The Future of Email and Calendar at SFU: Microsoft Exchange on Premise

SFU Connect, powered by the Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS) was first implemented in 2009. This Spring, a project investigating several options for a new email and calendar solution was completed. The project yielded Microsoft Exchange on premise as the product that best suited the needs of the University. The Email and Calendar System Replacement project has been initiated to implement Microsoft Exchange as the new locally hosted email and calendar solution. To read more about the selection process, please see the Investigation Project page.

Goals

  • Enable the University to efficiently and effectively transition from SFU Connect to Microsoft Exchange on premise.
  • In doing so, better meet the current and future needs of the University, guided by input from the SFU community.

People

Those who will be impacted will include all members of the SFU Community who currently have active SFU Connect accounts. This includes all current students, staff, faculty members, users of sponsored accounts and retirees.

Process

  •  In the Spring of 2017, Microsoft Exchange on premise was chosen as the solution to replace SFU Connect, based on the investigation project results.
  • Currently, the project team is working on the first of four phases of the replacement project: Strategy and Establishment of Environments. To learn more about the project phases, as well as other important information, please see the FAQ section.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why did the University choose to move to a new email and calendar system?

The current system (SFU Connect), powered by Zimbra Collaboration Suite, was first implemented in 2009. Since then, Zimbra as the product's vendor, has been sold and acquired three times by new parent companies and no longer maintains a visible roadmap for future product releases. The latest version of the product was delayed numerous times which still resulted in poorer product quality than previous releases. The potential risks associated with these symptoms of vendor and product instability strongly support the case for exploring other solutions.

The decision to narrow the focus to a Microsoft email solution included the following factors:

  • Microsoft Outlook is already being used by many members of the University community as their preferred mail client,
  • third party applications and services outside of email and calendar systems are focusing their efforts on integrating only with mainstream email solutions such as Microsoft Exchange, and
  • both Microsoft’s Outlook client and Exchange server are generally regarded as the industry standard solutions.

This solution offers the ability to use a desktop client (e.g., Outlook), in addition to a web client accessible via browser, to access email and calendar data. Click here for more FAQs regarding the Investigation Project.

Would I still be able to use other mail clients aside from Outlook?

Microsoft Exchange will support many of the existing third party mail clients (e.g., Apple Mail, Thunderbird) through protocols including IMAP and POP. If you currently use these clients, you will be able to continue using them after the transition to the new email solution.

What is the timeline for the replacement project?

This project will consist of the following four phases:

Phase 1: Strategy and Establishment of Environments (Q2 - Q3 2017) 

  • Development of overall strategies for project components including implementation, testing, migration of accounts, training, documentation, support, and the retirement of SFU Connect
  • Preliminary setup of the email system in preparation for end-to-end testing

Phase 2: Testing and Pilot Migration (Q3 - Q4 2017)

  • Functional, technical, and user acceptance testing
  • Pilot migration with all IT Services staff members

Phase 3: Staged Migration (Q1 - Q3 2018)

  • Staged migration of remaining SFU community member accounts

Phase 4: Transition to Operations and Retirement of SFU Connect (Q1 2019)

  • Transition to ongoing maintenance and support
  • Retirement SFU Connect

Will I still be able to access SFU Connect during the migration?

SFU Connect will remain accessible  to users during the migration, and for a period after all account migrations have been completed. Further details will be be available as the project progresses.

Does the testing process involve members of the SFU Community?

The testing strategy for the SFU community is currently in development. SFU community members will be notified of any updates.

Who can I contact if I would like more information?

Please send your questions and comments regarding this project to email-calendar-feedback@sfu.ca

To report any SFU Connect-related issues or inquiries, please refer to the points of contact here.