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Microsoft Exchange in the Cloud: Four Migration Tips

By Shane O'neill, CIO
August 05, 2010 02:52 PM ET

CIO - Tired of managing those Exchange servers in your data center? So are many other companies, and even some of America's Fortune 50 companies are now starting to migrate e-mail and other productivity apps to the cloud -- disproving the notion that SaaS and cloud services are fit only for small or mid-sized businesses.

Dow Chemical is one such example. One of the leading providers of plastics, chemicals and agricultural products, the Midland, Mich.-based Dow has plans to move its Exchange servers to Microsoft's cloud service for business apps, called BPOS (business productivity online suite).

BPOS includes online versions of Exchange, SharePoint, Office Communication Server and Live Meeting, operated by and delivered through a Microsoft data center.

Dow is a company in transition regarding e-mail and productivity apps. With roughly 50,000 worldwide employees, the company is currently upgrading to Office 2007; it is beginning a full migration to Windows 7 that should be completed by the end of next year.

The move to BPOS will transition Exchange 2003, OCS and Live Meeting to a cloud environment running Exchange 2010.

Dow will begin a global pilot testing program for its e-mail migration in November, and plans to have it implemented for its entire 52,000-person workforce by the second quarter of 2011.

[ For complete coverage on Microsoft's new Windows 7 operating system -- including hands-on reviews, video tutorials and advice on enterprise rollouts -- see CIO.com's Windows 7 Bible. ]

"It can go that fast because the migration will be transparent for users," says David Day, Dow's Director of Global Information Systems.

The SharePoint aspect of BPOS will be new for Dow, as it has only been dabbling in SharePoint for document management and collaboration.

Find a Vendor You Trust

Why is Dow convinced the change will be so transparent to users? The company is a Microsoft shop and having the Microsoft ecosystem in place was admittedly a factor in choosing BPOS, says Day.

But Dow did go through an RFP (Request for Proposal) and looked at a few BPOS competitors. Day says he is not at liberty to say which competitors Dow considered, but added that a couple competitors were neck and neck with BPOS on cost and capabilities.

"Our previous relationship with Microsoft and its ability to deliver support were a big part of our decision," Day says.

Stay Private

Dow's transition to the cloud for e-mail will not be jarring for users because Dow has had what Day considers a "private cloud" for years now.

Since 2000, Dow has had a third-party provider manage its e-mail servers on-premise in Dow's data center.

"A private cloud hosted by Microsoft is not such a new thing for us," he says. "It feels like a logical extension of our current sourcing strategy."

One choice Dow never considered: a public cloud option. Why? Too many security and privacy risks, he says.

"The risk profile of a public cloud offering doesn't fit a corporation like Dow Chemical," Day says. "I can't imagine there are many Fortune 50 companies that think they're gonna 'Go Google' and save a million dollars."

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