Soarsoft Africa, a specialist in archive, migration, collaboration and messaging services, was recently awarded a contract to migrate the AECI Group of companies’ messaging platforms to Microsoft Exchange 2010.
AECI is a South African-based explosives and specialty chemicals group of companies, with 19 individual businesses. The group has an extensive footprint in Africa, which it is seeking to expand further, and is also targeting selected growth opportunities in South America and South East Asia. AECI’s head office recognised the advantages that could be gained by standardising the heterogeneous messaging platform across the various business entities, into a single platform that would drive down costs and allow for a better delivery of messaging, unified communications (UC) and collaboration services.
AECI engaged Soarsoft Africa, an organisation with extensive experience in multiple messaging platforms, to weigh up options and plan a migration strategy to a single forest solution. After a detailed consultation and assessment process, AECI chose to standardise and migrate the entities in its specialty chemicals portfolio to Microsoft Exchange 2010, thereby providing a single platform for its South African operation.
Supporting disparate platforms requires multiple skills, which are relatively scarce in the local market. The cost savings AECI could expect would be realised through a single set of Microsoft skilled resources. Furthermore, the group will leverage its existing Microsoft investments in SharePoint and then extend these benefits with the rest of the Microsoft ‘stack’ through integration into Lync Unified Communications services (UC).
Soarsoft Africa was chosen to handle the migration and standardisation to the Microsoft Exchange 2010 platform due to its niche focus on messaging migration and in-depth experience gained in over a decade of providing these types of services. The company also has an impressive track record, evident from the multiple complex projects completed with top local and international clients.
“We needed a combination of the very best migration tools, and all our experience and expertise with this project, especially in light of the tight deadlines and complexity that a distributed environment with independent companies and IT departments posed. Experience has taught us that the combination of Binary Tree’s trusted and proven CMT for Exchange Migration Toolset and extensive planning are critical to a smooth transition for complex environments like this. The combination of pre-migration planning and Binary Tree’s ability to co-exist between the new and old platforms, minimising disruptions to business operations, made it the only logical choice for the task, and so far the project is delivering on its promises,” says Chris Hathaway, Director at Soarsoft Africa.
The project kicked off with the AECI head office as the first site migrated. Subsequently, two more of the larger sites have been completed, with other sites being migrated to the new platform over the next nine months.
The head office migration, being the first site to the new forest that will ultimately house all the specialty chemicals businesses, was a crucial first step. This migration was also highly complex, encapsulating a cross-forest migration between two entities on older versions of Microsoft Exchange, and a third, which was on IBM’s Lotus Domino platform. All needed to be migrated to the Microsoft Exchange 2010 platform with the least possible impact on the users, to ensure buy-in for the entire project.
“Despite the fact that this was a challenging migration project, Soarsoft was able to complete the head office migration successfully over a weekend, which meant we experienced minimal impact on the organisation. Effectively, AECI staff left their offices on a Friday and returned to work on Monday to a new messaging platform, with no disruption. It was a highly commendable effort on Soarsoft’s part and this phase of the project has been deemed a huge success. We anticipate a similar outcome as we progress to the remaining entities,” says Darryl Tarr, IT manager for the AECI Group.
“A series of Outlook training sessions were held, with each of the departments at head office, and a migration ‘weekend’ date was set. When staff went home on Friday night, Soarsoft and key IT staff at AECI had two days to complete a successful migration. On Monday morning, our users came in to find all their e-mails and address books intact and fully functional. We could just get on with business as usual,” says Privani Pillay, Group IT operations manager for AECI.