Best Practices for Planning and Preparing for a Migration to Exchange Server 2010
Careful planning and preparation are crucial to the success of a migration to Exchange Server 2010. For an organization satisfied with its current Exchange 2007 environment, planning may only entail determining which hardware to purchase for servers and storage. An organization unhappy with its Exchange 2007 deployment, or with an Exchange 2003 environment (or earlier), will need to do more complex planning, paying special attention to the routing environment. Given the busy workloads of most Exchange administrators, this necessary task may seem daunting; however, there are many excellent third-party solutions that will help speed the process and reduce expenses. Every organization should take the following critical steps, explained below, during the pre-migration process:
Conduct a thorough discovery and analysis or your current environment
Archive older, rarely accessed data from active mailbox databases to a secure, reliable messaging archive
Analyze public folders to determine which data is an appropriate fit for Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS)
Discovery and Analysis
It's crucial to thoroughly understand and document your current environment. Accurate documentation is one of the most important aspects of good migration planning, and ensures that knowledge about the environment does not disappear with staff turnover. Best practices for documenting your environment include careful examination of the following:
Network - With a good understanding of your network infrastructure, the entire planning process for the migration will be easier. While Exchange 2010 provides more native functionality across data centers, it is still important to be able to see any possible bottlenecks or problem points prior to deployment.
Windows and Active Directory infrastructure - To install Exchange, Windows and Active Directory must be present in the environment. Ensuring that your domain controllers are running at the necessary functional level, and adequate numbers of Global Catalog servers exist can help make the deployment go more smoothly.
Exchange infrastructure - Even though you have decided to migrate to Exchange 2010, it is still wise to document your current Exchange infrastructure to understand the limitations you may face, and help determine the best path forward.
Third-party tools and utilities - Rich third-party toolsets are available to help support and enhance Exchange. However, while they are heavily used in many organizations, third-party tools can be overlooked during a migration. Make sure you inventory each third-party tool in use and determine its ability to function with Exchange Server 2010, find replacement tools if necessary, and ensure your organization has the ability to upgrade existing tools, all before starting the migration process.
Archiving Older Data
A best practice for mitigating growth in storage needs is to archive older, rarely accessed messaging data before beginning the migration. Database tables are restructured in Exchange 2010, and single instance storage (SIS) is no longer retained across mailboxes or mailbox databases. This means organizations with a high SIS ratio will see increased database sizes when moving to Exchange 2010. Archiving older messaging data will speed up the migration process, and enable you to keep the data for legal, regulatory or intellectual property reasons, but stored in an efficient archive instead of an active Exchange mailbox database.
Analyzing Public Folders
Before beginning a migration to Exchange 2010, it's important to analyze your public folders to determine which ones are actually used in the organization. Public folders sometimes are neglected instead of managed, but users in many organizations often rely on the public folder infrastructure to store data. It's easy to move data to new Exchange 2010 servers when you migrate from an earlier version of Exchange, but the migration will go more smoothly if you first determine which folders you really need to move.
Migrating to Exchange Server 2010
Whether you are migrating from an earlier version of Exchange Server or from a legacy platform, the migration process involves the following steps:
Deploy the new Exchange Server 2010 infrastructure
Deploy Outlook 2010 (or Outlook 2007) client software
Establish co-existence with the existing infrastructure
Public folder replication
Free/busy synchronization for calendar data
Migrate mailboxes (including calendars, tasks, personal address books, archives, etc.)
Update Outlook profiles
Decommission original servers
Some of these steps are straightforward, while others require a lot of planning and testing. A simple migration from one version of Exchange to another might be accomplished using native tools; however, as with the pre-migration steps, a wealth of good third-party tools exists to help pave the way for a successful migration project regardless of where you are migrating from.
Once You Have Migrated to Exchange Server 2010
Exchange Server 2010 offers many compelling new features that will please end users and administrators alike. In addition, Microsoft has done a great job of solidifying the underlying structure and improving performance in Exchange 2010.
Day-to-day administrative tasks are covered well by Microsoft's native toolset, but an organization may find it needs management functionality beyond the native offerings. If it collects data for long-term analysis; uses real-time diagnostics to solve problems; tracks or audits administrator actions; or finds, recovers and produces data that has been sent or received, the organization will find it needs additional tools. But, while some gaps still exist, many excellent tools and resources are available to help migrate to Exchange 2010, and to better manage, monitor and maintain the messaging infrastructure once it is in place.