Four Channel Considerations for Microsoft Exchange Migrations

By Ericka Chickowski  |  Posted 2011-08-01

No matter what the platform, migration is almost always a bear for both customers and channel partners alike. As the channel continues to help customers migrate to Microsoft Exchange 2010 from older versions, many have found that Microsoft has done a decent job at providing seamless transition through its Migration Wizard tool--with one big caveat. Organizations must have servers updated to Exchange 2007 with the latest service pack to make the jump using Microsoft-provided tools. As most channel vets know, things are never so simple in the messy world of IT.

"The migration capabilities that you get with Microsoft Exchange 2010 are pretty good if you can deal with the prerequisites," says Jim Reinert, vice president of product development for Kroll Ontrack, who says that partners need to carefully consider their options when customers can't or won't update old servers.

Reinert offers four considerations partners should think about when dealing with migrations more complicated than the cookie-cutter jobs that the Microsoft Wizard can handle.

Microsoft Doesn't Have The Last Word On Migration Tools

"There are more solutions out there than Microsoft provides you," Reinert says. "Especially when you're dealing with legacy mail or legacy servers, the use of third party tools becomes much more important and more valuable."

He suggests that partners look for tools that enable them to migrate old content to an Exchange 2010 server without having the old server and new server online concurrently, powered by a back end that can read Exchange databases without the assistance of the Exchange server.

Not All Migration Tools Are Created Equally

The number of third-party tools out there can overwhelm your customers. Channel partners can add to the value proposition by stepping in to do the homework on these tools ahead of time.  Reinert says that partners really need to do their due diligence with hands on testing before trusting a migration tool to handle customers' precious Exchange data.

"There are quite a few details to performing a migration successfully, so by evaluating the tool before purchasing it or having some kind of trial period with the tool, is going to be essential to operate it in a test environment to get a feeling for what its true capabilities are is going to be a very important step," he says.

Plan To Support Legacy Backups

For many customers, it isn't just the current Exchange data that has them concerned. They also hope to get years of archived data transferred over as well. Channel partners need to be prepped with a way to handle potentially more than one version of data, and of backup software used to archive it.

"If an Exchange administrator is tasked with this kind of a project - going back into the legacy backups - one of the first challenges that is presented is that the backup system that may have been used to make those backups might not even be around anymore. Or the version of software might not be around anymore," Reinert says, explaining that partners should look for a tool that can read old backups without the assistance of the software that made them.

Futureproof Exchange Systems

Channel partners, particularly service providers, need to be careful that they're not only focused on the immediate outcome of the migration. Reinert says they shouldn't just be thinking of  how the migration will go over, but also about how they plan to manage the new Exchange servers long-term.

This means finding tools that will help them with things like granular restore requests that will come to administrators on a daily basis.

"These are complex matters when you're dealing with migrations because not only are you managing the old data, moving it to a new platform, you have a new platform," he says. "Being able to work with your clients and advise them on architecture on back up best practice in addition to best practice is going to be really helpful."