Exchange Server Migration
Exchange Server Migration
Microsoft have decided to stop selling the Small Business Server (SBS) so at some stage companies that are running that operating system will have to do an Exchange server Migration.
This article is primarily aimed at the owners of businesses or managers responsible for the running of a Small Business Server or a small network and are looking for the next step. Here is a page by Microsoft on the subject, click this link here.
This will bring a lot of companies out of their comfort zones as they have been used to upgrading from one version of Small Business Server to another. Now we all have to think in a different way and find a solution to this issue.
If that is you, then you will need to make some decisions about how you are going proceed. We as an IT support company had just started to perfect our Small Business Server migrations, we are now going to use those skills to execute the next style of server migrations detailed in this article.
The very popular Small Business Server included Microsoft Exchange mail server. They supplied it a very low price and lots of small business bought it. SBS2011 included Exchange Server 2010, SBS2008 included Exchange server 2007 and each migration needed different techniques to ensure that the customers staff were not interrupted.
So now they have pulled the plug on the small business server what is the alternative for users buying a replacement server?
Why Use Exchange Server – do you need to migrate it at all?
Exchange is brilliant because it handles email perfectly. It’s not just email though, it’s calendering, tasks and contacts too. An important feature of the Exchange Server is that all of the email data is on the server and is accessible from anywhere to multiple devices. You can easily get your email on your smart phone, tablet or laptop.
Exchange Server is an industry standard and with it you create a platform for other software packages to work. Packages like accounts and CRM use Exchange Server.
From a users perspective you use Outlook to manage the data and the integration with Exchange – you don’t actually see the Exchange server itself. Outlook and Exchange were designed for each other.
When installing a new Exchange server ready to migrate your data, we always set-up the auto-discovery feature. That means that when you want to set-up a new client you just state the email address and the password and auto-discover tells Outlook all of the server settings to set. I would go as far as to say that standard user could do it.
One feature that one of my customers loved was the way it handled “out of office notifications”. When an email was being sent internally Outlook actually tells you with a discreet warning that the user is “out of office” before the email is sent. Out of office is a much requested feature.
When for the first time your run Outlook it goes about the business of downloading your entire mail box. You need to know this if you have a large mailbox, you may need to get on with something else because this could take a long time. If the Exchange server is in the cloud it is going to be downloading at Internet speeds along with all the other data that is being downloaded. You will have worked out from that then that the data whilst held on your computer is just s synchronised version of the server mailbox. That means that if you change machine or you loose your machine due to a hardware failure all you need to do is to set-up your email and you get everything back – just as it was.
OK so Exchange is good, very good – what do we do without Small Business Server?
You could buy Server 2012 and Exchange 2016, buy all the client licenses and install that. That means you have an “on-premise exchange server”. It will cost a lot more than small business server by a mile but you would be getting all the full functionality of exchange. That would be the right decision to get the functionality that you need but it is a quite expensive way.
The other way is to migrate your exchange server to the cloud. There are benefits to this and there are downsides as well. This means that you access an Exchange server hosted for you which you access via the Internet. The hosting company has to supply the hardware, maintain the hardware, give you access to the software and allow you to configure it. They bear all of the costs of those things and pass those costs on to you in a monthly fee. That fee has to reflect all of their costs so over the years can really add up.
The more mailboxes you have the more viable that option becomes, the tipping point is around 25 users.
As with all thing cloud it’s all hung together with your internet connection. It’s probably a good idea to repeat that and put it in a title.
As with all thing cloud it’s all hung together with your internet connection.
If you have your exchange server in the cloud then when you email the person in your company in the same room then the email has to travel to the cloud and back. If you attach a large file and copy that to several people the overhead can be big. If your Internet goes down then even internal email stops – this can be a real pain.
If you have standard broadband (i.e. not fibre to the cabinet [FTTC] infinity style broadband then you are going to have a slow connection. All of your colleagues are going to be accessing the cloud via the same slow connection. If you have a leased line of say 10MB up and down then it’s still going to be (up to) 7-8 times slower than Infinity style broadband.
Slow broadband normally results in Outlook hanging or emails not synchronising that well. It should sort its self out eventually but it’s a pain to use. I should stress at this point if you can get a better Internet connection then your email is going to be really slow and you will get frustrated. If there are only a few users then no worries. If you have lots of users then you get a lot of calls to IT Support.
I’m not really advocating whether you should or should not move to the cloud because you have to examine the connections speeds, the amount of users, your in house expertise and the amount of external users along with other factors to make a decision on it.
If you have infinity style broadband then exchange server migration is certainly doable. Once you are over that hurdle then you need to evaluate the costs. What you don’t have to worry about is the cost of the server, the exchange server , installing the server, monitoring the server and maintaining it. These costs can be significant. A mailbox is going to cost you anything between around £6 per month per user depending on the services that you get. You pay this forever. If you don’t pay your bill, your email gets cut off.
Doing the Math to work out which is the most cost effective and most beneficial, the on premise wins out in the log term in terms of cost but that presupposes that your maintenance costs are reasonable. It’s attractive to pay monthly and a lot of people are going to go for that option.
Exchange server migration to the cloud or Exchange server migration to another exchange server.
Now comes the fun part – migrating your data.
I have heard a lot of stories about the nightmares that companies have faced when they have migrated their data. This project maybe small but the implications could be bad.
Before a migration takes place we as IT support companies have to be aware of the amount of data we are going to upload. Just because we know that the customer has a reasonable upload speed that does mean that the exchange data server will accept it at that speed.
I know a lot of IT support companies that have got caught out because have been used to transferring the data to the new Exchange server with their internal network. Network speeds can be up 1000MB/s whereas Internet connection speeds can be 1-4MB/s. Slightly worse than that some hosting companies restrcit the bandwidth to just 0.5MB/s. When you have mailboxes of 50GB of data and you have 30 or so mailboxes to migrate aover the weekend and you have a restricted bandwidth you have what you could call IT support meltdown nightmare.
I had witnessed a company take a week to migrate the email data!
There are methods, tools and technique that can cope even the most difficult of situations but they require good planning. Your Exchange server migration certainly requires good planning.
When we do a migration we will use some server migration tools and we will deal with a hosting company that will not restrict the bandwidth for uploading. We always test how long it is going to take and we generally will “chunk down” the migration into manageable amounts of data.
Most customers are intolerant to downtime with their email and the planning addresses this important issue. We have been doing migrations for some time and they are the most enjoyable part of our work.
It shouldn’t be a big drama migrating email and data to an exchange host in the cloud but you do have to have a good deal of experience to make sure that the migration goes smoothly – but isn’t that the same with most projects?
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