When the University of Nebraska needed a service provider for a very large and highly visible migration project to provide a more collaborative learning environment, Microsoft recommended Gold Partner Forsyte I.T. Solutions. Headquartered in Richmond, Virginia, Forsyte serves clients all over the U.S. with a mix of managed cloud, managed IT, and security services. A longtime BitTitan partner, Forsyte used MigrationWiz to migrate in stages, and the final cutover took less than a day. University of Nebraska IT, Forsyte I.T. Solutions, Microsoft and BitTitan all played a role in this successful project.
The catalyst for this migration project centered around the University of Nebraska’s goal to provide a better, more collaborative learning environment for students while improving governance and security for university IT. Prior to this transition, the school’s email users existed in two tenants. Migrating to one tenant, with all identities tied to Azure Active Directory, would enable faculty and students to share calendars and collaborate in the school’s learning management system; allow IT to enforce rules and policies for the various user groups; and ensure the security of sensitive data in emails. The migration was of strategic importance, and closely watched by individuals at the very top level of the university.
“A lot of people wanted things done a certain way,” states Bryan Fitzgerald, Manager of Infrastructure Application Services for the university. “BitTitan came in with their knowledge of successful migrations, and how to make them as non-disruptive as possible, so we could sell the migration plan to our senior leadership.”
Devising a migration plan
The migration involved moving 46,000 email accounts from one tenant to another and consolidating 13,000 accounts for users who had accounts in both tenants. “We had four groups — faculty and staff, students, student workers, and alumni,” explains Bryan Kinnan, Client Services Coordinator at the university. “Forsyte’s senior architect helped us think through the different groups and strategies for the best movement of data, and plan out what needed to be done ahead of time. The ability to pre-stage accounts with MigrationWiz was huge.”
The team pre-migrated emails older than 30 days, then those older than seven days. That left just a week’s worth of email for the cutover weekend.
An all-hands team effort
When it came time to schedule the cutover, the university’s IT team strategically selected a period where they knew usage of systems would be low: the school’s annual spring football game. The team started the migration around 2 pm Saturday. Forsyte’s senior architect was on site for the cutover weekend and individuals from BitTitan were on standby in case they were needed.
Two issues arose. One, the Forsyte team realized the university was short on MigrationWiz licenses; they got on the phone and BitTitan arranged the new licenses right away. Two, they needed to set up a new temporary domain to house the migrated users before completing the cutover. As Fitzgerald recalls, “We were almost ready to shift the domain at about 7 pm on Saturday when we found the hiccup. We had Forsyte, BitTitan, and Microsoft on the phone at the same time, and had a plan in to our senior leadership within about five minutes. The Forsyte architect stayed up with us until around 2 am. His in-depth knowledge of Office 365 helped us out a lot. The next morning, he took things over to help us to understand reports and ensure the data migrated successfully. We finished at 9 am Sunday morning.”
Forsyte also jumped in when, a week prior to cutover, the team was directed to add OneDrive to the scope of the migration. There were 9,000 active OneDrive accounts. As Kinnan reports, “The Forsyte architect took it off our plate, jumped in and did it. He knew all the nuances of MigrationWiz and how to handle things like file names with special characters.” The OneDrive migration didn’t have the time sensitivity of the email accounts, and took place over several weeks. Here, the team used the email notification capability built into MigrationWiz to notify each user when their OneDrive migration was complete. Execution was so seamless, many were not even aware a migration had taken place.
Success on a tight timeline
For Forsyte, the migration was one of the most sensitive projects they’d ever worked on, given the high exposure and scrutiny they were under. They had no doubt that MigrationWiz could get the more than three petabytes of data moved, but there was a timeline and a critical date that they needed to hit.
According to Kinnan, “Our CIO told me that this migration was the biggest project that he'd ever done in his 35 years of IT work. It had to be a team effort to make it work as smoothly and go as well as it did. Could we have fumbled our way through this ourselves over a course of three years? Probably. Could this have been done in the couple of months that we were given? No way. There was no way this could have been done in that timeframe without MigrationWiz, and without having the Forsyte team to guide us through it.”
Improving student experience through digital transformation
With students and faculty now consolidated to a single Office 365 tenant, university IT can push forward with additional technology initiatives that take full advantage of this new environment. Ultimately, this migration provided the foundation for the University of Nebraska to continue providing a world-class learning experience for students and alumni.