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What Microsoft Exchange 2003, NSYNC and the Atkins Diet Have in Common

Microsoft | Posted on June 20, 2013 by Tim Mckellips

The April 8, 2014 end-of-extended-support date is approaching for Exchange 2003. How is your organization preparing?

As the saying goes, all good things must come to an end. And while there may be debate over what “good” actually means, Exchange 2003 is going the way of your favorite boy band or fad diet.

What Exchange 2003 going EOL really means
This is not a case of migrating/upgrading simply for the sake of having the “newest thing”. End of extended support means that Microsoft will no longer provide updates, patches, and customer support.

As you know, leaving your mission-critical production servers without support is a risk not worth taking. Lack of formal support opens your infrastructure up to a litany of vulnerabilities, including the fact you won’t be able to consult with Microsoft regarding any specific Exchange issues.

Exchange 2003 also requires an initial migration to Exchange 2007 or 2010 before upgrading to Exchange 2013. This means postponing migration will complicate matters down the road, when your organization finally chooses to upgrade to a more modern version of Exchange.

Take heart! an Exchange migration is not nearly as complex as it was in the days of acid wash and mullets. Those of you who earned your early battle scars moving Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000 know what I am talking about. Here are the most important things you should know:

  1. Plan the migration with a view towards feature parity- make sure you replicate the features you are using in Exchange today in the new platform.
  2. Determine which features of the new platform you want to use. You may determine you want to leverage some integration points of SharePoint 2013 and Exchange 2013 and use Site Mailboxes. This very likely will allow you to finally rid yourself of public folders!
  3. Consider cleaning up! When you buy a new house, you don’t bring your garbage with you. You leave it behind or bring it somewhere. Consider doing the same thing here- either dump or archive your data. As we tend to be pack rats, getting rid of old email may be a great step to take. WARNING: Potential Career Limiting decision ahead! Consult with your legal department and user community first. Either of these groups may freak out at the notion. That being the case, consider archiving the data.

Archiving data will serve to make your migration surface (the amount of data you have to migrate) much smaller and hence, easier to manage. Messing around with data storage and intra-Exchange archiving in 2013 afterward is always an option, but a good opportunity exists to do it now.

Companies like Mimecast have powerful solutions that minimize that migration surface for you. When we think of archiving we think of it as just a long-term retention plan, but we think of it another way- by archiving on the front-side of a migration, you execute the move in a much easier way, with less corruption and hiccups. This frees us up to innovate on the new Exchange features and integration opportunities and focus less on how to deal with bulk email. Mimecast has a nice video about their solution to this problem, and their argument is fantastically simple and elegant.

The most direct path is not a straight line
One more thing- as we alluded earlier in this post, if you are migrating to Exchange 2013, there is no direct migration path anymore.

Exchange 2003 is now 4 versions old. In Microsoft terms, that means it is x-3, with x being the current platform. It has been a long standing expectation that backward compatibility begins to wane after x-2. In order to migrate to Exchange 2013 you would need to “swing” from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007/2010, and THEN migrate the data to Exchange 2013.

While this is all very doable, if you host huge, unruly mailboxes, this is a real pain. With the Mimecast approach, you perform this “swing” migration method with much more simplicity, because you’ll have moved all the old emails to the archive solution earlier. Moving crisp, clean, and minimally sized mailboxes to your new Exchange environment makes for a much more brisk migration – all the while freeing up valuable storage space along the way.

Regardless of how you choose to migrate, a solution exists. With proper planning and guidance, you will do it comfortably and most importantly, remain sane. For many clients, Softchoice has played a key role in making this a smooth transition. We are armed with the expertise and know-how to move the process along with the least pain and headaches possible.

So, even if you’re embarrassed about your outdated version of Exchange (or your N’Sync boxed set) – we won’t judge! Our team of experts will work with you to determine the best course of action. When you’re ready to start, contact your Softchoice Account Manager. You can also contact our team directly by emailing microsoft@softchoice.com.

What Exchange 2013 questions do you have? Let us know in the comments below – our team is standing by to answer as quick as we can.

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