Tips for Migrating to Exchange 2003

Tips for your Exchange Server 2003 migration and also Traps to avoid

Here are my 20+ tips based on my experience with Exchange 2003 migration.

Planning Tips – Before you install Exchange Server 2003

  1. Beg, steal or borrow machines for a Test Exchange 2003 network.
  2. Dedicate the Windows 2003 Server to Exchange 2003.  Do not share the Exchange server with SQL or Domain Controller duties.
  3. Favour the Enterprise version of Exchange 2003 (avoid the Standard Edition if possible).
  4. Apply SP2 for Exchange 2003 and get the latest ADC connector for your migration.
  5. Try CSVDE or VBScript for bulk import of user accounts from a spreadsheet.
  6. Understand dependencies. Exchange 2003 looks to Windows 2003 for so many services, for example, SMTP needs IIS.
  7. Plead, threaten, exhort users to reduce Mailboxes size before migration.
  8. Allow the ExDeploy wizard to guide you through the setup.
  9. You cannot move server between Administrative Groups.  So plan your Exchange 2003 Administration Groups before you install your server.
  10. Run setup /forestprep, then create a new name for the ‘First Administrative Group’.  My point is that you cannot rename this Admin group later.

Exchange Monitor from SolarWindsGuy Recommends: The SolarWinds Exchange Monitor

Here is a free tool to monitor your Exchange Server.  Download and install the utility, then inspect your mail queues, monitor the Exchange server’s memory, confirm there is enough disk space and check the CPU utilization.

This is the real deal – there is no catch.  SolarWinds provides this fully-functioning freebie, as part of their commitment to supporting the network management community.

Free Download of SolarWinds Exchange Monitor

Before you deploy Exchange Server 2003, check these Features

  1. Check out Exchange 2003s Junk Mail filter.
  2. Explore the new features of OWA in Exchange 2003.
  3. Investigate the OMA (Mobile access).
  4. To enable the Advanced Search in Outlook, set up Index Server to Catalog the Private store.
  5. Evaluate the new Active / Passive clustering technology.
  6. Always Read the Release Notes.

Once you have Exchange 2003 up and running- More tips

  1. Inspect the System Policies within Exchange 2003 e.g. to set Mailbox limits
  2. Set a date to switch Exchange 2003 from Mixed mode to Native mode
  3. Put your database files (Priv*.edb .stm) on a separate disk from the transaction logs
  4. Check out the GLOBAL SETTINGS with Exchange System Manager
  5. Decide on whether or not to archive all email to one very secure Active Directory account.
  6. Run Performance Monitor to create a baseline before the users start logging on.
  7. Apply SP1 and take advantage of cross-site mailbox migration.
  8. OWA needs Basic Authentication in IIS.
  9. If you need extra Virtual Servers, create them with the Exchange System Manager (not IIS).
  10. Decide on how to display names in the Address, surname firstname, or firstname surname.  Do this BEFORE you create any users.

Guy Recommends:  SolarWinds’ Free Bulk Mailbox Import ToolFree Download Bulk Mailbox Import Tool

Import users from a spreadsheet, complete with their mailbox.  Just provide a list of the users with the fields in the top row, and save as .csv file.  Then launch this FREE utility, match your Exchange fields with AD’s attributes, click and import the users.  Optionally, you can provide the name of the OU where the new mailboxes will be born.

There are also two bonus tools in the free download, and all 3 have been approved by Microsoft:

  1. Bulk-import new users and mailboxes into Active Directory.
  2. Seek and zap unwanted user accounts.
  3. Find inactive computers.

Download your FREE bulk mailbox import tool.

Traps to avoid in Exchange 2003

  1. Always favour Exchange 2003 Enterprise Server (not the basic version with the 16 GB Store limit).  The Enterprise version also supports multiple storage groups with up to 20 stores.
  2. Exchange 2003 will not function on a server with SharePoint Portal Server installed.
  3. Do Not Use Exchange 2000 System Manager to Manage Exchange 2003.
  4. If you install Exchange System Manager on the same machine as Outlook, then it may not display properly.  (I have not noticed any problems myself, but Microsoft warn you not to do it.)
  5. If you have a multi domain forest, Run setup /domainprep in every domain.  Guy says: just do it!  Microsoft say do it because if you don’t, then you get 0800xxxx errors.
  6. Setup the Windows Server 2003 part of clustering before you start adding Exchange 2003 nodes.  E.g. create virtual server, virtual IP and shared disk.

Guy Recommends:  A Free Trial of the Network Performance Monitor (NPM)Review of Orion NPM v11.5 v11.5

SolarWinds’ Network Performance Monitor will help you discover what’s happening on your network.  This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.

What I like best is the way NPM suggests solutions to network problems.  Its also has the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines.  If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you try NPM now.

Download a free trial of SolarWinds’ Network Performance Monitor

Summary of Exchange tips for your migration

Think of planning like a general.  Migrating to Exchange Server 2003 has all the complexities of a military campaign to test before you embark on the real migration journey.  Take the time to read through my traps and thus avoid the minefields of a Microsoft Exchange migration.  If you have an Exchange tip for migration, then I would love to add it to my list.

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