Retailer Improves Scalability and Reduces Administration with Office 365
Our client is a retail business with over 5,000 employees. To help keep operations running smoothly, employees often rely on email to communicate with customers and vendors. The organisation had deployed an on-premises messaging solution, but as the solution aged, administration had become a burden for the IT team. It also worried about disaster recovery and how the solution would scale as the company grows. With the help of Beyond Migration, the company decided to evaluate a cloud-based messaging service through Microsoft Office 365 to help it reduce administration, provide scalability, and ensure a more reliable, secure solution for employees.
“We like the ability to scale up or down as necessary with Office 365. Because we can show different departments exactly what the costs are to IT, we can provide a true catalog of services to the business, which helps control costs overall.”Network Security Manager
SituationThe company is an upmarket department store that proudly offers “All things to all people, everywhere”. The flagship store has 1.2 million square feet, with 300 departments, 20 restaurants and bars, a beauty salon, and a bank. On an average day, 35,000 visitors browse the store, and during sale events, the store can see 350,000 shoppers. The organisation also runs signature shops in airports and department stores in Asia and Europe, in addition to an online retail site. The organisation's Group Businesses also manage aviation, real estate, banking, and charter helicopter services.
The organisation's employees rely on email to communicate with colleagues, customers, and vendors around the world. The company had deployed Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to provide messaging originally for 1,500 employees. Over time the number of employees using the Exchange e-mail service more than doubled. The messaging configuration consisted of three email servers that lacked any high availability or native disaster recovery. To provide disaster recovery, the company used a third-party solution from EMC. “High availability is absolutely critical. If our messaging solution was unavailable for any reason, the business really felt it,” says the System Administrator. “From an IT perspective, we were stretched to capacity. We were doing maintenance in the middle of the night to ensure the solution was always working.”
In addition, as the volume of mail increased it required additional storage for its storage area network (SAN), which made it more difficult to manage. “Our backup process was immensely complex and required a lot of maintenance,” says the Network Security Manager.
Security RequirementsThe on-premise Exchange 2003 server environment had been secured using Microsoft best practice techniques. This ensured that only authorised personell had access to the mail environment and they were limited to administration duties only. The replacement solution needed to meet and exceed the existing security settings.
Another concern for the company was ensuring the security of private customer information and meeting the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), an information security standard that was created to help organizations like The organisation that process card payments to prevent credit card fraud and keep customer information safe. “We have customers who frequently email us about purchases, and we need to be sure that their data is always protected.” says the Network Manager.
Scalability and growthThe company was also concerned about the scalability of its current solution. In 2010, The organisation was sold to a new owner that has announced plans to expand the business to more places around the world. It wanted a messaging solution where IT could provision accounts for new employees quickly, and where it would have more insight into the cost of messaging as it added new locations.
The organisation considered several options to meet its disaster recovery and security needs and provide for more scalable growth. Initially, it thought about upgrading its messaging solution to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which includes native disaster recovery and compliance capabilities.
However, the company realized that an on-premises solution would not help to reduce the amount of required storage or resolve the challenge of more scalability as it added new locations. Furthermore, an upgrade to its on-premises solution would not reduce administration for the IT team so that they could focus more on other areas of the business.
SolutionFor reliable disaster recovery, better scalability, and reduced administration, The organisation decided to consider a hosted messaging solution. It considered services from IBM and Microsoft, including the Microsoft Business Productivity Online Standard Suite (BPOS). “We liked what we saw with the earlier generation of hosted services in BPOS, which was why we were so interested in evaluating Microsoft Office 365,” says the Network Security Manager. Office 365 combines the familiar Office desktop with the next generation of cloud-based communication and collaboration services, including Microsoft Exchange Online, which is based on Exchange Server 2010 technology. The organisation joined the Microsoft Rapid Deployment Program to evaluate how the cloud-based messaging service would work in its environment.
PreparationThe organisation ran a pilot implementation of Office 365 for 25 users, selecting representatives across different departments. In addition we worked together with the IT department, business representatives and the board to ensure that all staekholders were on-board with the change and to ensure any early concerns were aired. This included running a Solution Alignment Workshop which is a Micrsoft Best Practice to increase visbility of Office 365 and highlight any potential problems. The team also worked with application owners and IT departments to ensure all production applications would function correctly with the new proposed environment.
To prepare for the transition to Exchange Online hosted messaging, we helped the organisation create a hybrid Exchange environment with Exchange Online and its existing Exchange Server 2003 deployment. It deployed one server running Exchange Server 2010 in the on-premises environment and configured Exchange federation between the on-premises server and Exchange Online to act as a bridge between Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange Online. In a hybrid environment, The organisation can easily move employee mailboxes between the cloud and its on-premises environment as needed, and it can transition to cloud-based messaging at its own pace. In addition, a hybrid environment provides more scalability, because the company can provision new employee mailboxes in the cloud. Whether employee mailboxes are in the cloud or on-premises, employees can continue to share free/busy calendar data, and administrators can perform tasks such as multi-mailbox searches across both environments.
The organisation deployed Active Directory Federation Services to enable single sign-on, so that employees could maintain a single set of credentials. To enable employees to connect to Office 365 services from any computer outside the company network, it deployed an Active Directory Federation Services proxy server. It also used Office 365 Directory Sync to maintain user and group configuration information between its on-premises environment and Office 365. “With the help of Beyond Migration, it was easy for us to configure our environment to support Exchange Online, and it was seamless to employees,” says the Systems Administrator. “We also found that the cloud-based service is much faster than our on-premises solution, even over a slow Internet connection.”
With Exchange Online, the IT team at The organisation can rely on Microsoft to provide much of the backend administration, including disaster recovery and regular data backups. For PCI compliance, it can use the Legal Hold capability to set legal holds one or more mailboxes to preserve mailbox items such as email messages, appointments, and tasks. In addition, for additional security, The organisation can take advantage of Transport Layer Security to encrypt the connection between email servers to help prevent spoofing and provide confidentiality for messages in transit, which can help to protect sensitive customer information.
The company also upgraded the desktop to Microsoft Office 2010, which includes Microsoft Outlook 2010 allowing employees a better experience with Office 365. Employees with mailboxes in Exchange Online can take advantage of the latest messaging capabilities through Outlook Web App. Employees can use capabilities such as Conversation View, which groups together messages from a single conversation so they can quickly and easily identify the most recent messages, view the chain of responses, and see a preview of each response in a conversation when they open individual messages. With MailTips, employees are automatically alerted—before they click the Send button—whether a message recipient is out of the_ office, an attachment is too large to send, or a distribution list contains external recipients. Mobile employees who use ActiveSync or RIM BlackBerry devices can also easily synchronize email and access it from their phones.
MigrationTo ensure a seamless experience for the end-user the company migrated departments at a time with batches of mailboxes ranging from less than five to over five hundred at a time. Beyond Migration provided bespoke migration tooling which helped keep track of the migration shcedule and report back to the board on a weekly basis.
“With Exchange Online, we can ensure service is available to employees while we focus on things like PCI compliance and security, and we can reduce a lot of man hours in the process.”Network Security Manager
BenefitsWith Office 365, The organisation sees an opportunity to provide a secure, reliable, scalable messaging environment without increasing administration.
Reduces AdministrationWith Exchange Online, The organisation does not have to worry about constant updates, backups, and daily maintenance for its Exchange environment. “These days, people expect email to be always available, like a dial tone,” says the Network Security Manager. “With Exchange Online, we can ensure service is available to employees while we focus on things like PCI compliance and security, and we can reduce a lot of man hours in the process.” With a hybrid messaging solution, the IT team can easily move employee mailboxes between the cloud and the on-premises servers as needed and transition to cloud-based messaging as the business demands it. When the IT team needs to configure new accounts or change group policy settings, it can perform tasks in one place—Active Directory--because Office 365 Directory Sync replicates the user account information into the cloud service. The IT team does not have to perform any additional steps to maintain the configuration settings of the on-premises and online solution.
Increases Mobility and ProductivityWith Exchange Online, as long as employees have access to a broadband connection, they can use Outlook Web App in any browser to stay in touch and stay productive. They can also easily access email from their ActiveSync or BlackBerry mobile devices. “Employees really loved the fact that they could check email no matter what operating system or device they were using to connect,” says the Network Security Manager. Employees can also take advantage of many of the productivity-enhancing capabilities in Outlook Web App or Outlook 2010 such as MailTips and Conversation View. With these features, employees can more easily manage their inboxes. “With Exchange Online, employees suddenly have access to the latest capabilities to help them be more productive,” says Hutton Henry, Owner of Beyond Migration.
Provides ScalabilityWith Exchange Online, The organisation has a more centralized solution that gives it better visibility into its IT spending as it opens new stores around the world. It can also quickly provision accounts for new employees, or it can remove accounts it no longer needs. “We like the ability to scale up or down as necessary with Office 365,” says the Network Security Manager. “Because we can show different departments exactly what the costs are to IT, we can provide a true catalog of services to the business, which helps control costs overall.” With employees’ email account information centrally managed in Active Directory, the IT team can also easily move mailboxes between Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Online as needed.
Ensures Data ProtectionBy moving messaging services to the cloud, The organisation will not have to worry about storing and backing up large amounts of data. Instead, all messaging data will be stored in the cloud and backed up regularly by Microsoft. Because Microsoft provides disaster recovery for Exchange Online and Exchange Server 2010 has native disaster recovery capabilities, The organisation can retire its third-party EMC solution. With Exchange Online, The organisation can expect disaster recovery through continuously-replicated, geo-redundant data centers that are third-party certified to international standards. With the Legal Hold capability, it can easily set holds on individual or groups of mailboxes, perform searches, and retain messages to meet PCI compliance. The organisation can also take advantage of premium anti-spam and antivirus protection, 24 hours a day, seven days a week IT-level phone support, and a financially backed, 99.9 percent uptime service level agreement.
“With the help of Beyond Migration, it was easy for us to configure our environment to support Exchange Online, and it was seamless to employees"System Administrator
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