Archive for the ‘Projects’ Category

A Successful Google Apps Migration

August 13, 2014

Well, it’s official, after a months of planning and implementing, Harley officially moved from Exchange Server 2003 to Google Apps for Education.

I chose to do the final switch on a Monday morning (August 11) so I could be there to help people and put out any fires the sprung up. I was totally amazed at the lack of an angry mob banging on my office door. I did my best to warn people and prepare them as best I could and I guess it worked pretty well.

I took care of just about everything myself. The users had only one thing to do: change their passwords. Google has password synching software to keep Active Directory passwords and Google Apps passwords the same. The problem is the software can’t get the current Active Directory password; it can only get the password during a password-change operation. So everyone needed to change their password in order to login to their Google account after the switch. I gave people a little over one month notice with a bunch of emails and even a snail-mail sheet in the back-to-school mailing. Obviously there are people who didn’t do it or waited too long, I was expecting that. I can’t wait to see how many people attack me on the first day of school saying they can’t access their email.

I migrated all user data a few times to break it up into manageable chunks. I did the initial migration in early July. Google imposes a 1 message per second per user throttle when migrating data. I would imagine this is to keep migrations from impacting current customers. A few users had a huge amount of messages and I was actually the biggest offender of all with over 150,000 messages in my mailbox. I have mail back to 2002. Do the math, that’s almost 2 days just to migrate my mailbox alone! And that’s as fast as it can possibly go, it’ll go slower with big attachments. I did the migration again a few weeks before the switch and then again just after the switch to ensure I had everything. The last one took only a few minutes since most of the data had already been migrated. I told people a head of time that we would switch and then I’d finish migrating data, this way they wouldn’t freak out if they noticed missing messages or calendar events. But it wasn’t really a problem since everything was switched over, working and migrated by 7:30am on Monday morning.

A few days before the switch I lowered the time-to-live (TTL) on the DNS records that were going to change to 2 minutes. This way I could make the switch and literally 2 minutes later it would be working. Most importantly this allowed me to change it back if something went wrong with only 2 minutes of propagation time. Most DNS system default to 1 full day. Once I was sure everything was working as it should I raised up the TTL again.

People are still getting used to this and how to do certain things, but for the most part I couldn’t be happier with how this worked out. What I’m most thrilled about is being able to retire my ancient Exchange Server without spending a dime.