Exchange Server 2013 preparation checklist

Whether you're planning on early adoption or waiting for Exchange 2013 SP1, here are several ways to prepare your current environment before migrating.

If you plan to migrate to Exchange 2013, there are certain tasks you can do now to prepare for the upgrade, no matter which version of Exchange Server you're currently running. Here's a checklist of my top ten suggestions to help administrators prepare for Exchange Server 2013.

Start phasing out old versions of Exchange Server

Now is a good time to start phasing out legacy versions of Exchange Server. Remember, Exchange 2003 and earlier versions cannot coexist with Exchange 2013, so you must migrate to Exchange 2007 or Exchange Server 2010 first. Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 will be able to coexist with Exchange Server 2013 when their respective service pack updates drop, which should happen at around the same time Exchange 2013 becomes generally available.

Clean up Active Directory

Take the time to comb through your Active Directory and remove references to Exchange servers, domains and other Active Directory objects that are no longer valid. These objects can complicate an Exchange 2013 migration or even cause it to fail.

For example, I once had an Exchange server that I thought was completely removed from my network. However, in my haste I left behind several Exchange-related objects in Active Directory. I then had to remove these objects manually with ADSIEdit, which is always a tricky situation. Remember, if you need to remove objects from Active Directory with ADSIEdit, exercise caution and make a backup first.

Make sure existing Exchange databases are healthy

During your migration, you'll be moving mailboxes and public folders from your existing Exchange Server databases to Exchange 2013 databases. The migration process can go horribly wrong if there is any corruption within the existing Exchange databases. Take some time and use the ESEUTIL utility to verify the health of your databases. Again, make a proper backup before attempting any sort of database repair.

Perform a license audit

Assuming that Microsoft licenses Exchange 2013  the same way it licenses Exchange 2010, you will need a server license for each server running Exchange 2013. You will also need a client access license for each user or device that will access mailboxes on the Exchange 2013 servers. Perform a license count now; it will help you budget for necessary licenses when the time comes.

Learn PowerShell

One of the best ways an administrator can prepare for Exchange Server 2013 is to learn PowerShell. And if you think you're a PowerShell expert, brush up on it.

Many administrative functions in Exchange 2010 can only be performed through PowerShell. This trend continues in Exchange 2013. Additionally, Microsoft created 187 new PowerShell cmdlets that are specific to Exchange 2013.

Plan for Exchange 2013 server roles

Exchange Server 2007 and Exchange 2010 both use five server roles: the mailbox server, client access server (CAS), hub transport server, unified messaging server and edge transport server. In Exchange 2013, Microsoft has condensed the functionality of those five roles into two roles: the CAS and the mailbox server.

It's important to evaluate your current architecture and determine how this change will impact the migration process. Doing so will help you to begin developing your migration path.

Evaluate Exchange 2013's impact on your hardware

I've noticed in my own labs that the Exchange 2013 Preview release places considerably more strain on hardware resources than a comparable Exchange 2010 deployment. Virtual server configurations that ran Exchange 2010 with ease have become painfully slow with Exchange 2013. Find out how Exchange 2013 will impact your current hardware and determine if upgrades are necessary.

Decide what to do with your public folders

For the last five or six years, Microsoft has told Exchange administrators to migrate public folder content to SharePoint. In Exchange 2013, however, Microsoft has introduced modern public folders. Exchange admins must consider how to handle public folder data going forward.

Moving public folder data to SharePoint is still possible, but modern public folders are a great option as well. Of course you still have the option to store public folder data in legacy public folders.

Start developing an Exchange 2013 migration roadmap

Exchange 2013 is vastly different from previous versions of Exchange, and there are various aspects to consider before performing your actual migration. It's critical to understand how Exchange 2013 will impact your organization.

Evaluate your current Exchange Server setup and then run down as many of the ins and outs of Exchange 2013 as possible. At this point you can confidently begin developing a roadmap for a smooth transition to Exchange 2013.

Set aside a portion of your IT budget for training

Don't underestimate the importance of Exchange 2013 training. Migrating from Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010 to Exchange 2013 is a big decision. With the money you'll be investing, it's imperative to leave room in the budget to train your IT staff on how to properly manage Exchange 2013.

About the author:
Brien Posey is an eight-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as a chief information officer at a national chain of hospitals and health care facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

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