How to Prepare for a Microsoft Exchange Migration


IT solution providers are tasked with helping customers migrate to Exchange 2010. Customers have many questions and not much money to spend. Here, Orlando Scott-Cowley, technologist at Mimecast, explains how solution providers can be a trusted resource for Exchange migrations.—Jennifer Bosavage

Most migrations follow a similar pattern; there is a starting point, a date, a time, a compelling event or even a search for somewhere better. Those who take the lead are usually the bold, the knowledgeable, the impatient or the keen; the leaders of their pack who want to get where they are going and inspire others to follow.

The migration is in a sense a way of making life better, and essential to survival of the species. So it makes perfect sense that in the world of information technology and information systems that we borrow the phrase migration as most IT departments are migrating to a better place that offers more compelling benefits to the business.

The big buzz among IT solution providers right now is about Microsoft Exchange migrations, with more and more companies asking a flood of questions including:
• What’s the migration path from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2010?
• Should I be thinking about Office 365 instead of Exchange 2010 on premise?
• I’ve got so much data in my Exchange stores – I’m terrified of losing it during the upgrade. Help!

While solutions providers along with IT resellers are fielding such questions daily, the introduction of Exchange 2010 along with Office 365 has led to increased interest in not only migrating off legacy versions of these platforms, but also in completing this migration quickly and in a way that doesn’t significantly impact the budget or interrupt the business.

When it comes to migrations, customers are usually worried about two major risks:
• The amount of data they might have to migrate.
• The nightmare scenario of something going wrong during the migration process, leaving users without email service.
Dealing with these risks requires IT managers first identify exactly how much of a risk they really are. Risks such as email downtime, data loss, interruption to policy enforcement and cost escalation are never acceptable. That said, it’s critical to consider how the business’ wider email management systems might be affected by an Exchange Migration. For example, no one wants to be the one to find out the bespoke finance application the customer had written several years ago does not work with Exchange 2010. Assessing these risks requires a holistic view of the entire environment – every touch point for email must be considered; then and only then can businesses consider how to mitigate risk.

Often, a business is only prepared to migrate a limited amount of user mailbox data to their new Exchange platform, which makes perfect sense as it’s a plan that breaks the constant upgrade cycle. Proverbially, two birds could be handled with one migration if organizations move the legacy data to an offsite service or cloud platform that also offers email continuity. In doing this, businesses deal with the ongoing big-data issues now, while also providing an enhanced service-level agreement (SLA) for uptime during the migration.

By migrating data to an offsite service or cloud platform, in the event something does go wrong, both the email service and legacy data would remain accessible for the users, even if the new (or old) Exchange platform is producing a few “Could not start the Microsoft Exchange Event Service” errors. Customers gain the flexibility to fail back at a later date, which helps future proof their next move as well as makes the core email server end point much more flexible and dynamic.

If the IT department has already dealt with the data loss and continuity problem as described above, the business can trust that its users will have uninterrupted email availability, their policies will be continuously applied and email data will be secure historically, in real time and into the future.

Migration in the animal kingdom is a journey that has its risks; large numbers of animals are lost through accidents, exhaustion and disease, never making it to their destinations. While those risks are not often encountered within IT departments, identifying the risk and dealing with them is vital; thinking ahead and planning for the worst will ensure seamless businesses continuity should there be a problem. Getting email systems, data and users to somewhere warmer, more capable and rewarding with the least possible pain and complexity can be an easy, and potentially enjoyable, process.
Good luck!