Congratulations, you are now in charge of IT for the division!! - Paul's Exchange Server 2007 Migration Story

Congratulations, you are now in charge of IT for the division!! - Paul's Exchange Server 2007 Migration Story

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After one of our events last year I got an email from Paul Gartner in Montreal.  During the event I indicated that if you or anyone you knew was looking to deploy some of our newer technologies I may be able to get some additional resources to help through the IT Pro Momentum Program and to send me an email at damirb@microsoft.com or through the Email link at the top of the blog.  Paul shared with me that he was about to undertake a project to migrate his organization to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 and was also looking at Windows Server 2008. 

The Exchange 2007 migration is completed and Paul has agreed to share his journey.  Here it is in his own words.

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Last year, due to corporate restructuring and downsizing, we inherited our division’s IT role. This is in addition to the IT support and installations we perform for our clients. The transition was rough, basically we were give the servers and the passwords, no documentation on the network, no training on the specialized applications, and very little knowledge transfer. The network was in even worse shape! We spent the better part of 6 months figuring out how things were setup and worked together and making it work better. Proper backups, WSUS, firewalls and a managed anti-virus were all taken care of and updated.

The POP3 mail system that we were using was slow, unreliable, poorly supported, and had an expensive annual licensing for a mediocre anti-spam filter. With the renewal coming due, we convinced our management that this would be a great moment to migrate to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. We got the OK and I started to hit the web to figure out how to deal with some of particularity of our environment. I already had a few Exchange 2007 installs under my belt, but nothing as complex or as grandeur as our division’s, so the basic deployment and migration was not that big of a task, and a quick lab with virtual server showed that we are on the right track for some of the more complex issues.

Our environment is different then what you might typically find in the SMBs that we normally work with. Our incoming email is handled by our head office in New York (they even outsource the edge connection) and forwarded to us on a secondary email address. There are some good, easy to follow, articles on TechNet that helped us configure this. We are not part of their Active Directory, so any changes to the email address had to handle by the corporate helpdesk who would issue a ticket to the correct IT group, how would in turn notify the outsourced edge provider. Our division is also multi-site, so VPNs were required. And we have lots of people working from outside the office. Outlook Anywhere solved those problems. And like everybody, including my mother, email is mission critical. No errors, no delays, no downtime. Just for added pressure.

Our network consisted of a Windows 2000 level domain, so deployment started with a new Windows Server 2008 domain controller, followed by a Windows Server 2008 & Exchange Server 2007 SP1 machine. Alpha testing revealed a few teething problems, mostly related to the differences in IIS with Outlook Web Access. It was harder to find forum posts about issues that we were experiencing. An SSL certificate was obtained and the beta testing lasted 2 weeks. Since we also decided to standardize our office platform to Microsoft Office 2007, we choose some of our stronger knowledge workers for the pilot. This was key that they figure out the new interface in the office applications, so that they can assist the general users with the migration learning curve, as there was no budget for end user training. General deployment was slow moving due to the fact that we are multi-site and we had to do multiple follow ups with our corporate helpdesk to get them to correct issues. To maintain proper mail flow, we forwarded emails from the old server to the new Exchange 2007 server. We preformed several test to ensure that email was not being routed via the old mail server. When we unplugged the old server, and low and behold, the head office AD still had a few emails addressed to the old server, sigh....

I’m a PC, and I make sure your email works!

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  • Thumbs up!  You have to love the AntiSpam that Exchange 2007 has built in already too.   IMF was good but the Built i spam in Exchange 2007 (even without Forefront added) I find is on par with commercial products offered by other AntiSpam providers (both offsite and on)