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Background information

What will be expected of institutions that want to migrate to Exchange Online?

There is a general understanding that UIS will need to provide some support in the form of consultation with the institution and possibly through 'floorwalkers' (who will assist during the migration). UIS is currently determining exactly what this support will involve, based on the learnings from its own recent migration experience.

When will people start moving onto Exchange Online?

UIS migrated its users to Exchange Online as the pilot organisation during February and March 2017. We're gathering the lessons we’ve learnt to improve the process before migrating the 'early adopter' institutions who worked with us during our pilot project. Once they’ve been migrated, other University institutions will be offered the opportunity to migrate, if they wish. We intend to migrate institutions one at a time. There are no plans at present for individuals to migrate.

How did UIS choose Exchange Online as its preferred email service?

In 2015 the University completed internal financial negotiations to licence Microsoft's Enrolment for Education Services (MS EES). This saved the wider University money on Office and Client Access Licences. It also gave us access to various other Microsoft cloud services at no additional cost.

In addition, the University was seeking a single platform that would assist with the increasing need for collaborative working, and UIS was looking for a solution that could meet its need for a common system providing email, calendar and contacts. UIS selected Exchange Online from the MS EES licence because it met its needs without carrying any additional licence costs.

Why did UIS move to Exchange Online and not, for example, Google Mail?

In selecting the groupware platform UIS sought to source commodity email and collaboration services from a single vendor which most people in the Department could use effectively and, in time if they choose, for other communities in the University who would benefit from such a change.

While both Microsoft's and Google's services were seen as broadly equivalent in a 'feature shoot-out', there were some differentiating factors that favoured Microsoft's integrated solution: switching to Google email would not remove the need to use many other Microsoft productivity tools within the University; Microsoft's services offered data protection assurances more closely aligned to the University’s needs and expectations than Google's did, and Microsoft's services provided data residency in the UK rather than elsewhere within the European Economic Area (EEA), and UIS was already undergoing the process of moving all data held within the University's tenancy to Microsoft's UK data centres. UK data residency was not an option with Google's offering.

Both options would have allowed most users to have kept their existing choice of email client, however, it was felt that there would have been be greater upheaval involved for the University's many Outlook users in switching to Google, than for non-Outlook users moving to Exchange Online. For people who wouldn't want, or weren't able to switch to using Outlook as their email client, UIS identified a set of email clients which would span all platforms that were either identical, or very similar in functionality and user interface design, to those currently favoured by non-Microsoft users.

Set in the context of the savings in licensing costs achieved by the University having signed the Microsoft Enrolment for Education (EES) agreement, which included licences for Office 365 Pro Plus for all staff and students, and OneDrive for Business having been recently enabled across the University, adopting a groupware and collaboration platform that tightly integrated with these now freely available tools made sense both financially and logistically.

Overall, it was felt that the move to Exchange Online would offer additional data protection assurances, cause less operational disruption to the UIS (and other institutions, in time), and be quicker and easier to effect than would have been the case if moving to Google’s solution.

Will everyone in the University be forced to use Microsoft products from now on?

No, however individual Departments, Colleges or institutions may take a different view for their own users in future. UIS supports non-Outlook mail clients across all platforms.

Does the introduction of Exchange Online mean that Hermes will no longer be supported?

There are currently no plans to remove or change support available for Hermes.

Will institutions have to move to Exchange Online or is it their choice?

Institutions will be able to choose if they want to move.

What does it cost for institutions to move to Exchange Online and what is the process?

Institutions will be able to get support from UIS in the form of consultation and through 'floorwalkers' to will assist users during the migration process. There will be a charge for UIS' migration support. The migration support charges have not been fixed yet.

Will all staff members have to move at the same time?

This will be up to institutions. People working with shared calendars on Exchange should all move at the same time, and bring their calendar with them, but we do have the ability to migrate individuals. UIS is not supporting people to request to move individually, however it doesn’t have to be the whole Department or institution in one go. UIS will work out the best migration plan with each institution.

Why is it taking so long to move to Exchange Online?

UIS did a lot of background work to simplify the migration process for itself, and any institutions migration in future. This included automating the email migration process itself, and developing custom configuration scripts to auto-configure the most widely-used email clients to work with Exchange Online. It also developed comprehensive documentation to guide both technical teams and end users through the migration process, and manual configuration of email clients for which auto-configuration scripts were not available.

UIS is currently reviewing the lessons learnt, implementing some more technical solutions to automate parts of the migration, and further streamlining the process and documentation before inviting other University institutions to migrate.

What is happening with student accounts? Will they be forced to move on to Exchange Online?

The current intention is for undergraduate students starting at Cambridge in October 2017 to be given Exchange Online accounts. This will continue to be the approach taken for all new students who enrol at Cambridge in future. Students who already have a Hermes account will continue to use this system.

Can institutions maintain their current email domain?

Yes.

Exchange Online’s IMAP is broken and never likely to be fixed. How will this be dealt with?

The current Exchange Online IMAP suffers from two issues. The nature of Exchange Online’s IMAP rate throttling can cause some mail loss in bulk actions, and we have observed this when moving large folders. The throttling blocks many of the moves; the email client does not realise, and the email messages are lost. We do not see this when moving folders via EWS (Exchange Web Services, the protocol we are recommending for desktop access). We have also observed errors in Exchange Online’s UID allocations, which can cause the expunge operation to delete the wrong message. We don’t know if the IMAP issues with Exchange Online will be fixed.