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Microsoft drops free migration tool for Exchange 2010

IBM Lotus Notes or POP/IMAP users who want to migrate to Exchange Server 2010 will have to pay for third-party tools.

IT shops moving off of IBM Domino servers or generic POP/IMAP sources and onto Exchange Server 2010 won't be able to do it with free tools from Microsoft. The company isn't offering the Transporter Suite for the new Exchange, leaving little choice but to buy expensive third party software.

The Microsoft Transporter Suite launched in 2007 as a free tool for migrating content from Lotus Domino servers or generic POP/IMAP servers to Exchange and Active Directory. Microsoft recently said it will not support the tools for Exchange Server 2010 because there are better third-party options.

The company said it would stop investing in the tools because most customers were already using more full featured tools from Microsoft partners, versus the free Exchange migration tool offered by Microsoft. "Based on this feedback, we decided not to continue investing in these basic, free tools, and instead switched our focus to helping customers understand the end-to-end solutions that are available through our partners," according to the company.

But those solutions aren't free, which means a migration off of Lotus Notes or some other mail service onto Exchange Server 2010 will cost users.

Michael Crowley, an enterprise/ messaging administrator with Germantown, Md.-based Microsoft product integrator Planet Technologies, Inc., said Microsoft's decision to stop offering its free tools is "a bigger deal than people realize."

"The free Microsoft tools were annoying and troublesome, but the other tools are really expensive -- around 10 bucks per user," Crowley said.

But, Crowley said Microsoft's decision to abandon their freebie offering makes sense, because the Transporter Suite was inadequate. "It's a smart move for Microsoft, because they were getting a lot of flak for having such basic, barely functional tools," he said.

Crowley said Lotus moves are usually done for cost reasons -- not because of any issues with IBM's mail server products, and POP3/IMAP4 to Exchange migrations are far more common.

"Generally the Domino administrators are happy with their software and sometimes even resist the migration," Crowley said.

Microsoft claims between July 2008 and June 2009, more than 4.7 million people began switching to Exchange and SharePoint from Lotus Notes. Meanwhile, IBM reported early this year the number of global Lotus Notes licenses were on the rise.

Rob Sanfilippo, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft, a Kirkland, Wash.-based consulting firm, said every time a new version of Exchange hits, migrations increase. That said, if Microsoft isn't delivering a free tool for migrations anymore, it is "probably because they weren't winning very many customers by offering it."

By contrast, Google is trying to grab market share, so offering a free tool makes sense for them, Sanfilippo said. The free Google Apps Migration tools migrate users from Domino to Google Apps, and Google Apps Sync for Microsoft Outlook is available for IT shops migrating off of Microsoft Exchange Server and onto Google servers.

Migration software vendors are working on products that work with Exchange Server 2010, including Quest Software. Binary Tree's Exchange 2010 migration product is due out in December, and Dell recently disclosed tools and consulting services for Exchange 2010 migrations as well, while companies that host Exchange, such as New York-based Intermedia, use in-house migration tools.

Microsoft's website has a partner solution finder tool for Exchange Server 2010 migrations, and IT pros doing migrations themselves can find ISV's offering tools for migrating email on Microsoft's website.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Bridget Botelho, News Writer

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