As a follow-up to the BPOS onboarding project in January, 2010, I recently asked Stan Kehl, the Executive Director of Eastside Legal Assistance Program, for an assessment of how things are going now that the entire organization is using the service.
The background to this story can be found in the “BPOS for ELAP” series posted earlier in the year in the following articles:
- BPOS for ELAP,
- BPOS for ELAP … the trial begins,
- BPOS for ELAP … Exchange Online,
- BPOS for ELAP … the other communication services,
- BPOS for ELAP … SharePoint,
- BPOS for ELAP … the results,
- BPOS for ELAP … the conclusion.
First, some background is in order. Currently, ELAP is running in a “compatibility” mode. Due to budgetary reasons only the minimum 5 licenses were purchased. This is enough for the permanent staff. In this mode, Drizzle Internet in Seattle, remains the current ISP providing Web, FTP and POP email services. Temporary workers are assigned a POP email mailbox by the Director in order to provide an organizational presence for the volunteers. When a volunteer leaves, the mailbox is deleted. The email for the permanent staff is automatically forwarded to BPOS and email replies from BPOS are sent on behalf of the elap.org domain. Because of this dynamic, the Director has decided to stay in this mode indefinitely.
I received some promotional material from Microsoft regarding the new Office365 program. They mentioned a plan to transition organizations using BPOS to the new offering. So with that in mind, the timing seemed perfect to ask the Director how things were going in an email.
Prior to this exchange, I downloaded a FAQ from the Microsoft transition web site, edited it to fit ELAP’s deployment and sent it to him. The Microsoft website for the transition is http://www.microsoft.com/online/transition-center.aspx
The results of that interview follow:
John: I’m glad you brought up the BPOS topic. I’m in the process of reviewing some projects I’ve worked on and wanted to touch base with you about your experiences with BPOS. Would you mind answering some few questions?
John: How many seats are you currently using?
Stan: The minimum number, 5.
John: Which services are you using in the BPOS Suite and what are you using them for? (Example: Use Live Meeting to host orientation sessions with Volunteer attorneys or use communicator for audio / video chat / screen sharing)
John: Email… Outlook client on single and/or multiple computers? How about Outlook Anywhere (web client)?
Stan: Only Outlook.
John: Live Meeting …
John: SharePoint …
Stan: No, but I’m beginning to see some possible uses.
John: What about the ease of use? How easy is it to use the services? Is there a sharp learning curve?
Stan: Setting up SharePoint seems like it will take a lot of planning, but I don’t know that using the service will be difficult once it’s set up. While having documents available from anywhere sounds great, I’m concerned about reliability, both depending on Comcast to maintain a connection 100% of the time and on BPOS to be up 100% of the time. The two recent outages of BPOS caused us problems, and a recent Comcast problem with the Chicago part of the Internet that connects us to LegalSever that prevented access for a day struck home the negative impact on ELAP when resources accessed over the Internet are not available.
Now that I think about it, transferring data from the local Outlook pst files to BPOS was challenging and not clear. Transferring calendar items created multiple calendars. When we deleted calendars, they stayed in the deleted items folder until it was emptied, and BPOS served them all up to my smart phone, not recognizing that things in the deleted items folder should not be served up. It took an excruciating long time to get to a tech at Microsoft who was able to identity that as the problem.
Installation of the Outlook connectivity was relatively straight forward and use of the service is no problem, except trying to get BPOS profile set as the default so that people don’t have to make a choice if they click on the wrong Outlook icon.
John: Have you migrated email from Drizzle to Microsoft?
Stan: No. We need more than five email accounts, and if I use BPOS for all of our email accounts, then it adds $6 for each account, which adds up. So we are still forwarding email from Drizzle to the BPOS accounts. I keep two Drizzle accounts, email@example.com and firstname.lastname@example.org that I do not forward. I just have outlook setup to access those accounts.
John: How satisfied are you with the Service? Any other comments? (positive / negative. all feedback is welcome.)
Stan: While I can become intimately familiar with the details, I’m thinking it might be easier to recruit a volunteer, preferably from Microsoft, who could do all of it for me. Or do you think it will be straight forward enough, that I will not have to spend much time learning and doing the transition?
A few days later we followed up:
John: Thanks for the feedback. The problems with the calendar and your phone were early on from my recollection. Any problems since then? I take it everyone else is OK?
I believe Microsoft BPOS SLA is 99.99% uptime – not considering Internet accessibility.
As long as your using only using Outlook and staying with Drizzle, I don’t think you have to do anything. You can always ask the BPOS team for help. It’s included in the service so in a sense, they are part of your “volunteer army.”
Stan: No problems since the initial calendar problems. As I have time, or available volunteer expertise, I want to look at whether other features of Office365 would be helpful for us.
What conclusions do we draw from this project. It seems to me that like most small organizations, IT through necessity becomes becomes something that you just deal with to get the job done. Each user, computer, gadget, technology becomes an island unto itself. My experience has shown that without any outside consulting expertise to provide some guidance to utilize technology in a unified manner, things just continue in their own context. Getting any kind of consulting results in the any or all of the following actions:
- individuals will be resistant to change, unless encoouraged by management,
- the budget is a constraint on management to innovate.
- unlike attorneys, there is no motive on the part of consultancies to work “pro bono”.
Comments or suggestions welcome.This posting is provided “as is” with no warranties, guaranties or any rights whatsoever. All content is based on the author’s experiences and opinions and is not intended to influence the actions of the reader.