This article is a follow up from the "Dedicated Support Engineers: What They Are and How They Can Help You" post.  In this post I want to highlight how a DSE can help your organisation with a migration to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 from an earlier version of Microsoft Exchange Server. Over the last year I have been involved in a number of projects to help Microsoft Premier Support customers move from Microsoft Exchange 2003/2007 to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. In this post I will discuss our deliverables that ensured the migration was a success.

What the Customers Were Trying To Do

The customers were all migrating to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 from either Microsoft Exchange 2003 or Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, and in all cases the main reason for undertaking the migration was to reduce operational costs in their messaging environment. For those organisations that were migrating from Microsoft Exchange 2003 the driving force was the opportunity to stabilise their messaging environment and consolidate the number of servers they were operating.  In all cases the increased flexibility and delivering a highly available messaging environment were always key drivers of the project's success.

How a DSE Helped Make This a Success

In all the projects I worked on I was engaged for a short period of time, between 10 and 20 days and focused solely on the migration project. As the projects are of such a short period it's very important to build an excellent relationship with the customer quickly and this starts with the initial scoping call.  The scoping call is critical to ensuring we understand the customers' objectives and identifying what we can do to ensure these objectives are met. The scoping call also ensures we have planned the best use of the time I spend onsite.

In most of the migration projects I have worked on the customer has already produced a migration plan, so generally I would engage in the following areas:

  1. Review Current Microsoft Exchange Environment - Understanding how the current messaging environment is configured is crucial to ensuring a smooth migration to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010. The first step in the project would be to perform a readiness review to make sure the current environment could be migrated to Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.
  2. Review Microsoft Exchange Migration Plan - By reviewing the proposed migration plan it is possible to highlight issues that may be faced. Using the field experience I have gained from helping other customers with their migration I am often able to offer alternative approaches that could mitigate potential problems in the migration.
  3. Review Build Documentation and Build Process - A large part of any migration project is the building of the new infrastructure. Critical to building the new infrastructure is build documentation and build processes. I often help customers ensure their build documentation is complete and where it's not I can offer guidance on what needs to be added. It's also possible to help the customers by providing guidance on the steps in the build process that could be automated, therefore saving them valuable time.
  4. Improving Staff Skills - Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 is a massive step up from Microsoft Exchange 2003 or Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. It's therefore vitally important that the support/operational staff have the skills required to successfully support the migration projected whilst in the pilot phase and once in production. I often deliver a number of chalk and talk sessions with support staff to focus on supporting the new features of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.
  5. Developing Operations and Maintenance Guides - As the migration project progresses it's important for customer to have clear guidance on what operational and maintenance tasks they will need to undertake in order to ensure the on-going health of their Exchange deployment. I work closely with my customers to make sure they have the necessary processes in place and work to automate as many of these as we can.
  6. Speedy resolution of problems that occurred - As with any new technology deployment we may run into a few problems. As part of my engagement I work closely with the customer to ensure any problems encountered are resolved as quickly as possible.
  7. Proactive Monitoring - Nearly all of the customer I have worked with have a proactive monitoring process in place. This could be via scripts that were written in house or using a product like Microsoft System Center Operations Manager. I work closely with the customer to ensure they have all the tools and skills in place to successfully monitor their new Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 infrastructure.
  8. Performance Monitoring - As with any system it important that customers understand the performance thresholds that a healthy system should meet. Therefore, I spend time with my customers explaining the thresholds for Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 and how they can monitor performance as the migration project progresses. This can be immensely useful in the production environment and provides a baseline of data used in capacity management and planning.

In summary I have helped many customers successfully deploy Microsoft Exchange Server 2010.  Any issues faced during the migration were quickly resolved. Staff involved in supporting the migration and production environments were given the skills to be successful in their roles. Finally, the new Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 deployments comply with Microsoft best practices and are fully supportable by Microsoft.

Well thanks for reading this far.  Hopefully this post has helped provide some reality on what a DSE can do in a Microsoft Exchange Server migration scenario.  If you have any questions just post a comment or talk to your Technical Account Manager.

Thanks

Mark Fugatt
Dedicated Support Engineer
Microsoft Premier Support