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Migrate to Exchange 2016 with all the facts

When the time comes for a business to update its messaging platform, an Exchange 2016 migration can make sense. These four expert tips can usher you past pitfalls.

Even if your current Exchange setup works reliably, all Microsoft products drop off support eventually. When your messaging platform hits its expiration date, where will you go next?

Microsoft and security experts advise businesses on a legacy platform to shift to a supported platform. But it's no simple process to migrate to Exchange 2016, even if you decide to stay on premises. For example, if you have Exchange 2007, you'll need to perform a two-stage maneuver in the Exchange 2016 migration.

In years past, a company's only option for Exchange was to upgrade to the next version. But with Microsoft's Office 365 offering, where Exchange Online lifts the email server into the cloud, the decision is not that straightforward. Admins see the value in reduced maintenance, and access to security features such as Advanced Threat Protection. However, not everyone in IT welcomes the cadence of new feature arrivals and the reliance on PowerShell for some administrative tasks.

If you elect to make an Exchange 2016 migration, hardware choices will give the platform optimal performance. Also, be sure to test the platform thoroughly.

IT experts and consultants share these four tips on how to decide between on premises and cloud; what Exchange 2007 admins should do now that support has ended; the Microsoft requirements that can be ignored; and what to do after an installation is complete.

1. Weigh upgrade options: On premises or cloud?

There are more options than ever for a corporate email platform. A business that has used Exchange Server for years can move its messaging system to a low-cost -- or free -- service hosted by a provider, such as Google's Gmail. But, in addition to features and price, legal and compliance issues need to be included in Exchange admins' decision-making process -- which can make Microsoft's Office 365 a better fit. Office 365 ties a company's calendar, conferencing and collaboration systems into its email -- but shifting on-premises services to the cloud takes some effort.

Before migrating to Exchange 2016, test your knowledge of Exchange 2010 and 2013 features

How well do you know Safety Net, In-Place Hold and other Exchange features? Find out what belongs to which version with this 10-question quiz.

2. Abandon the Exchange 2007 ship before it sinks

Once Microsoft ends product support, a business that remains on an outdated platform risks becoming vulnerable to attack. If a company still uses Exchange 2007, the IT org must decide if it will move to a supported on-premises platform -- or go to Exchange Online. A switch from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2016 requires an intermediate step -- the administrator needs to move mailboxes to Exchange 2013 then migrate to Exchange 2016. Microsoft provides tools for an Office 365 migration -- and possibly financial help if you qualify.

3. When you can ignore Microsoft's advice on Exchange 2016

As with all its server products, Microsoft provides guidelines for Exchange 2016 operation. Some businesses have good reason to sidestep these recommendations and deploy Exchange another way. For example, Microsoft does not endorse running Exchange in a virtualized environment; however, many businesses have done this for years with little consequence. Still, admins should check that the hardware or hypervisor vendor does provide support before breaking with Microsoft's safer model.

Also verify that there's adequate storage to run Exchange 2016 -- Microsoft says a 30 GB system partition will work, but admins should have at least 100 GB. Otherwise, the databases will need to move to a separate disk.

4. Trust, but verify after Exchange 2016 installation

After a business selects an Exchange 2016 migration, executes the deployment and moves over its mailboxes, everything is ready to go, right? Not so fast. Go through a post-install checklist and confirm the configuration will work as expected. Open the Exchange Management Shell and follow a couple quick steps to verify the install was clean. Check that the organization's domain name is on the accepted domain list, and apply OS and Exchange Server patches before anything starts up in production.

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