Migrating from GroupWise: A Costly Decision




There's a school board not too far from our office; they are actually the 4th largest school board in the province of Quebec - over 75 schools, 40,000 students and more than 7,500 employees (administrative & teaching).

They run Novell GroupWise.

Have been for years. They have a domain with 9 post offices for the 7,500+ employees - these post offices handle a ton of email traffic every day. Most of the teachers access their mailboxes through the WebAccess interface.

Another domain, with 3 post offices, handles the mailboxes for the 40,000+ students. Granted, only about 5,000 of them are actively using the email addresses provided by the school board, but every student has an account.

Finally, there is a server for the Internet agent and WebAccess interface. So, basically, a total of about 13 servers for close to 50,000 users.

There is also a Blackberry Enterprise Server, as this had been the direction adopted several years ago. Like many organizations, however, smart phones and tablets have crept into the environment and there is now a large demand to connect these devices, so the school board deployed a GroupWise Datasync Mobility server.

And then, of course, there are the email security appliances to provide anti-spam and antivirus services.

Can you imagine the crew required to run, maintain and support an email environment like that?


No, seriously: one guy!

And every time I visit their office, he always has time to talk - he never seems like he's on the verge of a nervous breakdown.

So evidently, they're very happy with GroupWise. It's stable, reliable - it just runs! They've estimated, based on a number of reports and white papers they've read, that if ever they were to migrate to Exchange, they would need about 12 people to run a similar environment. The number of servers would double or triple, which we don't doubt - we know of one college who went from one single GroupWise server for their 850 or so users, to four servers when they migrated to Exchange. Yes, for the same number of users!

Don't be fooled - migrating is a costly, painful and time-consuming proposition! And yet…organizations keep making the decision to migrate away from GroupWise to Exchange. As evidenced by comments in this discussion, the decision is rarely technical. Some exec wants his Outlook, or someone gets promised all sorts of goodies from Microsoft, or some new CIO or IT Director comes into the organization who knows nothing about Novell (or still equates Novell with NetWare! Really??) and decides to rip everything out and replace it. We even know of some organizations where such a CIO comes in, rips and replaces everything, and then moves on - leaving behind a very bitter, embattled team of people who now have to deal with a mess.


So many times, when I talk to GroupWise customers who are considering the move and I ask them why, they often bring up points that confirm that the biggest problem is a lack of training! Sometimes I take a couple of minutes and just show them how to address one of these points, and I get the "Oh. Cool!" reaction. Some of these customers end up booking some training for their users, and it never ceases to amaze me how, even after having worked with GroupWise for years, they learn so much in the span of about 2 hours!

To existing GroupWise customers: please know that you've got an enterprise-class, reliable email system. Know that Novell is entirely committed to GroupWise, is listening to their customers and partners, and that the community is strong.

To customers running anything else: sorry.