Indiana University Finds Their Drive for Cost Savings & Platform Flexibility

Indiana University Cloud Migration Challenges

University Cloud Migration With Challenges

Today many higher education institutions are migrating to the cloud, but a lack of resources and funding can make this journey longer for some than others. Additionally, cloud costs can differ across environments, situations, and organizations. What may save one organization on costs may not work for another, leaving it up to each individual university to figure out which solution is best for their needs. Indiana University was able to overcome several cloud migration challenges for a successful cost-saving transition to a new storage provider.

Indiana University Seeks to Cut Cloud Costs

Indiana University is a public research university with seven campuses and two centers located throughout the state of Indiana and includes the largest medical school in the US. It has nearly 100,000 students and over 20,000 full-time faculty and staff, and over 600,000 living alumniInnovation, creativity, and academic freedom are hallmarks of its world-class contributions in research and the arts.

IU’s University Information Technology Services (UITS) tends to the modern, multifaceted technology environment. Each day, UITS works to develop and maintain a rich information-technology environment throughout the university that supports IU’s vision for excellence in research, teaching, outreach, and lifelong learning.

Large-Scale Migration for 140,000 University Users

Once their current cloud storage provider announced they would be increasing costs significantly, Indiana University needed to migrate their 140,000 users and nearly 3PB of content from Box to Google & Microsoft for cost reasons. But eight months after taking on this migration project, IU’s Microsoft O365 team lead Adam Sweeny and Justin Zemlyak, the Director of Teaching & Learning Technologies, were having difficulty charting a path that would preserve all the features of their previous platform in their new platform and would transfer files without significant user intervention.

This posed an issue for the university, as time was not on Indiana University’s side. IU planned to complete the migration over the summer break, to minimize disruption to staff and students. And with nearly 3PB to move, they wanted to avoid the cost of the renewal on their existing storage.

In need of a strong, fast migration solution that could reduce their overall storage costs with minimal disruption, they reached out to Microsoft and Internet2, which eventually connected them to SkySync.

After considering SkySync, Sweeny & Zemlyak did their due diligence and explored some other migration tools. However, none offered the scale and flexibility they needed for migrating to both Microsoft and Google while addressing their unique migration challenges.

"Our migration with SkySync has cost considerably less than our original cloud storage subscription."
Adam Sweeny, Microsoft O365 Team Lead

Indiana University’s Cloud Migration Challenges

Due to the size and scope of the project, Indiana University’s migration posed many challenges for the Migration Task Force. Funding, lack of user enthusiasm, and platform incompatibilities added additional considerations to an already ambitious mission and timeline. “It’s like trying to fly a plane that needs repairs at the same time,” Sweeny said.

But with a Migration Task Force dedicated to getting the job done and a strong migration partner in SkySync, IU was able to overcome these challenges and are on their way to a successful migration.

Funding Pressures & User Buy-In Slows the Cloud Migration

Microsoft offered Indiana some migration funding to move their content to OneDrive. However, the university wanted to maintain flexibility for staff by keeping Google and Microsoft. Additionally, because of OneDrive’s data quota at the time, it was better for the University to store some of the larger quantities of data in Google Drive.

Many of the faculty members did not want to leave Box. However, once Sweeny and Zemlyak explained the size of the cost increase, most faculty understood why they were doing the migration now – even after spending years encouraging user adoption of Box. With the cost savings of the new platforms more apparent, it became much easier to justify funding for the migration project.

SkySync’s flexibility, with out-of-the-box connectors for all major cloud and ECM platforms, helped the Migration Task Force secure the funding they needed. By adding SkySync to their toolkit, should IU’s content landscape need to change again, they would be well-prepared for any future migration projects.

User Permissions

Unfortunately, user permissions in Box differ significantly from permissions in Google and Microsoft. The differences made it impossible for Indiana University to directly match some of their user permissions across the platforms while maintaining the same access rights or restrictions that they had before.

But for most users with standard access rights, SkySync was one of the only migration tools that was able to match their existing permissions levels across platforms, along with their document version history, time stamps, metadata, and more.

Box Notes Migration

Indiana University’s staff held a lot of valuable data and workflows in Box Notes that they risked losing with traditional migration methods. It was pivotal when they learned SkySync could migrate those as well. “A big factor in our decision to use SkySync was the platform’s ability to migrate Box Notes, and overall, that’s been successful,” said Zemlyak.

Minimizing University Disruption

With such a large volume of content to move, migration estimates for Indiana University’s project ranged anywhere from six weeks to eight months. It was clear that this was going to require temporary use of both their current and new storage platforms during their transition to maintain university operations during this timeframe. Many users would require full functionality of their Box environment while waiting for their department to be migrated, while those who had been migrated earlier in the project needed to quickly be up and running in Google and OneDrive. The transition needed to be seamless.

With SkySync, Indiana University was able to minimize user impact while migrating to Google Drive and OneDrive. They kept all their platforms in use during the migration by creating a temporary synchronization. This way, IU could make the Box documents read-only during the migration so that users could still access their information, but all changes were made in the new platforms – ultimately making the project much less disruptive.

Flexible & Cost-Effective Cloud Storage Solution

With the help of SkySync, Indiana University was able to allocate the necessary funding for their migration project, which kicked off on schedule. By selecting SkySync as its migration partner, IU’s Migration Task Force was better prepared for any subsequent migration needs. Should they choose a different cloud storage provider later on, or need to sync their content between Google and Microsoft, they already have everything in place to do so.

SkySync was able to address Indiana University’s technical migration challenges while migrating the content quickly enough to meet project timelines. On top of all of that, the migration project also served the University’s ultimate goal: saving money.

The joint solution of SkySync, Google, and Microsoft delivered immediate ROI to Indiana University. As Sweeny explained, “Our migration with SkySync has cost considerably less than our original cloud storage subscription.”

Conclusion

Dan Calarco, Chair of the migration taskforce has advice for other higher education institutions planning their cloud migration: “It shouldn’t be done lightly, and it won’t be smooth or painless. It’s like moving houses; you’re going to discover some junk and bad practices. So start thinking about if as you were to physically move. And hire a good mover.”

You can read more about the details of Indiana University’s Cloud Migration here.

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