Don't underestimate the amount of planning and testing it will take to successfully implement Exchange 2000, say IT professionals who survived the process and lived to tell about it.
"No amount of testing is going to discover or check all the issues," says Greg Scott, IS Manager at the Oregon State University College of Business, which uses Exchange 2000 as the platform to host its Web site.
The OSU College of Business was an early adopter of Exchange 2000, participating in Microsoft's joint development program from June 1999 through June 2000. The implementation involved a total of 5,200 users, with more than 5,000 users on one server.
At OSU, Scott, an IT veteran with 14 years experience, says the planning for Exchange 2000 went fairly smoothly. His biggest headaches came from the actual migration itself. What kept him up at night? First and foremost: Unscheduled down time in the middle of a term and not knowing what existing services would break as a result of the upgrade.
That's one reason Scott Schnoll, Product Support Manager for Vancouver, Wash.-based TNT Software, recommends Windows administrators develop a test environment before they begin the actual rollout.
"Exchange 2000 integrates deeply with Windows 2000, Active Directory and IIS, so there's a lot more to manage than there was with prior versions of Exchange," says Schnoll, the author of a soon-to-be released new book on Exchange entitled "Exchange 2000 Server: The Complete Reference."
"If your budget allows for this, build a lab environment and learn all you can by implementing disposable Active Directories and Exchange 2000 machines. Build them up, configure them, reconfigure them, break them and fix them. There really is no substitute for solid hands-on experience."
Schnoll, an MCSE, an MCT and a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional, also suggests that Windows administrators planning an Exchange implementation pay particularly close attention to the issue of security. He says this issue is often overlooked because Exchange 2000 leverages the Windows 2000 security subsystem.
"Exchange is only going to be as secure as you make it. And that means more than just locking down permissions, employing encryption or using delegation wizards. It means being ever vigilant by remaining abreast of the latest security vulnerabilities and continuously assessing risk."
IT departments gearing up for an Exchange rollout should also get as much Active Directory experience as humanly possible before they start down the implementation path, advises author Morten Strunge Nielsen, senior systems architect at Aston IT Group, another Exchange 2000 Joint Development Program (JDP) Partner.
"Study as much as possible," says Nielsen, whose new book "Inside Exchange 2000 Server," is due out this spring. "This product actually is very different from the earlier ones. The tight Active Directory integration seems poised to give administrators a lot of challenges."
FOR MORE INFORMATION:
Greg Scott and Morten Strunge Nielsen will share their experiences with Exchange 2000 on Tuesday, January 9 in a live expert Q&A entitled "View from the trenches: What you need to know about Win2K before you plan your Exchange 2000 migration." The Q&A is scheduled for 1 p.m. EST on searchWin2000.