Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Top 5 Considerations For A Successful Email Migration

Having experienced and been a contributing factor to many Email migrations both large and small; from Fortune 500 companies as well as many smaller organizations, I have come away with a few pointers that can help any email migration and coexistence project be successful.  If you pay close attention to these five (5) details, you will stay on track and complete your migration with both your executive level sponsors and the user community behind you all the way.  Now before I jump into the Top 5, I just need to state a quick fact that will not change.  No email project, I repeat, No email project is completed with out issues or problems along the way.  However minor they may be, there will always be some inherent problem spots.  It is just the nature of this type of work or project.  There are way too many moving parts and points of interactions with downstream systems in most companies.  With that said, if you plan and prepare, these issues can be mitigated within your migration team and minimized to the end users.

Planning and Communications

I can't stress enough that you need to over communicate with your end users as soon as you decide to migrate your email systems.  Part of this step should include but not be limited too, training paths, FAQ's, schedule or time-frames, tasks required prior to migration, cleanup and archive procedures, post migration tasks and locations of key migration documentation.  I typically recommend that companies create a team within the project to handle these types of communications.  These teams consist of technical writers, marketing, legal, developers and the migration teams.  Why such a mix of members you might ask?  Well, the technical writer is an obvious choice, you want to make the message clear and concise as well as easy to understand.  Marketing will help with the brand message which is equally important both inside as well as outside an organization.  Logos, fonts, graphics are all extremely important to send a consistent message as well as stress how important the project is to the company.  The project must look professional in order to get the "Buy In".  The legal team is essential to insure everything falls within corporate policy and guidelines.  Remember the minor issue discussion at the beginning, this one of those areas that can mitigate such issues.  It is very likely that you will need some sort of custom code in your messages that assist the user community with tasks that are required before, during or after a migration.  This is where the developer comes into play.  Finally, the members of your migration team is essential to this group as they will be handling the sending of these messages and ensuring that certain tasks are complete before continuing to a next step.

Perform a Pilot Migration

I can't tell you how many times companies want to save time and money and skip a Pilot only to cost themselves double or triple those savings in initial issues and problems.  It is key to all size migrations large and small to perform a small pilot relative to the overall size of the migrations.  A well planned pilot will uncover any potential environment issues, scheduling problems as well as hardware or software issues.  As you select the users to participate in the pilot I caution you against just selecting folks that want to get to the new email system as soon as possible, which is typically the case.  These are not always your best users for a pilot as they won't really "kick the tires" which is an important function of pilot users.  They want to be on the new system and have probably used it in the past at another company.  Look for people that may be critical of the move, pay close attention to details and have been able to provide good feedback in prior projects.  If there is going to be issues you need to be aware of them in the Pilot prior to the mass migrations.  Look at it this way, some of the issues may be very minor but if you have a list, you can prioritize and mitigate.  Another great idea is to include some of your help desk and support teams as part of the pilot.  What better way to get their feet wet with the new product provide on the job training and that assist with leading right into next consideration.

Ramp up and train your support teams

This goes without saying but is often overlooked.  I've seen over and over companies wanting to get to a new email platform as quick as possible and spending money on bandwidth, expensive tools to increase the velocity of migrations but then realize they don't have the support staff in place to handle all the help desk calls.  This can often make the migration look unsuccessful and leave a sour taste in the user communities mouths.  They will be your number one advocate, so you want to make them happy.  Make sure you have adequate support staff to handle at least 10% of call volume for the amount of users migrated during your migration window.  So, another words if you plan to migrate 500 users per night, then expect at least 50 calls the morning after the migration.  These may be minor and can be reduced by following the first two steps.  As you start to plan to move to a new systems, be proactive and get the support staff proper training for the new email system, email clients and any ancillary products that will interact with it.  This will provide a great return on your investment!

Don't Overlook Coexistence

No matter how condensed your schedule is, there will likely be some period of coexistence between email platforms unless you are using a "Big Bang" approach and migrating everyone over a weekend while the systems are offline.  This is typically not possible unless you have a very small user base.  Proper coexistence planning will insure that all users can communicate with each other and includes items like address book synchronization, calendar free/busy look ups, groups and distribution as well as delegation.  Depending on the size of your company and the meetings across the organization, this can typically be a largely overlooked item.  Sometimes the coexistence part of a migration will be a separate project in itself.  There are many items that make up email flow within an organization as well as any ingress/egress points within the environment.  Proper planning will ensure that delivery will be supported with both source and target platforms.  Other ancillary items to consider would be any email enabled applications in the environment that interact with the email systems direct.  Some of these applications include email based workflow applications or approval processes or special forms that perform some other task in the environment.  It is so important to get coexistence right as the problems it can cause will be much larger than most migrationsIt goes without saying but I'm going to mention it anyway.  Make sure if you are using coexistence, it is set up properly and tested prior to any migrations..period!  That includes any pilot migrations as well.  To insure that it is set up correctly, a proper test plan will need to be created using test clients that will test all required functionality.

Use a tool

Most companies will try to save a few bucks and not use a tool for migration and scheduling.  I highly recommend against this.  Sure, there are some free tools and native capabilities within the different messaging systems that can perform many of the tasks for the migration but there is a reason there are migration tool vendors out there and that is because the available native tools are not built for an enterprise migration.  There are so many aspects of a typical migration such as taking databases offline, letting users perform a self-service type of migration, black out windows and opting out of a migration schedule window.  I can tell you there are no native capabilities to handle these tasks.  So, your migration team will spend countless hours trying to mitigate this by creating their own process.  This will in turn lead to mistakes and overlooked tasks which will sabotage your migration.  There are numerous options for a third party tool to assist with your migration, however, the most popular includes Binary Tree and Dell formerly Quest Software.  Both products are very comprehensive and include tools from years and years of migration experience.  Do yourself a favor and take a look at both products for your type or style of migration.  Their websites are located at http://www.binarytree.com and http://www.quest.com respectively.  Both products can migrate from any source/target combination to fit your needs.  A good tool will offer the customer automatic scheduling of users, blackout periods, self-service migration, ease of use, fast processing of data and superior reporting which is essential.  For the administrators of the migration, it will allow for remote management, simple easy to use console and accurate data migration.  Each migration is unique, so make sure you fit the proper tool to your needs and requirements.  A good tool can make you look like a hero and the return on investment here is very large for any enterprise level migration.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Lotus Domino Notes Visio Stencil

I've searched all over the internet and have yet to find a good Lotus Domino or Lotus Notes Visio Stencil for use in diagrams and slidedecks. I created this for personal use and am sharing it for the same. It is not perfect and won't be supported but I think you will find it is pretty useful. It will work with Microsoft Visio 2007 & 2010, just copy it to your My Documents\My Stencil folder for it to be displayed in your Visio program.

Link to download:
Lotus Domino Notes Visio Stencil VSS

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Provisioning Exchange 2010 Users with Remote Powershell in Windows XP/2003

Using Remote PowerShell to provisionin Exchange 2010 Users

Exchange 2010 provides us with some new features for PowerShell in order to run commands remotely to a CAS server. However, there are a few prerequisites you need to know in order to do this. First of all, the Windows 2003 or XP, out of the box does not provide this. You will have to download the "WINRM" update patch that installs Windows PowerShell. Here is the URL for the download:


Also, you need to enable remote PowerShell on your Exchange 2010 CAS server with the following PS command, 'Enable-PSRemoting' . You can then choose "YES" to configure Firewall ports if necessary and then ensure that the 'WINRM" service is running on the CAS Server. There is a command to verify that the user you are logged in with has the necessary authority to run the commands and it is, 'get-user (username) | fl'.

Verify that “RemotePowerShellEnabled” is set to True. To set this, enter: ‘Set-User –identity (username) –RemotePowerShellEnabled $true’.

Finally, after ensuring that the Exchange server is accepting remote PS commands, there are a few more settings on the Windows 2003/XP machine prior to running.

Start the Windows Remote Management Service task from Services.MSC console

Then run Windows Powershell Command from Program\Accessories:

set-executionpolicy remotesigned

That's it! Have fun but be careful, this is pretty powerful.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Welcome to my blog!

I hope to make this informational as well as give an inside peek to my daily activities. I know, why not Facebook or something like that. I can be a geek here and help out other fellow geeks in need. There is nothing like information sharing, eh?

Feel free to drop me a line.