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Google Apps Migration: Lessons Learned

We thought long and hard before migrating from our on premises Domino mail system. I really wanted IBM SmartCloud to be the answer – an easy migration, a familiar environment and no issues accessing our existing Domino apps (in hybrid mode). But Google was the clear winner for a few reasons:

  • Price – a dramatic advantage
  • OS X desktop integration with Drive – nothing available for Mac users with Connections. This probably sealed the deal for Google
  • Easy and cheap CRM (Zoho CRM)

The CRM is interesting. We were using iExtensions from iEnterprises, now owned by Sugar, which was a Domino app. But despite years of promises it appears that an iExtensions to Sugar migration was never implemented. Nobody wanted to take ownership for moving us to Sugar CRM except as a major customization project.

In the end we just moved our contact and leads names from iExtensions to Zoho. We were able to retain our contact owner and categorization/mailing list information. For anything else we need, such as activity history, we’re just going to look back to iExtensions. We would have had to keep at least a couple of Domino servers running for hybrid SmartCloud Notes (or whatever it’s called this week) so instead we’re keeping one Domino server for accessing apps and historical data.

The points that tipped us to Google proved true: There haven’t been any hidden costs (financially) and Drive works enough like Dropbox that the users are happy. It was trivial to move our files over from Quickr to Drive. Zoho CRM works; we don’t have enough history to really say how well it will meet our needs.

What did we find that we didn’t expect?

Google Apps is a bit like Apple’s products. They think they know what you need and they’re going to deliver it to you, even if you want something else. In other words there are what seem to be fairly obvious customizations missing. The most glaring is that there’s no option to reply without history unless you manually erase the history or run a “lab” app to quote selectively.

The calendar and scheduling is a bit idiosyncratic and really doesn’t play well with enterprise mail systems like Exchange and Domino.

In fact everything is a bit idiosyncratic. It doesn’t work the way Outlook, Notes and Thunderbird do things but it also doesn’t work the way Yahoo and ISP web mail systems do them. Generally the capability you’re looking for is there, but Google has their own terminology for common features and a fairly random menu hierarchy.

When something goes wrong Google business support is responsive up to a point (unlike their virtually non-existent consumer support). But if the problem is at all obscure there’s not much they can do. I think this is more about a cloud solution than about Google vs IBM, but it’s sure not the same as opening up log files and sending diagnostics from our own servers off to IBM for analysis.

It’s fairly early to say if the migration will be a success in the long run. Ask me after the teething pains have passed.

Google Gotchas

Let me preface this by saying that our migration to Google Apps is really going quite well and we’re generally happy.

That being said I’ve seen a few gotchas that I’m hoping somebody else has some insight into:

There is apparently a long-standing problem when sending an invitation to an external Notes or Outlook user if they counter propose a different time. Basically you can’t easily see what the new time they’re proposing is or accept the change:
https://productforums.google.com/forum/#!msg/calendar/YOu01PF2KPw/j2ZnqMYX83UJ

Google’s attitude is that storage is unlimited and virtually free. That may explain the quoting in Google Mail: Every reply or forward quotes the entire thread but collapses it so it’s not on screen. This leads to two problems:

  1. Folks who do care about storage and/or bandwidth can get bloated messages because of all the history (including images and attachments), and
  2. Folks may be sending on comments from earlier in a conversation that they don’t really mean to share.

Getting Google set as your default for handling mailto links and ics and ical files can be challenging.

In a business implementation there is no way to centrally manage email signatures. There’s an option for a company-wide footer/disclaimer but that doesn’t help manage personalized signature blocks. And you can’t just email the block to each user and have them copy it into their signature in Settings because any graphic needs to be a link set via Settings.

I’m sure we’ll find more of these sort of things as we go forward. Probably a good sign — it means the basic functionality is doing what we need.

Google Migration – Ready to throw the switch

Just a quick update on our planned IBM on premises to Google Apps migration. We’re about ready to throw the switch — that is, to migrate the first group of users into production on the Google platform.

So far I’ve been fairly pleased. The Google platform seems to offer fairly equivalent and familiar capabilities for mail, calendar and personal contacts. Google Drive is a step up from Quickr in that there is Mac Finder integration which IBM never offered and Dropbox-style offline access and background sync, which was also never part of Quickr.

We’re also implementing Zoho CRM. I’m learning that a CRM migration is far more complicated than an email migration. It seems Zoho CRM offers a platform that is both powerful and relatively user friendly (as much as CRM can be). But we’ll have to use it in production for a while to really understand what we’ve got.

We’re relying heavily on our Google Apps partner, Viwo (viwoinc.com), for the migration, setup and training. I won’t be able to give a thumbs up or down on their role until we’re done, but I can report that they have Notes-to-Google tools for Mail/Contacts/Calendar and seem to understand the issues in making that migration.

Stand by.

The Adventure Begins…

It appears I will be moving an organization of about 30 users from IBM to Google Apps.

What’s in use now is Domino/Notes/Traveler/Sametime/Quickr/SmartCloud Meetings. The target is Google Apps for Business: mail, drive, contacts, calendar, hangouts. CRM will move from a system implemented as Notes databases and email template customization (iExtensions from iEnterprises) to Zoho CRM. Google and Zoho both have their own iOS apps and there is also native support on most mobile platforms for Google.

We evaluated IBM SmartCloud with SugarCRM and Microsoft Office 360 with MS Dynamics. While offering additional features that Google lacks they were more expensive, more complicated, and seemed geared at much larger organizations.

Staying with our existing on-premises solutions was not an option. We were over provisioned for the current size of the organization. Management wanted to be out of the business of running IT infrastructure. The existing physical infrastructure is aging. And we needed to replace Quickr and CRM at any rate as both are no longer supported.

I will share learnings and war stories as appropriate.

David

New 959 Area Code in Connecticut

The northern half of the state is getting a new overlay area code, 959

And we’re keeping our rather quaint dialing rules:

“customers will continue to dial area code + telephone number for local calls, and 1 + area code + telephone number for long distance calls”

Do other states still do that? Is anyone charged for in-state or “intra LATA” long distance any more?

 

Travel broadens the mind; is there an adapter for that?

One of my many hats is to support consultants who travel the world: wireless roaming plans, plug adapters, etc. I find that whenever I travel myself, either for vacation or work, I learn something about what’s out in the world that I never seem to pick up from reading or from reports from the field.

I will be in London and Paris in the coming days for personal travel but I will be tuned in to what new mischief is possible in the world of portable electronics, as well as what new indignities the airlines have come up with.

I was tempted to leave the laptop at home — it’s a vacation trip — but I don’t think I dare be without it that long. So I’ve decided to leave the iPad at home instead. Will have the laptop (Notes and Admin client, VPN, Thunderbird, etc.), Blackberry Q10 and a camera.

Here’s to hitting the road and to always finding WiFi.

 

Blackberry 10.2.1

Weeks after Blackberry release 10.2.1 AT&T has finally made it available to Blackberry 10 users.

I know there were lots of reviews when it first came out but I thought I would make a couple of observations here.

First, leave some time for the upgrade. It’s a 630MB download and it took about an hour after the download finished before my Q10 was fully upgraded and restarted. Blackberry recommends leaving the unit connected to power the entire time and to be on WiFi. I unplugged the power and left the office (i.e. no WiFi) as soon as the download finished. I don’t know if that slowed the install process.

The main changes I see are slightly snappier graphics, a rearranged settings menu, and some changes to the hub and lock screen. You can see previews of all your messaging streams on the lock screen. Cool, but perhaps a security issue?

A priority hub has been added to the messaging display options. You can mark stuff to be in or out of the priority stream, or it will attempt to learn what’s a priority. I haven’t had it running long enough to see how that works.

I’ve not had any issues with the upgraded software.

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