in 2010, after several years of being slowly trained in as our office IT guy, I was finally handed the reigns. It was not a happy moment, as I had experienced many late nights and weekends trying to fix our servers and systems already, and knew that it was now my primary responsibility to figure these things out. I didn’t feel up for the task since I was never trained formally in most of the server systems we ran, and I also didn’t want to be perpetually on call, so my only option was to simplify and/or outsource everything. Our initial set up had been done by a certified network administrator and was pretty complex, so I needed to figure out how to outsource each part that I didn’t want to have to support. This is the first part of a series of posts where I explain the solutions I found and implemented so that I wasn’t stuck tweaking servers on my weekends. The added bonus is that each of these solutions ultimately ended up saving us money too!
Our Exchange server was terrifying. I had no idea how it worked and our support guy lived on the other side of the country. Even during the times when we could get in touch during a disaster, we were still paying $125 an hour for his help. At one point we lost a ton of emails because of hardware failures, other times it simply didn’t send/receive, then of course you just have things happen that make no sense at all, like not receiving emails from certain addresses no matter how often you added them to the safe senders list.
When we had an email problem this was of course the biggest deal possible aside from our site being down, and backing up our massive servers was a full weekend project, so it was an ongoing headache and a source of sleepless nights.
I was concerned about how the office would respond to Google Apps since it’s so dramatically different from Outlook, but after procrastinating a year I knew we just had to force it through. The transfer of all email files couldn’t have been simpler. I spent one final “email weekend” in the office and loaded all the archives into Google apps, then when everyone came back to work I gave a demo on how it worked, and that was about it! Anyone who does IT for an office probably realizes how unlikely it is that the employees will be cool with your changes, but in this case everyone was thrilled. There were no issues and still aren’t. When we were unsure about how something works we just call the free support and it’s explained instantly. We don’t need to back up the files and can access them from anywhere. This was all done for a cost of $5 per user per month, which is nothing when you think about the added productivity and the peace of mind. In addition, selling the hardware we used for Exchange could probably pay for the first year or two. The administrator interface is also about as simplistic as an inbox, so you don’t need to be a big computer person to manage the whole system.
So in case I’m not being clear this was a huge success and we’d never go back. If you’re running anything other than Google Apps then you need to take another look, it’s well worth your time. Especially if you’re running Exchange.