Reedy Creek Streamlines New Email Roll-Out with Microsoft Exchange Online

Companies of all sizes are moving to cloud computing, taking advantage of immense benefits.  In today’s post we hear from Reedy Creek Improvement District on why Microsoft was the best decision for their business in their move to cloud computing!

“Having evaluated cloud-based email from other providers, the IS team at Reedy Creek concluded that retaining the familiar look and feel of Microsoft Outlook that users were accustomed to would be the most appealing option.”Jim Tyree, System Administrator, RCID

Reedy Creek Improvement District
Located 15 miles southwest of the City of Orlando, Florida in the US, Reedy Creek Improvement District (RCID) is responsible for providing local services. These include surface water control and drainage, utilities, roads and bridges, fire and emergency services, environmental services, data collection and evaluation, land use regulation and planning, as well as enforcing building and other construction codes.

IT Challenges
A small Information Services (IS) department with a staff of six provides the District’s IT operations and support. “We support about 345 people in eight or nine different departments, and we’re on call 24-7. Anytime, day or night, that we get a call, we respond,” notes Jim Tyree, System Administrator with the information services organization at Reedy Creek. “We do a lot of remote work, and we develop a lot of our own systems.We’re very vertical. The primary group of people we support is our fire department, with emergency services and 9-1-1,” says Tyree.

The District’s IS department recently began virtualizing some of its servers in order to streamline its infrastructure environment. At the same time, the District also planned to upgrade its email server platform, then running on Exchange Server 2003, and determined that cloud-based Exchange Online could provide a more cost-effective alternative.

Having estimated the upgrade and future ownership costs of keeping its email server operations in-house, the IS team determined that a cloud-based solution could provide a more economical option, while also lightening the administrative burden in the long run. “One of the District’s key considerations in evaluating email solutions was user satisfaction,” says Braatz of LiftOff.

“Having evaluated cloud-based email from other providers, the IS team at Reedy Creek concluded that retaining the familiar look and feel of Microsoft Outlook that users were accustomed to would be the most appealing option,” says Tyree. The team moved into the beta testing with some key people in the organization and immediately found they did not like the look, feel, and handle of Google Apps. “I was asked to investigate the Microsoft cloud, and we got to look at it, did a 30-day evaluation with a test account and presented it to the same users. They fell in love with it, and we just moved forward from there.”

As the District moved forward with plans to implement the cloud-based email solution, Tyree found it useful to reach out to a Microsoft technology partner. It was a move that proved to be an essential element of the District’s success in rolling out Exchange Online. It is a success factor that he recommends other implementers consider. Based on extensive testing, preparation and guidance from the Microsoft technology partner, LiftOff, the IS team was able to completely migrate the District’s entire enterprise over a single weekend.

The first driver for adopting a cloud-based solution was the substantial cost savings enjoyed versus purchasing a new server-based system that the District’s IS staff would need to service. The District would also need to upgrade it again in a few years’ time. “When we sat down and looked at the numbers, we immediately saw the savings with moving to a cloud environment,” says Tyree.

Beyond mere costs, however, it was imperative that users across the enterprise embrace the District’s new email system. In the case of RCID’s Fire Department, the cloud-based features of Exchange Online allowed the IS team to provide email to places where they hadn’t been able to before. “Most of our firefighters never even had external email because of licensing, management and security concerns. So all they had was basically an Exchange account,” Tyree recalls. “The entire implementation is actually performing much better than I thought it would, and our users are very accepting of it. We delivered a great product. The people we needed to make the most happy were immediately happy -- the administration and the upper management. Our District Manager, who is the equivalent of a county mayor, and his staff are delighted with it.”

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