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Universidade Tiradentes

University reduces costs and increases productivity by migrating from Lotus Notes to Exchange Server 2003


In order to upgrade the e-mail service and reduce overhead costs, Universidade Tiradentes (Unit) decided to migrate from Lotus Notes to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003. The decision was made after evaluating the new version of an IBM tool as well as other open source-based solutions. With only one Exchange server, over 600 mailboxes were converted in a most transparent way. Among other achievements, Unit was able to improve its mail management, reduce the total cost of ownership (TCO) and please both faculty and student body.


Founded 45 years ago, Universidade Tiradentes (Unit) is located in the state of Sergipe and has 25,000 students enrolled in its five campi, two of them based in Aracajú, the state capital. The University offers 24 undergraduate programs, nine technical programs and several graduate diplomas. The institution has 1,200 employees (including faculty) and approximately 1,000 desktops - 45% of them are meant for academic purposes and 55% are used by the administration.

Always on the lookout for setup and tool updates, in 2006 Unit started a technology project to enhance its environment and, most importantly, to meet the needs of faculty and student body. "It was the right moment to upgrade our e-mail service, which is the main communication channel across departments and suppliers, as well as faculty members, student body and the community. We wanted a more resourceful tool, one that could offer anti-spamming solutions and reduce our overhead costs", says Domingos Machado, CIO at Unit. According to him, the university used IBM’s Lotus Notes for the past five years.


In May 2006, the IT department carried out a three-month comprehensive study to decide which solution would best meet the needs of their internal customers (students, teachers and administrative workers) regarding e-mail capacity and productivity levels. Technical aspects were taken into account, as well as the conversion strategy. The IT department performed several tests and evaluated the deployment, support and training policies. "Besides the new version of Notes, we also evaluated Exchange and other open source-based solutions", says Machado.

After a series of meetings, Unit selected Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 as the best enterprise messaging solution. Softcorp was the Education Specialist partner responsible for licensing the products.

With only one Exchange server, over 600 mailboxes were converted in a most transparent way. The institution also created a guide and, since the solution is quite user-friendly, they were able to train over 300 users in only two weeks.

In 2005, through a Campus Agreement, another project had already enabled the migration from Open Office to Microsoft Office. Due to its lower cost, an open source application was adopted by the IT labs and also by several programs of the university. However, a number of difficulties were raised, since most of the students were not familiarized with that application. "It was not uncommon for IT students to have a low score in proficiency exams", states Machado. For instance, accountancy professors also viewed the Microsoft suite as superior, due to high quality resources available in Excel spreadsheets. The Open Office solution, on the other hand, did not provide statistical formulas.


Three months after deploying the solution, Universidade Tiradentes noticed that the e-mail management was significantly enhanced and that the total cost of ownership was reduced to a great extent. Before that, the IT department used to spend 30 minutes to create and configure a mail box on Notes. "An IT professional had to be assigned exclusively for this task", explains Machado. The same process is now concluded in just one minute. "That way, we were able to free our resources to concentrate on strategic rather than operational tasks", says the CIO.

Unlike the previous system, Microsoft’s system integration with the directory service enabled single sign on for e-mail and network access. Machado highlights that the users started to rely on the new tools, such as calendar, appointment book, etc, which are much easier to use with the Microsoft solution. Now it is also possible to remotely access your Exchange account via a Web browser in order to check your messages and Daily Task List.

"Being an academic institution, we have to be open to new solutions and present our students with different options. In our evaluation, Microsoft’s solutions were able to meet our expectations, both technically and financially”, says the CIO. According to him, open source solutions may seem to be more cost-effective, but it is important to consider other embedded costs, such as training, support and TCO.

The Office suite was previously adopted on other programs, and thanks to a number of resources available, it led to an increase in quality and productivity. "Since most of our students and professors already used Outlook, Word and Excel, the learning process was much faster, fully satisfying the needs of both faculty and student body", says Machado.

The university – which is a Microsoft official certification center in Sergipe – is now beginning to get ready for the 2007 version of Exchange, as well as for a hardware upgrade to Microsoft Windows Vista. Unit is also evaluating the adoption of Microsoft .NET as its development platform.


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