Computing Research: Microsoft Exchange 2010 – taking the plunge

By John Leonard
18 Jul 2012 View Comments

To read part one of this research, please click here

While there are numerous advantages to be had by migrating to the latest version of Microsoft’s Exchange collaboration and email package, the pivotal importance of email to the modern enterprise means that any errors in the migration that result in downtime can have grave consequences. It is vital, therefore, to plan carefully to ensure that this occasionally complex process goes as smoothly as possible.

In February 2012, Computing surveyed 200 IT decision-makers in large organisations, about half of whom had migrated or were migrating to Exchange 2010.

We asked them specifically about those areas that had caused most problems, and the results can be seen in figure 1 below. The most notable thing about this list is that the vast majority of these issues can be dealt with in the planning stage.

fig1er2[Click image to enlarge]

The migration process

A typical migration process can be broken down into a few basic steps:

• Research, prepare and plan

• Install and configure Exchange 2010

• Migrate the data

• Install certificates

• Set up Outlook Web Access OWA

• Decommission legacy system

There will be variations, of course, depending on the legacy platform and the type of system you are migrating to – a hybrid Exchange/Office 365 setup is one possibility.

PreparationTo be forewarned is to be forearmed. Before the migration starts you need to be sure of your roadmap, your requirements in terms of personnel and infrastructure, a realistic timeline and a good idea of the challenges you are likely to face. It is very important that you formalise this process using some sort of project management tool.

The first stage is research. Before any migration you need make sure you have the following information to hand:

• User names

• Departments or business groups

• User office locations

• Out-of-office settings

• Staff responsible for maintaining group calendars

• Different Exchange 2003/2007 and Exchange 2010 sites

• Mailbox sizes

• AD groups and distribution lists

• User phone numbers (for SMS notifications)

As part of the information-gathering process you should prioritise a floor-walk to find out where the data resides, what format it is in, who is actively using it and which features and services are most valued.

Break users into groups of usage patterns, such as the time of day they log on, peak activity times and whether they use mobile access etc. Schedule the migration to have the minimum impact on each group. Reschedule migration if the timing is not convenient for the users.

Idealised design

Based on the knowledge gained during the information-gathering stage, the next step is to produce an idealised design. This should be how you imagine your Exchange deployment would look in a perfect world, if you could start from scratch. It should also map out what data you are going to move, which will allow you to plan hardware and networking requirements more effectively.

Once this design is in place you can start to build the migration process, to plan the steps you need to take to reach your idealised design.

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