UA’s Office of Information Technology is making progress on its goal to improve the email experience for all users on campus.
UA currently maintains six different email environments, three of which are supported by OIT. A major goal in the OIT Strategic Plan is to create a consolidated email environment for the campus, said Deputy CIO Mike Shelton.
“Once these major projects are completed, all mail supported by OIT will be housed in one unified email domain in Microsoft O365,” said Shelton. “Fewer email systems in play will result in a cleaner, more functional, secure and reliable email ecosystem.”
“This is no simple task, but our teams and our third-party partners are working diligently and carefully to make it happen,” Shelton added. “We appreciate the campus’s patience and understanding as we work to make email at UA more efficient, secure and reliable for everyone.”
OIT has been working on the consolidation project since 2019 by migrating mail to the UA Microsoft O365 cloud environment.
The first task in the overarching email consolidation goal was to migrate faculty and staff email (@ua.edu email addresses) from being hosted on Microsoft Exchange servers in the Gordon Palmer Data Center to the UA Microsoft O365 cloud environment. Hosting email in the O365 cloud provides many benefits including redundant backups, scalability and real-time updates without system downtime. OIT conducted this migration from December 2019 through August 2020. OIT teams worked through the COVID-19 pandemic to migrate more than 14,000 mailboxes to the cloud.
Meanwhile, OIT has been working to migrate the Division of Finance and Operations O365 email (@fa.ua.edu email addresses) to the UA Microsoft O365 cloud environment. Along with email, OIT is also migrating all content from the Division’s current Microsoft tenant which includes SharePoint, Teams and OneDrive.
“To increase collaboration between the Division of Finance and Operations and the rest of campus, Vice President for Finance and Operations Matt Fajack charged OIT to consolidate the Finance and Operations O365 email environment with UA O365 email,” said Shelton.
“Even Microsoft will tell you that migrating from one Microsoft tenant to another is no easy task.”
OIT has migrated the Division of Finance and Operations’ email in an incremental, paced way so as to not interfere with campus operations. Each week, OIT migrates one office or group within the Division of Finance and Operations. Most recently, OIT migrated Enterprise Operations, which includes Action Card, Bama Dining, UA Printing and the Supe Store. Next up is Shared Administrative Services. OIT hopes to have this migration complete this summer.
“This is a project that we are taking very cautiously, and has taken some time to perform,” said Shelton. “Even Microsoft will tell you that migrating from one Microsoft tenant to another is no easy task.”
OIT has migrated the Division of Finance and Operations’ email in an incremental, paced way so as to not interfere with campus operations.
The next major project is moving Student Crimson Gmail to the UA O365 environment. Moving student email from Google to Microsoft O365 provides the opportunity for enhanced cybersecurity, one cohesive directory, increased collaboration with tools like Microsoft Teams and the opportunity to prepare students with tools they are likely to use in the workforce.
“We have over 100,000 Google accounts including current students and active alumni that need to be migrated,” said Shelton. “This will be the largest migration, and it requires a great deal of planning. OIT has engaged an experienced Microsoft partner to lead the migration to minimize the risk of unplanned disruptions.”
OIT will conduct the migration for student email May 7-9, 2021. OIT teams are currently working behind the scenes to sync mailboxes in preparation for the migration. Students will receive direct notification in their email before their mailbox is migrated in May. Details about the student email migration and step-by-step instructions for students on how to access email after it has been migrated are available on the OIT website.
The University of Alabama, part of The University of Alabama System, is the state’s flagship university. UA shapes a better world through its teaching, research and service. With a global reputation for excellence, UA provides an inclusive, forward-thinking environment and nearly 200 degree programs on a beautiful, student-centered campus. A leader in cutting-edge research, UA advances discovery, creative inquiry and knowledge through more than 30 research centers. As the state’s largest higher education institution, UA drives economic growth in Alabama and beyond.