Microsoft completed the world's largest email migration, moving 2.1 million mailboxes to the NHS

1640268524 Microsoft completed the worlds largest email migration moving 21 million

With a massive migration of 2.1 million NHS mailbox accounts approximately 2.3 petabytes of data were transferred from local servers to Microsoft Azure.

The migration to Microsoft's cloud platform is a fundamental but essential step in the NHS's digital transformation ambitions.

Image: iStock / BrianAJackson

The National Health Service of England (NHS) has completed the largest ever migration of enterprise email accounts, having moved 2.1 million mailboxes from real estate servers to Microsoft Exchange Online.

The six-month project involved moving around 22,000 NHSmail accounts to Microsoft's Azure cloud daily, rising to 83,000 at the weekend.

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It represents the largest ever migration of enterprise email accounts ever handled by Microsoft, as well as a fundamental step in the broader ambitions of the NHS to be a cloud-first and digital health system.

Sarah Wilkinson, Chief Executive of NHS Digital, said: “The migration of NHSmail to Exchange Online has enabled us to provide a richer, more secure and lower cost email system for staff across the NHS.

“We have also rolled out the Microsoft Hybrid implementation of Office 365 to the NHSmail platform, which allows NHS organizations to deliver Office 365 services much faster, integrate with the existing NHSmail identity, and easier collaboration. "

NHS Digital, the UK's public health service technology delivery arm, began rolling out NHSmail accounts to the cloud in August 2022.

Chris Parsons, head of collaborative services at NHS Digital, told TechRepublic that the project involved moving around 2.3 petabytes of data - or about 2.3 million gigabytes - from NHSmail accounts to Exchange Online, using An “army” of NHS IT administrators as well as teams from NHS Digital, Microsoft and professional services company Accenture.

"Microsoft tends to deal with large enterprises, but the way the NHS is structured is nowhere near as complex," said Parsons.

The NHS is one of the largest employers in the world, sitting behind the U.S. Department of Defense and Walmart - both of which are also Microsoft customers.

Nevertheless, the NHS - which employs some 1.3m staff, according to the latest figures - represents Microsoft 's largest single Office 365 holding in the enterprise space.

The fiercely different levels of digital quality within the NHS presented a unique set of challenges for those responsible for migrating organizations to the latest software.

“If we were doing this in any other department or business, you might be migrating an email or updating at the same time as doing another type of upgrade,” Parsons explained.

"We will not do that - we cannot do that. We will provide our service to around 25,000 specialist organizations in England, from your gloomy hospitals such as Leeds and Sheffield Teaching Hospitals, all the time. down to a small care home, there may be only one or two NHSmail users. "

Around 16,000 to 17,000 IT administrators work within the NHS, working with local organizations to run, maintain and upgrade services run by NHS Digital.

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Parsons said those admins had been working from the beginning of 2022 up until the time of migration in August to ensure that NHS IT systems had the technical pre-requisites needed to migrate to
Office 365 software

.

“The biggest challenge was the difference in technology that organizations used on the ground,” Parsons said. "You'd hope everyone was always on the latest versions of software, but that's not true."

NHS Digital has been working closely with Microsoft over the past few years to help move healthcare workers to state-of-the-art software and operating systems.

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In June, the NHS struck a landmark agreement with Microsoft to roll out Microsoft 365 across much of the NHS, which came at a time when the UK health service was battling COVID-19 pandemics.

Microsoft teams

it was also used across the NHS at the start of the UK COVID revolution, enabling vital remote communication between healthcare teams battling the virus.

Parsons described the influence of teams as "a game-changer".

"What we have seen since then is a huge acceleration in the deployment of Teams. The last time we took a picture of the data, we had around 134 million chat messages, about 3.5 million meetings and just over 13 million calls using Teams from last March, up until about two weeks ago, "he said.

"That's a technology that, while it existed, was not available to the NHS at this time last year."

The move to Office 365 will also put the NHS in a position to take better advantage of new cloud - enabled technologies, Parsons said. “Full of digital transformation is very advanced from automating workflows, all the way out to the more remote issues we are currently seeing - so use HoloLens technology to support to clinicians on COVID wards and young trainee clinicians.

"We can now, in the next few months, support that kind of technology on a very large scale. We can only do that because we have the building blocks of our foundation. migrated to the cloud and into Office 365. "

Despite a close partnership between NHS Digital and Redmond, Parsons emphasized that the group was "not just visible to Microsoft".

He said: "It's important that we maintain that strategic relationship with Microsoft, but also with Google, and with Amazon, and with Apple, and with the major technology providers to ensure that we deliver to them. where the priority is needed they are for the NHS.

“It is my job and the work of my team to represent that to these organizations so that we can prioritize our requirements on their roadmaps. We need to make sure they keep pace with the technological advances that the NHS needs to see delivered. "

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