apps, the service provided better calendar sharing with professors who were using Exchange Server, and it more closely aligned with the university’s discovery and message-tracking regulations. It also offered easier support and greater consistency across the university messaging environment. “The ability to manage Live@edu email with the same commands and interfaces used for our on-premises Exchange Server system was a huge bonus for us,” says Trevor Bayliss, Infrastructure Services Manager at Aston University.

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* Email is mission-critical for us, and we demand a very high level of reliability and resilience.  *

Fahri Zihni
Director, Information and Communications Technology
Aston University

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Consistent Migration Processes

The decisions to upgrade to Exchange Server 2010 and move to Live@edu coincided in October 2009. Aston integrated Live@edu into the university infrastructure within two weeks, in time for the fall 2009 intake of new students. The majority of returning students were moved to Live@edu later in 2009.

The upgrade to Exchange Server 2010 began in early 2010 and was also straightforward. “It was a big win to be able to use the same tool set for the Exchange Server 2010 migration that we used for Live@edu,” Bayliss says.

In March 2010, Aston deployed a beta version of Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1 (SP1), which provided additional enhancements in messaging management, usability, and remote email access. To date, Aston University has deployed 1,200 seats of Exchange Server 2010 with SP1, and the remaining 2,500 users will move to the new solution in early 2011. The completion of the upgrade from Exchange Server 2007 is timed to coincide with the university’s deployment of a disaster recovery data center and new phone system.

The university’s current Exchange Server 2010 infrastructure includes two Mailbox servers running on the Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise operating system. In addition, one Hub Transport server, two Client Access servers, and two Unified Messaging servers run on Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard. For high availability, Aston deployed a Database Availability Group, which uses continuous replication to keep database copies up to date across multiple mailbox servers and to automate database recovery from failures at the disk, server, or data center level. Aston has two database copies in two Birmingham locations and will have a third when it creates a disaster recovery site. With the Database Availability Group feature, the university can move mailbox databases from one server to another and perform maintenance without taking users offline.

When the deployment is complete, the university’s Exchange Server 2010 infrastructure will include six Mailbox servers, three Hub Transport servers, four Client Access servers, and two Unified Messaging servers. The disaster recovery data center will also have three Mailbox servers.

Archival Improvements

Aston plans to use the Exchange Server 2010 personal archive feature to better secure email messages. A personal archive is a secondary Exchange Server mailbox where users can store historical email messages, so they don’t have to use PST files on their individual computers. In Exchange Server 2010 SP1, administrators can provision a user’s primary mailbox and personal archive on the same or separate mailbox databases, giving them the flexibility to use tiered storage architectures.

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* It was a big win to be able to use the same tool set for the Exchange Server 2010 migration that we used for Live@edu*

Trevor Bayliss
Infrastructure Services Manager
Aston University

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Aston intends to use personal archives to increase mailbox size for faculty and staff and to eliminate the PST files that these users have accumulated in the past. By using the personal archive management efficiencies provided by Exchange Server 2010 SP1, the IT staff can more easily set storage quotas and delegate access to the archives for e-discovery purposes. In addition, the personal archive features will help Aston to avoid long offline file download times for Office Outlook clients and implement a tiered backup policy for personal archive databases.

Storage and Management Efficiencies

By upgrading to Exchange Server 2010, Aston was able to change its email storage configuration to save money. It switched from large external RAID (redundant array of independent disks) 10 arrays to internal storage on smaller servers with RAID 5 and direct-attached storage using Serial Advanced Technology Attachment disks.

The IT staff is also taking advantage of improvements in public folder management in Exchange Server 2010 SP1. Administrators can now use the Exchange Management Console to configure client permissions for public folders, detect and correct replication issues in the public folder database, and aggregate statistics across all public folders.

Plus, the IT staff is able to extend its existing Active Directory Domain Services infrastructure to Live@edu accounts and also use existing Microsoft System Center data center solutions to more effectively monitor, manage, and back up its messaging system.

Usability Enhancements

With the new solution, Aston employees and students can access the full-featured Outlook Web App email client using all major web browsers. Exchange Server 2010 SP1 enhancements to Outlook Web App provide better performance, the ability to share calendars in non-Microsoft formats—a feature much-desired by academics—and overall email navigation improvements.

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* Moving to Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging was a far cheaper option and gave us additional benefits such as the ability for users to … dial into their inbox and calendar using Microsoft Outlook Voice Access.  *

Steve Goodman
Server Engineer
Aston University

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The Conversation View feature of Exchange Server 2010 reduces inbox clutter and instantly reduces the number of email messages shown to users. This feature groups messages from a single conversation together, even if individual messages are stored in separate folders. The ability to choose to ignore a conversation also helps users to focus only on emails that are relevant to them.

Aston users also appreciate the MailTips feature, which warns users before sending a message that could result in non-delivery or an embarrassing mistake—such as selecting “Reply All” to a message that was received by a Bcc recipient.

Federation features in Exchange Server 2010 allow availability information and calendars to be shared between Live@edu and Exchange Server 2010, with which the Aston IT staff can provide a consistent experience for students and employees, no matter who they are communicating with. And by using the single-item recovery features in Exchange Server 2010, users can recover their own deleted emails.

With cheaper storage, Aston will be able to increase the user mailbox size from 2 GB to 4 GB. The university is also upgrading its telephone system and replacing older voice-mail software with Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging, which provides integrated email and voice mail in a unified inbox. “Moving to Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging was a far cheaper option and gave us additional benefits such as the ability for users to receive voice-mail messages on smartphones, play them on PCs, and dial into their inbox and calendar using Microsoft Outlook Voice Access,” says Steve Goodman, Senior Server Engineer at Aston University.

Benefits

By using Exchange Server 2010 with Service Pack 1 and Live@edu, Aston University has been able to improve messaging services for faculty, staff, and students. It has also reduced email management, enhanced email security, and cut storage costs by U.S.$140,000.

Provides Better Service to Employees and Students

With the move to Exchange Server 2010 with SP1 and Live@edu, Aston University has created a consistent and richer messaging platform for employees and students. Students have one central email login and interface, no matter which device or browser they use or whether they are using the on-premises Exchange Server infrastructure or Live@edu.

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* Instead of using command-line tools to manage public folders, we can now use Exchange Management Console controls. We used to spend several hours a week on tasks like this, and now we only spend minutes.  *

Trevor Bayliss
Infrastructure Services Manager
Aston University

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Once the IT staff increases mailbox size and deploys personal archives, students and employees will spend less time cleaning out their inboxes and can more easily save and retrieve old emails. With the Exchange Server 2010 SP1 enhancements to Outlook Web App, users enjoy better performance, easier navigation within the email client, and more flexible calendar sharing. Also, with Unified Messaging, users have one place to go to access both email and voice-mail messages.

Simplifies Email Management

The university-wide standardization on Microsoft messaging software also makes life easier for the IT staff. Zihni and colleagues have a common documentation set and support framework, which speed support to users. “The process of tracking down which email system the person is on, then directing them to the correct set of documentation, along with the time taken to maintain two sets of internal knowledge bases and customer-facing documentation is removed,” Goodman says. “Updating the documentation would have taken around a week per year, per email system. Now, we’ve cut that time in half.”

As the IT staff migrates more users to Exchange Server 2010 with SP1, it is seeing a gradual reduction in the time spent on email management. “Instead of using command-line tools to manage public folders, we can now use Exchange Management Console controls,” Bayliss says. “We used to spend several hours a week on tasks like this, and now we only spend minutes.”

Taking advantage of the Database Availability Group feature helps the IT staff move mailbox databases between servers without affecting users and without working evenings and weekends. “With Exchange Server 2010, we can patch mailbox servers without incurring downtime that affects users and without working nights,” Goodman says. “We’re better able to run a low-maintenance, highly reliable messaging platform.”

The personal archive feature will be a benefit not only to users, but also to IT staff. “We can eliminate privately maintained PST file stores and reduce the backup frequency of databases dedicated to mailbox archives,” Zihni says. “If a user corrupts a mailbox or loses email messages, we will be able to recover faster. And lastly, when we have to do discovery, we can delegate personal archive access to the university legal team so that the IT staff doesn’t have to be involved.”

With the time savings, the Aston IT staff can turn its attention to important projects—creating the new disaster recovery site and upgrading critical applications for student records management, finance, and other areas.

Enhances Email Security

By using the personal archive feature, Aston can provide enhanced security for its messaging environment. “With personal archives, we will be able to offer students and employees an easier and more secure way to store older email messages,” Zihni says. “Older email messages remain on our servers yet stay easily accessible. If laptops go missing, archived email is not sitting on a hard drive.”

Reduces Storage Costs by $146,000

Aston is saving money by switching to lower cost storage and eliminating the on-premises UNIX-based email infrastructure. “We’ve calculated savings in excess of $156,000 by moving from UNIX email systems to Live@edu, which is really appreciated in this economic climate,” Zihni says. “Additionally, by upgrading to Exchange Server 2010, we’ve reduced our storage costs by 50 percent, a savings of nearly $16,000 per mailbox server. Due to storage performance improvements in Exchange Server 2010, we will be able to make better use of this storage, moving from RAID 10 to RAID 5. This will provide further return on our Exchange Server investment.” By replacing its older voice-mail system with Exchange Server 2010 Unified Messaging, Aston will also save $24,000 annually in licensing and maintenance fees.

In closing, Zihni says that standardizing on Microsoft messaging software has been good for students, employees, and the university’s bottom line. “We feel that Exchange Server 2010 with Service Pack 1 is a very solid product for an educational organization such as Aston,” he says. “We have the added benefits of being able to use our existing Microsoft software to manage it. We’re not buying things just because it has a Microsoft label; we want the best of breed, and right now the best of breed is coming from Microsoft.”

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 can help you achieve better business outcomes while controlling the costs of deployment, administration, and compliance. Exchange Server 2010 delivers the widest range of deployment options, integrated information leakage protection, and advanced compliance capabilities, which combine to form the best messaging and collaboration solution available.

For more information about Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, go to:
www.microsoft.com/exchange

For more information about Microsoft Unified Communications, go to:
www.microsoft.com/uc

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:
www.microsoft.com

For more information about Aston University services, call +44 (0) 121 204 3000 or visit the website at:
www.aston.ac.uk

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Løsningen - kort fortalt



Organisations størrelse
12000 medarbejdere

Organisationsprofil

Aston University is a four-year educational institution in Birmingham, England. It serves more than 12,000 students and specializes in preparing them for jobs in industry, government, and commerce.


Situationen

Aston had a mixed email environment: older UNIX-based systems for students and Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 for employees. It wanted a common platform with richer features.


Løsningen

Aston upgraded to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 with Service Pack 1 to gain archiving, storage, and usability enhancements, and gave undergraduates and classroom postgraduates Microsoft Live@edu accounts.


Fordele

  • Provides better service to employees and students
  • Simplifies email management
  • Enhances email security
  • Reduces storage costs by $146,000


Hardware
  • HP ProLiant DL360 G6 server computers
  • HP ProLiant DL370 G6 server computers

Software & Services
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 1
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 Standard
  • Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
  • Microsoft Live@edu

Industri(er)
Higher Education

Land
United Kingdom

Forretningsbehov
  • Cloud & Server Platform
  • Cost Containment

Udfordringen
Identity, Security and Access Management

Languages
English