Georgia State University (GSU) is one of the Southeast's leading urban research institutions. As with any large organization, the faculty and staff of GSU needs mission-critical enterprise communication and collaboration technology to get their jobs done, and for years GSU has relied on Novell GroupWise to provide it.
As the version of GroupWise that GSU was using had reached the end of its supported life cycle, the university concluded that a simple update would be too expensive and fail to offer sufficiently improved functionality. Instead, GSU wanted to provide its 6,500 faculty and staff with comprehensive support across multiple platforms and devices, from desktop PCs and Macs to tablets and smartphones, while greatly expanding mailbox storage capacity. With this information in hand, GSU sought a cloud-based solution that would better meet its IT management, storage, and interoperability needs, all while minimizing IT costs.
GSU began evaluating online solutions, including Google Apps for Business and Google Mail in particular. But that option didn’t meet the university’s needs. “There were several problems with Google Mail,” says CIO J.J. Albert. “In addition to functionality limitations, Google Mail had legal issues that could not enable us to restrict and store data within the United States, as policy requires us to. We also wanted support for retention and e-discovery policies that enterprise-class solutions often offer but that Google wasn’t even willing to talk to us about.”
The robust features and zero infrastructure maintenance costs of Office 365 were the key reasons for the university’s decision. Plus, the university’s students and faculty would get 25 gigabytes of mail storage, whereas before, users would fill their 300-megabyte mailboxes quite quickly.
The final switch from GroupWise to Office 365 occurred over the July 4 holiday weekend, just after the official Microsoft release. “We completed the final push in just one weekend,” says Keith Campbell, Director of Technology Engineering at Georgia State University. “I think this went about as effortlessly as any large email migration can go.”
GSU adds, “When we look at our total cost of ownership of GroupWise versus Office 365, we estimate we will easily save about [US] $1 million in the first five years.” This savings completely offsets the university’s initial investment in deploying Office 365, not including the savings on hardware depreciation.
Finally, remote GSU users benefit from flexible mobile device support in Office 365. The previous GroupWise environment supported synchronization with Blackberry devices, but, according to Campbell, not much else: “Now, along with Blackberry users, our iPhone, Android, and Windows Phone users are happy too. This is a big plus for making our employees more productive using whatever mobile device they choose.”
Albert concludes, “Office 365 has given us professional-quality tools at a great value, robust reliability and security, and an extensible platform that we add communication and collaboration services to as the university’s needs grow. Given all these advantages, I think the Office 365 migration is one of the best projects this organization has ever undertaken.”