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Making a Successful -- and Safe -- Migration to Exchange Server 2007

Tapping Exchange for its best features may mean partnering with the right vendor to get you the full 64-bit experience.

As companies move to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007, they face a plethora of powerful new features and capabilities, not the least of which are Unified Messaging and a powerful 64-bit computing environment.

But what many don't realize is that moving up to Exchange Server 2007 involves more than a simple software upgrade. For starters, the new 64-bit server and the 64-bit version of Windows Server need to be factored into the equation. In addition, organizations typically want to upgrade quickly while still having access to information from previous versions of Exchange Server. For compliance purposes, they also need access to historical e-mail messages, contacts and calendar items in Microsoft Office, along with the ability to quickly recover a part of Exchange or an entire Exchange server.

For all those reasons, migrating to Exchange Server 2007 requires IT specialists who not only know how the software works, but understand how to rapidly integrate it into an e-mail and information-sharing infrastructure. Partnering with the right vendor -- one experienced in migration, the Windows Server environment and Exchange Server 2007 -- will help ensure that the end result is a stable, secure and manageable e-mail platform.

Our recommended approach is implementing software that offers:

  • "Release independence" across multiple versions of Microsoft Exchange, Windows Server, SharePoint and other applications
  • High-performance, granular data management
  • Active archiving
  • Content management for electronic data discovery and legal and regulatory compliance and protection

By implementing release-independent (and chip-independent) data-management software, customers can quickly realize the benefits of Microsoft's next-generation applications and Unified Messaging solution. They'll be able to restore individual messages, contacts, documents and other items from previous versions of Exchange and SharePoint directly into the new versions without having to use an old "stand-by" server.

That capability can come in handy. Imagine that your customer must conduct internal legal discovery regarding a specific situation over a three-year period. That search request spans Exchange 2000, 2003, 2007 and two versions of SharePoint. If you have release-independent software, you can easily search across various versions. The search result should simply present the data and note the time that it was introduced into the system.

Or imagine that an executive suddenly needs e-mail and contact information from four years ago. The restored and recalled data can go directly into the Exchange Server 2007 mailbox, regardless of the software version or the size of the chip that originally hosted the information.

Beware of Hidden Costs
Some vendors can streamline migrations; others see upgrades as handy opportunities to prey on customers. Watch out for vendors that charge extra to simply support new versions of Exchange, SharePoint or Windows. Those willing to assist and accelerate the process will allow licenses for the servers to remain intact through an upgrade. Also, vendors working closely with Microsoft will want to see customers upgrade to take advantage of new features and APIs that become available with the new release.

Ultimately, upgrading is a natural evolution and, in the case of Exchange Server 2007, one that requires more preparation due to the necessary hardware requirements. Retrieving information from before the upgrade is often just as important as the upgrade itself. In the likely event that somebody needs to access older information, the last thing an administrator wants to do in Exchange is have a stand-by non-production server and network on hand.

So here's the question partners should be ready to answer before helping customers move up: "If we have to get a piece of information back from before this upgrade, how will we do it and how long will it take?" The answers should be "easily" and "in a few minutes." Meanwhile, administrators should be architecting better ways to take advantage of new upgrade features.

About the Author

Randy De Meno is chief evangelist for Microsoft for CommVault Systems Inc., which specializes in data-protection and management solutions. CommVault, a Gold Certified Partner, is based in Oceanport, N.J. For information, visit www.commvault.com.