Company: AT&T Wireless Maritime Services (WMS)
Overview: After reaching a critical server upgrade point, WMS realized that a hybrid Office 365 migration was the best solution for upgrading infrastructure and keeping costs low.
Solution: Hybrid Office 365 migration
As a joint venture between AT&T and Global Eagle, AT&T Wireless Maritime Services (WMS) provides cellular roaming solutions aboard cruise ships. Its services include GSM, CDMA and LTE to enable cruise ship guests and crew to communicate via personal cellphones.
The Miami-based division consists of 125 users and offers 24/7 services. It can’t afford downtime for cruise ship guests and remote maintenance employees. When the need came to upgrade the company’s Exchange 2010 servers to 2016 or seek a cloud-based solution, the team explored migrating from Exchange 2010 to a hybrid Office 365.
AT&T WMS previously used Exchange 2010 email hosted onsite on two domains within the same Exchange organization.
To build a highly available system, the division’s IT environment consisted of four Exchange servers, a spam engine, a backup server, a load balancer to manage traffic and eight applications to support the containers and backup. To offer all-day support, the division also used NetSoft — adding another component to manage.
With an IT team of three, the small group is responsible for extending cellular services to cruise ship guests and managing the complex environment.
The division reached a critical point to either upgrade Exchange Server 2010 to 2016 or revisit another solution like hybrid Office 365. Director of Engineering Allan Lindo and Senior Technical Support Specialist Olubunmi Awogbami performed a cost analysis to determine the best course of action financially.
The IT team also wanted to introduce disaster recovery and business continuity in multiple locations, which factored into the cost evaluation.
When comparing the costs of upgrading Exchange 2010 on-premises to hybrid Office 365, Allan and Olubunmi looked at the following:
- The hardware costs of upgrading to a new Exchange server
- The fees associated with recycling old hardware
- The cost of expanding its Exchange footprint for disaster recovery in multiple locations
- The one-time cost of migrating those systems to Office 365 with 125 Office 365 Business Essentials licenses.
“Knowing all of the infrastructure needed to be replaced and performing a cost analysis revealed that a hybrid Office 365 migration was a better business decision,” Allan said.
The hybrid setup would give the division some level of control and allow the team to perform certain IT tasks locally.
Going hybrid also simplifies the move to Office 365 because the team can migrate in phases, rather than moving everything in one swoop. In the off chance the division decided not to use Office 365 in the future, having a hybrid environment would provide the flexibility to easily move back to an on-premises solution.
AT&T WMS partnered with Agile IT to migrate the existing Exchange components to a hybrid setup. As an approved IT services provider, the decision to use Agile IT was simple.
Hybrid Exchange extends on-premises Exchange to Office 365 Exchange Online. To configure hybrid Exchange for Office 365, Allan and Olubunmi worked with Agile IT’s cloud experts to:
- Perform an Active Directory and Exchange Health Check
- Install and configure on-premises Exchange Server 2010 Hybrid Edition for integration with Office 365 (including mail flow, OWA redirection, message tracking, free-busy, journaling mailbox, retention policies)
- Migrate existing public folders
- Migrate email from two domains to Office 365 (Business Premium) for 125 mailboxes
- Install and configure Active Directory Password Sync with Office 365 tenant
- Install and configure Hybrid Exchange Server
Due to the company’s unique network structure, navigating multiple internal and external firewalls to open necessary points posed issues during the migration.
“We worked closely with our Agile IT engineer to inventory our email network,” Olubunmi said. “Once we figured out how the network was structured, they were able to move everything piece by piece.”
Through the AgileAscend migration process, AT&T WMS gained:
- A migration plan that ensured business continuity
- A functional Office 365 environment
- Office 365 user accounts provisioned and the online services configured for one email domain
- Mail flow transitioned from the old messaging system to office 365
- SharePoint and Skype for Business access provisioned
- Existing legacy mailboxes migrated from one domain to Office 365/Exchange Online
- Migration of existing user email, calendar, contacts and tasks to Office 365
- Guidance and mentoring for installing the Office 365 components on workstations and configuring the selected Office 365 licenses
A central point for post-migration support and fielding end-user migration
Once the hybrid Office 365 migration was complete, the new setup relieved AT&T WMS’ limited IT staff of time-consuming Exchange management tasks.
Since the migration, both Allan and Olubunmi have noticed enormous savings in human resources.
The hybrid Office 365 environment means the team no longer has to do backups, run Windows updates, maintain physical hardware or perform other basic Exchange server management tasks.
Moving from Exchange 2010 to hybrid Office 365 and eliminating servers to manage has also freed the staff to focus on more pressing issues.
“Even though the division is small in size, being between a parent company brought a lot of complexities to the migration including firewall issues,” Olubunmi said. “The technical team at Agile IT was very savvy, reliable and professional. Together we were able to resolve all problems and achieve a successful deployment.”