January 31, 2023
A Case Study: Amherst College’s Migration to Google Workspace for Education
Google Workspace for Education is a suite of easy-to-use teaching and learning tools that allows colleges and universities to ensure an effective and efficient experience for their stakeholders.
Laying the Foundation
Amherst College is a private liberal arts college, exclusively for undergraduate degrees, in Amherst, Massachusetts. In fall 2018, the institution began laying the foundation to migrate to a cloud-based network. Luis Hernández, the Associate CIO for IT Services and Outreach at the time, was in discussions with a committee composed of faculty, staff, and students to determine whether the college should adopt Microsoft or Google. Not only were they seeking premier technical features, but they also wanted to partner with a company that shared their values in diversity and inclusions, and sustainability, and that would be committed to supporting them in the journey.
While it took a few attempts to connect with Microsoft representatives, Google provided immediate customer service. At the beginning of 2019, the Google for Education team made a full day visit to Amherst to identify its present needs and long-term technology goals by consulting with the committee, the accessibility team, the networking team, and IT leadership.
Catastrophic Network Failure
On Monday, February 11th, 2019, directly after their final meeting with Microsoft, Amherst’s network started to malfunction without warning. Upon inspection, it was discovered that the system was failing due to deferred maintenance that created a cascade of other issues. By the end of the day, the institution was in complete network failure. Over 3,000 faculty, staff, and students, and close to 30,000 alumni could not access files, email, or even the college website. With Amherst digitally immobilized, their next challenge was quickly finding a solution to restore its infrastructure.
When the IT leadership sought the recommendation of the committee that had been working on the migration plans, Luis confidently named Google the victor. On top of the ease of connecting with Google representatives about the migration process, the continued additional security features and continued support available with the Google Workspace for Education Plus edition made the decision easy. After Luis initiated the partnership with Google and notified them of the untimely collapse of their network, Google reached out to its premier partner, CDW Education, to step in and address the issue.
On top of the ease of communication around migrating to the cloud, the support and additional security features available from Google Workspace for Education Plus sealed the deal. After Luis made his initial call to Google to alert them of the decision and the not-so-timely network failure, Google and Amherst reached out to CDW Education to address the situation.
An Easy-to-Use, Reliable, and Secure Solution
With Google for Education, Amherst College was able to re-launch their network and enable Google Workspace for Education in just five days. “In one call with [CDW Education], we were able to establish the transition process,” Luis said. Over the next five weeks, CDW Education’s expert technical team migrated over 20 years of data consisting of email, contacts, calendars, and more from Exchange to Gmail, and 4,537 users to their new Education Plus domain.
CDW Education kept Amherst’s IT staff updated on the daily progress of the migration, allowing them to keep their campus community fully informed during the process. Luckily, because of the exploration the committee embarked on months leading up to the migration, the process was able to be streamlined. The technical team started the project by ensuring that all user and alias email addresses were created in the Google Workspace Admin console, and that MX and SPF records were updated. After finalizing mail-flow by reviewing routing rules and verifying forwards to confirm Exchange to Gmail settings were operating properly, CDW Education quickly migrated the VIP data. While the data was migrating, CDW Education created appropriate group memberships, and configured Google’s SMTP Relay server so that devices like copiers and scanners could run on it.
Luis explained, “Our colleagues have become much more open to cloud services and apps like Docs, Sheets, and Slides. Things that are second nature to other institutions are now becoming second nature to Amherst College.” Even though Amherst received positive feedback from stakeholders who were able to easily adapt to the Education Plus tools and features, CDW Education further supported their IT staff after the migration with targeted training. CDW Education’s technical team guided them in the implementation of EDU best practices for the Admin console, the Investigation Tool, and Google Vault in order to build their capacity and knowledge in transforming their Google Workspace for their faculty, staff, and students.
Migrating to Google Workspace for Education provides institutions with a cloud-based teaching and learning solution that sustains their goals and their growth. Not only can CDW Education facilitate the transition from Exchange to Gmail but will be there to support colleges and universities through learning the tools, enabling security settings, and keeping up with the latest Google for Education updates and best practices.