Editor's note: Today's guest blogger is Jeremy Lawrence, CIO of The Mind Research Network (MRN), an organization dedicated to the discovery and advancement of clinical solutions for the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of mental illness and other brain disorders. By switching from hosted Microsoft® Exchange to Google Apps, Lawrence spared his IT team from the grind of maintenance, upgrades and patches – all while providing users with a more advanced solution.

Beyond mail, Jeremy deployed Google's online documents, video, archiving, and encryption apps to help his 200+ research scientists and staff improve collaboration, boost productivity and enhance security.

Jeremy will be speaking this Thursday, April 8, on a live webcast. Register here.

Several years ago the situation at MRN could not have been more complex. The organization had grown with very little standardization and centralization. For email, we had a blend of email clients – Microsoft Outlook®, Outlook Express®, Apple® Mail, Pine, Elm, Semaphore, Morse – need I go on? There was such a proliferation of email accounts with varying reliability that people kept saying "Send it to my home account, because I never check this one." We also had growing needs in calendaring and document sharing.

We determined that we needed a single mail domain, mailing lists, a company directory, a shared calendar, as well as shared documents and project websites – something our employees weren't really aware of at the time. We thought about running Microsoft Exchange in-house, switching to another on-site platform, or a hosted model. Over a fair period of time, we calculated the costs of several solutions and analyzed all the reliability and collaboration factors.

Google won hands-down in a feature/cost comparison. We opted for a Big Bang conversion and got over the conversion hump in about a week's time. Import of email was flawless across 104 mailboxes – and we've now grown to nearly 300. We also did up-front preparation with weekly FAQ emails and bulk account creation in advance. We set up a hotline and printed instructions for users. We also conducted help sessions in the lobby. Post-migration, we provided "tip of the day" messages for 14 days.

Beyond mail, we deployed Google's online documents and video, as well as additional archiving and encryption features by Google Postini Services to help our 200+ research scientists and staff improve collaboration, boost productivity, and enhance security. Most of all, we learned that Google Apps provides capabilities far beyond our expectations and provides a platform for us to easily add on additional web apps. It's this additional extensibility and flexibility beyond just email that's a big value add for an organization of our size – and we're just scratching the surface.

We learned many tips and tricks for making users happy and we can share five (and more!) simple ways to get more out of Google Apps. Please join me for a live webcast to learn more.

Thursday, April 8, 2010
11:00 a.m. PDT / 2:00 p.m. EDT / 6:00 p.m. GMT
Posted by Serena Satyasai, Google Apps team

Find customer stories and research product information on our resource sites for current users of Microsoft® Exchange and Lotus Notes®/Domino®.