Microsoft Exchange Server 2010
Customer Solution Case Study
/ University Gains Communications Flexibility for the Future with New Messaging System
Country or Region: United States
Industry: Education—Higher education
Customer Profile
The University of Central Florida (UCF) offers 216 degree programs to more than 56,000 undergraduate and graduate students. Located in Orlando, Florida, UCF has 11 campuses to serve its students.
Business Situation
The university sought to replace its aging messaging infrastructure to provide new capabilities—such as support for multiple mobile devices and better disaster recovery—to its 10,346 faculty and staff.
UCF moved from a Novell GroupWise system to a messaging solution that is based on Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, deploying 10,000 mailboxes in less than 24 hours.
·  Ease of use and increased productivity
·  Improved messaging capabilities
·  Expanded support for mobile workers
·  High levels of reliability
·  Better hardware utilization, scalability / “We are well-positioned to accomplish a great deal, thanks to the steps our migration team has taken and the capabilities and integration opportunities that Exchange Server 2010 provides.”
Dr. Joel L. Hartman, Vice Provost for Information Technologies and Resources and Chief Information Officer, University of Central Florida
The University of Central Florida (UCF), the second-largest university in the United States,[1] needed to retire its aging messaging system. UCF moved to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 to take advantage of greater reliability and capabilities, such as support for Microsoft Outlook 2010 for multiple mobile devices and a full-featured web client, which would increase productivity for faculty and staff. UCF designed its migration to occur over a single weekend, during which it migrated 10,000+ faculty and staff mailboxes to Exchange Server 2010. Due to careful planning and communication, the migration went smoothly, and employees were quick to adapt to Exchange Server 2010 and work effectively right away. UCF considers the move to Exchange Server 2010 the first major step in building a unified communications infrastructure that offers employees a range of flexible communications choices.


Founded in 1963, the University of Central Florida (UCF) is one of the most dynamic higher education institutions in the United States. The university offers more than 200 degree programs in 12 colleges and has become an academic and research leader in numerous fields, including optics, modeling and simulation, engineering and computer science, business administration, education, science, hospitality management, and digital media.

One of the ways that UCF maintains its status as a forward-looking organization is by adopting technologies that support the university’s educational focus and make it possible for faculty, staff, and students to communicate and collaborate effectively. The university largely relies on email messaging to handle that communication.

“UCF is the second largest university in the United States and still growing,” says Dr. Joel L. Hartman, Vice Provost for Information Technologies and Resources at the University of Central Florida. “We have faculty and staff dispersed among our regional campus locations, and with a distributed organization like ours, email has proven to be one of the most rapid and effective means of communicating.” The university had already improved communication among its 56,000 students by moving their email to Microsoft Live@edu, a suite of hosted online services, but it also wanted to improve the communication and collaboration capabilities of its faculty, staff, and administrators.

In the mid-1990s, UCF invested in a Novell GroupWise messaging system that remained in heavy use until 2010, when the university began to consider replacing it. “Our previous messaging system served us well, but eventually we began to experience some application compatibility and interoperability issues,” says Robert Yanckello, Chief Technology Officer at the University of Central Florida.

UCF also wanted to put itself in a position to offer its faculty members and staff new messaging capabilities, such as built-in support for the various mobile devices that were becoming increasingly prominent. “We noticed a number of employees moving from using just one mobile device to using multiple devices, which resulted in a lot of technical and hardware issues that IT staff members had to address,” says Yanckello. “We wanted to remove those headaches while still supporting the way that our faculty and staff were choosing to work.”

That support included providing a more seamless web client. The university’s previous system offered a web client, but users reported issues with session time limitations, an inability to perform drag-and-drop operations, and difficult searches. The dearth of options for users of Apple Macintosh computers and the Firefox web browser were additional challenges. “Only about 100 employees used our previous web client, but we believed that they would be far more likely to log on and work from anywhere if it could be a better experience,” says Andrew Holloway, Infrastructure Manager at the University of Central Florida.

From a management standpoint, the university sought to consolidate its rather challenging heterogeneous directory structure and improve identity management. Although UCF used the Active Directory service for the majority of its environment, it had to maintain a separate directory for GroupWise because of integration issues. The university also wanted to improve its disaster-recovery capabilities when it came to keeping the lines of communication open. “When we did our disaster-recovery planning, we conducted a technical assessment of the most important applications to the university and brought in representatives from every office throughout all our campuses to discuss their priorities,” recalls Yanckello. “Every single one of them identified email as the primary service that their colleagues could not live without for a day.”


In 2009, UCF began its search for a new messaging solution. “We deemed it critical that the new messaging solution perform at a high level to promote employee productivity,” says Hartman. “In addition to being fast, it had to be robust and reliable.”

The university quickly settled on Microsoft Exchange Server 2010, which UCF viewed as the established messaging standard for universities. “As a whole, UCF had begun to move toward using more Microsoft technologies, and we saw that Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 would further our overall goal of identity management. Also, we noted a groundswell of support among our faculty, staff, and administrators for switching to Exchange Server 2010,” says Yanckello.

Hartman adds, “We also found it attractive that Exchange Server 2010 works so closely with Microsoft Office programs, which our faculty, staff, and administrators use heavily for their primary daily tasks.”

UCF learned that the licensing aspects of the move to Exchange Server 2010 would be straightforward, given that the product is covered under the university’s Microsoft Campus Agreement with the Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) Suite. “We definitely see the Enterprise CAL Suite as a major advantage because we are licensed to pursue a number of different options to enhance communications at UCF without incurring additional costs,” says Holloway.

Planning and Preparation

Before beginning, UCF took pains to ensure that its migration would go smoothly by carefully setting employees’ expectations and thoroughly testing its deployment plan. “Email affects 99.9 percent of all employees at this institution, so if this implementation did not go well, nearly everyone would feel the impact,” says Hartman.

Communication represented the top priority for UCF as it approached the migration. The university’s migration team regularly reached out to the broad user community through email, onsite sessions, newsletters, and multiple other forms of communication, such as a website that included Exchange Server 2010 migration plans, how-to information, and training opportunities.

The migration team also held regular meetings with the IT departments at UCF from July 2010 through February 2011 to brief them on the migration strategy, familiarize them with the software and tools that would be involved, and review different deployment scenarios. “We wanted to fully inform our messaging administrators, service desk, faculty and staff, and other unit IT staff about the Microsoft Outlook 2010 messaging services that would be provided, what they could do to prepare for the migration, and how they could help us,” says Holloway.

The migration team also devised a series of pilot tests for the Exchange Server 2010 migration, beginning with a 20-user test in September 2010, moving on to a 250-user test in November 2010, and finally conducting a test in January 2011 that involved 50 additional users from another domain. These efforts introduced team members to various aspects of the migration and archiving-conversion tools that they would be using. The pilot tests gave staff an opportunity not only to use the tools but also to improve the speed of migrating large groups of mailboxes and optimize the eventual migration by doing so.

“With each pilot that we undertook, the team learned something critical, such as exactly where to drill down and correct errors, which gave us confidence that we could get the actual migration right the first time,” notes Holloway.

UCF used what it learned from conducting the multiple pilot tests to carry out significant planning and staging efforts, determining and putting into place the correct hardware infrastructure and network configurations prior to the migration. The migration team worked with consultants from Microsoft Services to help with key pieces of the overall project, including the creation of a temporary connector between the existing messaging system and the pilot systems so that pilot users could continue to communicate with their colleagues.

“My team is fully capable of handling the technical details, but having an expert who has already been through the experience of using Exchange Server 2010 and conducting a migration allowed us to keep on schedule, learn from an expert about crucial components, and spend the time that we otherwise would have lost trying to solve technical issues on preparing UCF for the migration,” says Holloway. “We did not have to second guess if everything was set up properly because we had a Microsoft expert on hand who had immediate access to double-check and triple-check every installation and configuration.”

As a result of the advance communication and planning, a sense of anticipation grew throughout the university’s campuses. “This is the first IT project I’ve ever been associated with in which whole offices were jumping in line to be first to receive a new technology solution,” says Hartman.

Deployment and Ongoing Management

The university’s original plan was to convert its 11 campuses to Exchange Server 2010 over the course of several weeks, but the migration team came to recognize the advantages of performing a rapid, universitywide migration instead. At 6:00 in the evening on Friday, February 18, 2011, a four-member UCF migration team launched the Exchange Server 2010 deployment. The team completed the conversion of more than 10,000 accounts, including email, mobile services, and voicemail services, by 3:00 in the afternoon the following day—months ahead of schedule.

“When 10,000 employees come in on a Monday morning and every single one of them has a new primary business application like email to deal with, you have to expect a little bewilderment,” says Hartman. “But they were much more at ease than we expected and quickly adapted to the new system.”

UCF was pleased with its decision to conduct the migration over the course of a weekend, rather than spreading it out. “Had we gone with a gradual shift, employees trying to communicate with colleagues on the alternate messaging system would have had to cope with bounced-back email messages and the like,” says Holloway. “Our IT staff could have been overwhelmed with trying to help everyone.”

IT staff found that the web-based Microsoft Outlook Web App was extremely useful immediately following the migration because those employees who did not yet have the Microsoft Outlook 2010 client installed on their desktop computers could use Outlook Web App to communicate.

“I’m not sure we could have been as successful with the overnight migration without the availability of the web client, as rich as it is,” says Yanckello.

Many UCF employees rely on Outlook Web App in addition to Outlook 2010. Outlook Web App enables users to access their inboxes using any major web browser, which makes it a good choice for those UCF employees who use Macintosh computers or the Firefox browser.

The university relies on the combination of Live@edu and Exchange Server 2010 to handle an average of more than 10 million total email messages each week for faculty, staff, and students. “Because Live@edu is based on Exchange Server 2010, our cloud-based student email will be on the same platform as our employee on-premises messaging solution, with an eventual shared directory between the two, and that will be a real plus for everyone,” says Hartman.

Future Steps

UCF is implementing Exchange 2010 Unified Messaging to make voicemail messages available as email. The university is also in the preliminary stages of adopting Microsoft Lync Server 2010, which will provide instant messaging and other unified communications options for faculty and staff. The Lync Server 2010 evaluation includes a pilot test to help UCF determine which capabilities to deploy and decide on the best features and when and how to deploy them. “We are well-positioned to accomplish a great deal, thanks to the steps our migration team has taken and the capabilities and integration opportunities that Exchange Server 2010 provides,” says Hartman.


The University of Central Florida now has a messaging system that provides a high level of reliability and easy management, which contributes to increased employee productivity and improved communication. It also has the right building blocks in place to continue to expand communications options for faculty, staff, and administrators so that they have choices in the ways they can work.

“The migration to Exchange Server 2010 not only provides UCF with a state-of-the-art, robust email and messaging platform, but it positions us to easily leverage the capabilities and benefits of our forthcoming unified communications environment,” says Yanckello.

Ease of Use and Increased Productivity