Blue Man Regroups on Email

By Ericka Chickowski Print this article Print

Managing user expectations was as big a challenge as any in an email migration.

When he took a job at Blue Man Productions a little over two years ago, Antonio Palumbo was faced with a job that felt as daunting as the complex acts performed by his company’s painted stars. Blue Man Productions is the company behind the global troupe of eponymous stage artists, which produces shows in seven cities around the world, as well as frequent tours.

Palumbo needed to move Blue Man's e-mail systems from MDaemon to Microsoft Exchange servers hosted by AppRiver’s Secure Exchange Service. The growing company found MDaemon unwieldy and non-scalable, which posed problems for such a geographically diverse organization.

“We live and die by e-mail,” Palumbo said. “The sheer volume of e-mails that Blue Man was generating, we had to constantly be buying new servers just for data.  If the user servers went down, if the internet went down, we were down. Because it is a global and international company, our sheer volume of support tickets was still heavy.  I would say a 50% to 60% of all IT issues were e-mail related.”

Migration can be a tough nut to crack. IT management must ensure as little downtime as possible, while delivering not just the system users ordered, but the one they thought they ordered, too. 

Since AppRiver was already chosen for him, Palumbo’s task was to handle the migration. He was able to accomplish the task within six months with no major issues and a happy user base at the end of the process by following a set of best practices that had him not only managing his team, but also the end users affected by the migration.
Managing IT

Because the AppRiver service takes care of e-mail management once users are actually migrated to Exchange, Palumbo and his team only needed to worry about getting user accounts onto the system. “It was just gritty IT work,” he said. “The approach we took was to tackle accounts city by city. It sounds very boring, but there wasn’t anything elaborate, we just broke it up and approached it like a guerilla movement. I basically said, ‘Alright, troops, we’ve each got ten users per day, let’s go.”

Before he got to that point, Palumbo laid the groundwork for a smooth transition with thorough system testing to ensure things would work flawlessly once individual user account migrations were underway.  He was concerned because not only was Blue Man geographically diverse, its endpoint platforms were very heterogeneous. As a creative organization, Blue Man caters to a lot of Mac users. And with users in Japan and other far flung locations, Palumbo was also dealing with multiple types of Windows XP versions.

Thorough testing brought to light a DNS issue with web access in Safari on the Mac which he had AppRiver fix within its systems before he started any Mac migrations. And other little issues that cropped up were documented so that his workers could easily implement workarounds once they started migrations in earnest.

“There were a lot of variables, but I feel like we did a great job on the front end to make sure that these issues and their workarounds were well-documented,” Palumbo says.

This article was originally published on 2009-06-09
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