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Friday, 27 March 2015

4 Important Tasks You Should Perform Before Migrating To Exchange Server 2013

Are you planning for a migration to Exchange 2013 from your legacy Exchange Server? Well, it is not as easy as it seems to be. There are some tasks which you should perform ahead of starting the installation of Exchange server 2013. In this article, I have covered four most significant tasks you need to perform before bringing Exchange 2013 into an Exchange 2010 environment.

Important Task 1: Install the right service packs

Before you initiate the migration process, you need to make sure that your present Exchange Servers are running the right service pack. All of your Exchange server 2010 should be running Service Pack 3 for Exchange. 

In case your Exchange Server Organization includes several Active Directory sites, then you should install Service pack to all of the Exchange Servers in the internet-facing site first. Once you are done with that, you can start applying the service pack to all inner sites. 

Once your Exchange Server 2010 systems have been installed with the right version of the service pack, you will be then required to download Cumulative Update 2 for Exchange Server 2013. This CU2 is mandatory for Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2010 to coexist. You must install this CU2 before installing Exchange server 2013.

Important Task 2: Prepare the Active Directory.

Next, you must update Active Directory prior to migrating to Exchange Server 2013. To carry out the same, you will need admin rights at the domain and forest level. Schema Admin permissions will also be needed for the account which you use.

It is technically feasible to miss out the Active Directory preparation as Exchange Server setup will identify whether AD is prepared and, believing you have the right permissions, will automatically prepare it. Though, a lot of companies prefer preparing the Active Directory before time. At times, this is done to lessen the amount of time it takes to set up the first Exchange 2013 server; it is done more frequently since the Exchange admin might not have the right permissions to alter the Active Directory schema. Microsoft has provided guidelines for updating Active Directory.

Important Task 3: Set up a temporary Exchange Server on VM.

I suggest installing a temporary virtual machine to use for your first Exchange Server 2013 installation. In majority of the cases, this should be done as a substitute for setting up Exchange Server 2013 in a virtual machine.

The majority of Exchange Server installations, apart from those in very small companies, divides the Mailbox Server role and the Client Access Server role. That means the Client Access Server acts as a barrier to stop user traffic from reaching mailbox servers directly, thus enhancing safety.

The trouble with this is that Microsoft made most significant architectural modifications to the Client Access Server role in Exchange 2013; the CAS is now lightweight and presents tremendously inadequate functionality. There are only 3 functions which an Exchange Server 2013 Client Access Server can perform: requests authentication, requests forwarding and proxy requests. The Client Access Server does not natively execute any data processing.

The cause why this is a setback because the Mailbox Server role manages all data processing in Exchange Server 2013, including the execution of remote PowerShell cmdlets. As a result, a single Exchange 2013 Client Access Server is totally incapable to perform something. It completely depends on a back-end Mailbox Server to execute fundamental functionalities. Though I have never attempted it myself, but many people say you can't even configure a single Exchange 2013 Client Access Server as there is no remote support for PowerShell.

This is why it is always recommended to install a temporary Exchange server 2013 on a virtual machine. The first Exchange server 2013 which you get into an Exchange 2010 organization should include both the Mailbox server roles and the Client Access Server. This is in fact not a wanted configuration for organizations that desire to divide these roles.  So, you will need to set up a temporary Exchange 2013 server consisting of both server roles. When the server is in place, you can get other Exchange 2013 servers online that are running only the Mailbox Server role or just running the Client Access Server role. Once you are done with that, you can simply take away Exchange Server from your temporary Virtual Machine.

Important Task 4: Get the essential certificates

The last task you need to perform prior to setting up Exchange Server 2013 is to determine your certificate needs and obtain any essential certificates.

Depending upon your namespace necessities and kind of certificates in use at present, it may be possible to use the same certificates again which you are having in place already.  But quite frequently new certificates are needed. This is particularly right for companies using some different certificates other than wildcard certificates or Subject Alternate Name certificates.

If your company is still having Exchange Server 2007 servers, most probably you will require new certificates due to legacy namespace needs. Many admins find it simpler to migrate Exchange 2007 servers to Exchange 2010 ahead of getting Exchange Server 2013 into their company, then trying to create coexistence among 3 different versions of MS Exchange Server.

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