Endemol UK choose to move to Office 365 to replace its ageing Exchange 2003 infrastructure and smooth the integration of an acquisition. Total Computers handled a complicated, staged migration to merge separate instances of Active Directory and move users to Office 365 from two different editions of Exchange. Office 365 gives users larger mailboxes and improved access to emails away from the office – while Endemol UK has a reliable, easy to manage email solution, with less load on its infrastructure.
Endemol UK is the company behind some of TV’s most popular shows, including 8 Out of 10 Cats, Big Brother and Pointless. It is one of the UK’s largest independent production companies, and is part of Endemol’s global network of around 90 companies in more than 30 countries.
When Endemol UK acquired TV production companies Tiger Aspect, Tigress Productions and Darlow Smithson Productions (TADS) it meant that it would need to merge the email infrastructures used by the various companies. Endemol UK also needed to replace its ageing Exchange 2003 system and was looking to reduce the overhead of running email on its servers, and to improve its users’ ability to access their emails anywhere without relying on its own core infrastructure.
“As a TV production company, we need to be as light and agile as possible,” says Mark Cotterel, Head of IT at Endemol UK.
Endemol UK considered an in-house move to Exchange 2013, but decided to migrate its users to Microsoft Office 365 for their email. “We compared the two, and Office 365 ticked more boxes and gave us more value for money,” says Mark. “It seemed the right time to make the progression.”
Following conversations with multiple suppliers, Endemol UK chose Total Computers to handle the project, based on its approach and its team.
“Although I’d worked with some of Total’s people for years, this was mainly for kit. When I met the services guys there was a good feel and fit, and they had a great approach,” says Mark. “A key point was to work with someone that had successfully implemented similar projects. But we were also looking for a collaborative partner who could work well with my internal team, and that was Total’s approach.”
Previously, Endemol UK’s users kept their emails stored in the PST folders used by Microsoft Outlook, on the company’s servers. When a user moved to a new office, this meant that Endemol UK had to either move the PST folders to that site’s local servers, or provide a VPN and bandwidth to enable the user to connect remotely.
“We were struggling with PST folders, and if users had limited bandwidth then email access was difficult,” says Mark. “Now, they can pick up their emails remotely in a familiar window, presentation and performance are slicker.”
“With Office 365, we can remove the need for internal infrastructure for email, so it’s one less piece of kit to look after,” says Mark. “Deployment is now faster, we’re seeing less demand on the network, and there’s less load on our Citrix environment and VPN.”
In Office 365, users now each have a 50GB mailbox – a substantial increase over the 40MB size they were previously restricted to.
“With the Office 365 environment, you get a massive mailbox, and because emails are stored in the cloud there is less demand for disk space on our servers,” says Mark. “Our email is now more reliable, and easier to use for our staff.”
Now that the company is using Office 365, Endemol UK’s IT engineers are freed up to work on areas where they can add more value to the business. Instead of handling requests for more inbox space or managing the PST folders, they can be more pro-active.
Total’s familiarity with Office 365 migrations was valuable to Endemol UK, and Mark comments, “Having Total on board as a partner with the experience of having done this before, and who knew what they were doing, was a key point for me.”
“Everything has gone as smoothly as we could have imagined possible,” says Mark. “The collaborative approach, in which we rely on Total technically and learn from them, has been a match made in heaven.”
“We are picky with our suppliers, but Total have done a great job,” says Mark. “Our day to day contact really understands the production demands of Endemol – it feels like he’s got his own key to the building.”
“With Total, we can just offload a task, then they will know when to question us, what to ask, and when to push us,” says Mark. “They’re responsive and get back to us quickly, and work with us over the weekend when it’s needed.”
For the future, Endemol UK is planning to add more Office 365 features for its users, such as online storage and Lync messaging.
“Total are definitely a key partner, who we will work with in the future,” concludes Mark. “They’ve done a good job, I’m pleased with their work, and I know I made the right choice in selecting Total.”
The project involved a number of technical complexities, with Endemol UK and Tiger Aspect, Tigress and Darlow Smithson Productions running different editions of Microsoft Exchange.
Endemol UK were using Exchange 2003, which had sprawled to more mailboxes than there were users. Total began by conducting a scoping exercise that helped Endemol UK identify many accounts that would not need individually licensing within Office 365, by taking advantage of shared and resource mailboxes.
This enabled Total to finalise a detailed project plan, with Total creating and configuring the new Office 365 environment, setting up custom domains and establishing a staged migration process that together the Total consultant and Endemol UK IT team were able to implement.
TADS users were migrated in batches from their existing Exchange 2007 environment to Office 365. Once this was done, the TADS and Endemol UK Active Directory and Office 365 environments were merged.
Due to the large number of users at Endemol UK, it was decided to establish a hybrid co-existence to Office 365, which allowed for a seamless migration of mailboxes. This involved installation of an Exchange 2010 server, for which Total obtained a hybrid license key from Microsoft, to facilitate the move to Office 365 – while retaining mailboxes in Exchange 2003 for as long as was required. This enabled the Endemol UK team to migrate users and mailboxes across to Office 365 at their own pace before, as a final step, Total retire the legacy Exchange environment.