Saturday, April 20, 2013

When Management says "No" to the Cloud...

What do you do when management says "no" to the Cloud?  You give them an alternative.  How can there be an alternative to the Cloud you ask?  Easy, it's called on-premises and its been around for a few decades.

I recently returned to my old job with a company I'd been with for more then five years.  It's a small firm but  has some complexities that other small entities don't such as multiple locations, remote workers, cloud-based applications, and data center operations.  During my brief absence there were major changes to the Email infrastructure.  I would have done things differently but that's the nature of technology, there are many paths to the same destination.  However, things were done to a level that I wasn't satisfied with so I made recommendation to management.  To their credit, management understood what I was proposing, asked a few questions, and approved all three projects.

[A side note here, when you go 3-for-3 on your proposals, it's a good day.]

In a nutshell, the three projects involve spam filtering, message archiving, and additional domain controllers (because I run my own Microsoft Exchange environment).  The project for additional domain controllers means on-premises hardware because it involves Microsoft's Active Directory technology.  But the other two items present the opportunity to utilize cloud based services.  Mimecast offers a product called Unified Email Management that includes email continuity, anti-spam filtering, and unlimited archiving of messages.  However, these types of cloud services can be expansive when measured against on-premises options.  So after running the numbers management felt it better to go with on-premises spam filtering and message archiving solutions.  I'm OK with that, after all they sign the checks.  Remember the Golden Rule - he who has the Gold makes the Rules!

The spam filtering project involves replacing an existing product, modifying existing DNS & MX records, deploying the new technology, then tweaking the filtering so it achieves just the right amount of protect.  I'm going with a 1U appliance (a purpose build combination hardware / software all-in-one solution) because it offers good technology at a reasonable price.  Because of the importance of email, some of it will have to be done after hours.  I'm big on project management (after all, that's what I earned a graduate degree in - Master's of Science in Technology Project Management) and live for this kind of endeavor.  The key is the plan, plan, and plan some more.  Then do as much prep work as possible so there's a minimal disruption to email operations.  Lucky for me, I'll need to travel to the Austin data center and that means stopping at the Buc-ee's in Bastrop.  I plan the route I take to each branch office based on where a Buc-ee's store is located (stay way from the Butter Toffee Almond Crunch, it's deadly).  In life it's the small things that can make one happy.

Deploying a domain controller into an existing Active Directory domain that also already has an established Site is a straight-forward process but it needs to be done correctly.  Multiple domain controllers are deployed to an Active Directory Site for redundancy purposes - if one domain controller goes down, the other is there to pick up the slack.  This is an important consideration when dealing with a Microsoft Exchange environment.  Since I'm a planner I'm confident of success.  And as always I'll need to visit the Austin data center for deployment - I'm sensing a pattern here.

The message archiving project can be done during regular business hours.  I'll still need to visit the Austin data center, but hey, those are the breaks.  For this I'm also going with a 1U appliance and I can do virtually all of the configuration work before deploying the solution.

As I complete each project I'll post my observations.


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