departure sign from airport

August 8, 2008 was a very sad day in our I.T. Department.

After twenty-five years, we pulled the plug on our Novell servers.

Novell served us well and we owe them a debt of gratitude for all those years of safe, secure and ever diligent service. One of our Novell servers ran for a two year stretch without a patch or reboot!

Novell to Microsoft

Our departure from Novell began with Novell's change in direction toward Linux. Our tax software provider notified us three years prior that they would not support the Novell/Linux platform. Our tax software is the backbone of our operation and when we were forced to decide whether to change tax software or server operating systems, our tax software won out.

Background - A three year transition away from Novell.

We were running four Novell servers; 1) Novell 6.0 File server, 2) BorderManager firewall server, 3) Novell web server and 4) GroupWise mail server. Early on we made the decision that the transition would be an "all or none" proposition. We saw no reason to run a mixed environment (life is already too complicated).

YEAR ONE:
Three years ago we purchased a SonicWall device to replace our Novell firewall first. We kept the BorderManager server in place and running during this transition just in case. Fortunately we never had a problem with the SonicWall device.

YEAR TWO:
Next, we replaced our Novell/Apache web server with a Windows 2003 server and IIS 6. We continued to run the Novell web server with eGuide during the transition from Novell to Microsoft.

BEGINNING OF YEAR THREE:
We migrated all of our applications from the Novell 6.0 File server to a Windows 2003 server. We kept our Novell Client on all of the 18 workstations as we were still running all of the Novell servers.

END OF YEAR THREE:
We setup and installed a Windows 2008 Server (64 bit) with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. It was ironic that 08-08-08 (the date we flipped the switch) was the Twentieth Anniversary of GroupWise.

The "Domino Effect"...
The transition from Novell to Microsoft necessitated changes in the following areas:
1) Anti-spam and antivirus software had to be changed (very pleased)
2) Tape back-up software had to be changed (very pleased)
3) Internal instant messaging software had to be changed (undecided)
4) We replaced PcAnywhere with Remote Desktop (pleased)
5) Our GroupWise public document library was replaced with SharePoint (not pleased)
6) All network services and administration changed:
a) DNS
b) DHCP (wireless laptops only, all wired network devices have static IPs)
c) Time Sync
d) We lost Novell Distributed Print Services NDPS (very pleased)
e) Groups and Policies (very pleased)
f) Battery conditioned power supply backup software changed (undecided)

I will go into more details of each segment of the changes later, but for now I will hit on the main points of interest as I see them.
We had been utilizing Guinevere and GWAVA from Beginfinite in conjunction with McAfee to stop spam and viruses. These two solutions kept us 100% free of viruses and 99.87% free of spam. I can't say enough good things about these programs. These programs were designed specifically for GroupWise and neither would work with Exchange.

We found a great anti-spam and antivirus solution in SonicWall Email Security software (which started out as Mail Frontier years ago). Utilizing the hardware from one of the old Novell boxes, we installed Windows 2003 server, loaded up the SonicWall software and didn't miss a beat.

As it turned out, all my fears about the possible degradation of our electronic mail system were unfounded. I love the SonicWall spam solution even more than our old system. It has more features and is easier to manage. The results are superior to the old system (which I did not believe was possible).

What would we do different if we had it to do over?
The short answer is "nothing". However, I will offer these observations to anyone that may be planning a transition from Novell to Microsoft.
1) We upgraded our Microsoft Office 2003 to 2007 at the same time. We could have performed that upgrade a year earlier and the employees would have had only one learning curve with the new email, instead of two simultaneously.

2) We beefed up the hardware on the Exchange server and then dumped most of the workload on the SonicWall Email Security server. This is not a problem at all and we can upgrade that hardware in the future.

3) Instead of running the Novell and Microsoft File servers side-by-side for a full year, we might have dropped the Novell mappings at the beginning. We run a lot programs and occasionally we'd find that a workstation was accessing data from the old Novell server when it should've been accessing the Microsoft server.

4) During the transition we incurred some extra expense by renewing software licenses for the Novell version of Backup Exec. We could have avoided that and it was just oversight on our part.

NOTE: We are a small business with one office. We have a computer room with three racks, nine servers and a 36kw Generac natural gas generator. We have eighteen workstations, all running Windows 7. We have four Konica Minolta BizHubs for faxing, printing and scanning. We have two Network Attached Storage NAS units.

Our office is located across the street from our local telephone company. We attach to the internet backbone via fiber optic to a switch located there, which is less than 150 feet away. We can assist you with your technology needs, in ways you might not imagine! Call 256-586-4111 and talk to Greg about scheduling an on-site audit of your network, computers and software.

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