Every IT migration must be justified. For Marcus Walton, Director of IT Infrastructure at Samuel Merritt University (SMU), storage constraints and the need for a better collaborative environment stood out as the key drivers for a migration to Office 365.
A private, not-for-profit health sciences institution with campuses in Oakland, Sacramento, and San Mateo, California, SMU is what Marcus calls a hybrid facility.
“We have systems that we want to keep on-premises,” he explains. “But when it comes to certain applications — especially those with high storage demands or providing easier ways to communicate — the cloud is the way to go.”
Facing down migration challenges with Quest
Marcus understood that Office 365 would, he says, “make it easy to provide our 3,500 faculty, students, and staff with the mailbox, file storage, and collaboration they need, since Office 365 is a fully-integrated subscription-based solution.”
Of course, deciding to do a migration and actually getting it done with as little disruption to users as possible are two very different things.
Office 365 presented Marcus and his ten-person IT department with a number of challenges. The success of the project, he knew, depended on being prepared both technically and culturally.
SMU began its Office 365 journey by bringing in Quest, its technology partner of 15 years, to perform a full infrastructure assessment.
Step one: is the infrastructure ready?
Although SMU stays on top of necessary enterprise upgrades, Marcus found Quest’s assessment process more than worth the effort.
“Using resources from Quest, we evaluated every aspect of our infrastructure that Office 365 would touch,” he says. “And we discovered areas we hadn’t considered that would have caused big headaches. But with resources from Quest we were able to correct, proactively plan, and execute with confidence.”
Easing migration complexities
Quest also worked with SMU throughout the migration itself, providing support for complex initiatives like deploying Microsoft’s Active Directory Federation Services.
“Quest helped us in so many ways, providing technical expertise as well as acting as an intermediary with Microsoft,” says Marcus, who points out that SMU’s Office 365 migration took its complete email infrastructure to the cloud, alleviating pain points in the on-premises infrastructure.
“We needed someone we could trust to let us know the full impact on the migration, different ways we could approach issues, and what we could do versus what we couldn’t,” he recalls. “Quest’s people were excellent guides on our journey, from the technical crew to Account Manager Sam Samms.”
With the technical aspects of the migration well in hand, Marcus and his team developed a rollout plan to introduce Office 365 to the SMU community, starting with a pilot group of power users, including the IT department.
“Each group we migrated provided us with feedback on pain points that we addressed before engaging the next group,” he explains. “This put us in a better position to understand users’ challenges and extend the appropriate support.”
SMU’s migration to Office 365 was an important milestone, Marcus notes, and its success depended on several factors.
“Of course, you must have a great IT team,” he says, “and at SMU we’re fortunate to have excellent people.”
Advice from the migration trenches
Marcus advises sticking to your schedule. If groups postpone their rollouts, your ability to respond can be compromised. Also, make communication and training a priority. It’s critical for users to feel comfortable with the new environment. And if you don’t have a trusted technology partner, find one.
“I sincerely believe in the value of a partner like Quest,” Marcus says. “We effortlessly migrated over 2,500 users to Office 365. We’re saving money on physical hardware and resource management, and we’ve gained a robust and stable environment with a key resource in the cloud, which means a lot to our user community.”