On-premises meets cloud: Together with the Bechtle IT Systems Integrator Austria, the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol implemented a state-of-the-art e-mail and office concept for staff and students that fully meets the requirements for high availability, sufficient storage capacity and modern collaboration tools.
The University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol focuses on vocational training for up and coming young professionals. With 2,000 students from 50 countries on 21 courses, over 180 international partner universities and a range of vocational study opportunities, the university is a hub enabling students to qualify for the job market. The 2016/17 academic year started with a record number of 715 new students being picked from more than 1,800 candidates. The University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol shares its campus with the International School Kufstein, an English speaking Austrian selective Sixth Form centre.
The university’s IT services and software development department is not only responsible for the IT infrastructure of around 500 teaching staff and other employees, but also provides e-mail and office solutions for the students. The system environment had become outdated, being based on a local exchange 2007 server: “We let our graduates access their accounts for a whole year after they graduate; that’s 4,000 to 5,000 inboxes total. For financial reasons, the storage space for students up until the most recent modernisation was capped at 100 megabytes each, a severe limitation. In addition, we didn't have Microsoft Office applications or a collaboration platform,” report Sebastian Danninger, Head of IT Services and Software Development, and Steve Robinson, Project Manager at the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol, in agreement.
The University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol stands for innovative economic and technical business-related courses and has been commended several times for the quality of education it provides. What’s special about it is its strong international focus, an especially vocational training style and the high level of personal support it provides its students. In addition to the study program, the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol handles numerous practical projects right through to contract research.
Bechtle IT System House Austria was commissioned for the conversion which, in addition to the expert knowledge as a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, was also able to win the university over with their local expertise of the consultants of the Tyrolean branch. In close cooperation with the University of Applied Sciences, a plan of a hybrid solution was developed, which provided for the installation of Microsoft Exchange 2013 in a highly available on-premises configuration for internal employees, as well as Office 365 with Exchange Online for the students. For this, the existing one-box solution was to be replaced by a redundant server configuration.
The new local Exchange servers were implemented by Bechtle based on Windows Server 2012 R2. An Exchange 2013 virtual server with installed Client Access Server (CAS) role serves as the central access point. Behind it are two Exchange 2013 mailbox servers, which provide six local mail databases in a DAG (Database Availability Group) redundantly.
Capitalise on the innovative interaction of on-premises and cloud: Steve Robinson (left), Project Manager, and Sebastian Danninger, Head of IT Services and Software Development, University of Applied Sciences Kufstein.
After installing the on-premises solution, all the data from the former Exchange 2007 server was migrated and completely removed from the domain. “Because we had skipped an Exchange Server release, it was quite complex. This is where Bechtle’s expertise came in useful,” reports Steve Robinson.
To continue centralising the management of student accounts now on Office 365, an Active Directory Federation Trust has been established between the on-premises Exchange environment and Office 365, featuring single sign-in.
After the start of the hybrid configuration, the student accounts were created with support from Bechtle and the mailboxes were moved to the cloud. “It took a while, but it was a smooth process,” says Steve Robinson. Since the conversion, the e-mail and Office accounts are prepared locally for all new students and then migrated to the Cloud in one step.
Thanks to the redundant and thus highly available design of the mail servers with a mirrored database, data integrity for the employees of the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein is ensured with on-premise mailboxes, and it has proven itself invaluable several times in productive use. In the event of the server going down, no e-mails are lost and you can keep working without losing valuable time.
The need for flexible design options, for the many graduates and new students to a university, is taken into account with the implemented cloud concept. Students now get free access to Office 365 with an inbox memory space of 50 gigabytes, 1 terabyte of storage space on OneDrive as well as the Office 365 groups feature and the SharePoint content management system as their collaboration platform. Sebastian Danninger and Steve Robinson sum up this positive experience:
For the University of Applied Sciences Kufstein as a business, the relocation of e-mail accounts into the cloud makes sense because we don’t have to pay to make storage space available any more. The cost of administration has been reduced drastically, too. Of course, the students are thrilled to bits with the comprehensive range of state-of-the-art IT applications!
Photos: University of Applied Sciences Kufstein Tirol.
Key Account Manager
Bechtle IT Systems Integrator Austria
Published on Dec 1, 2018.