This article first appeared in the Spring 2016 issue of OnWindows.
For any organisation, a successful migration to Exchange Server 2016 will improve user experience, save costs and help promote employee productivity. Yet, in order to successfully migrate from an existing platform, companies must first complete a thorough, careful pre-migration planning process.
Whether you’re ready to migrate now, or hoping to put it off as long as possible, there are a number of ways that you can begin the journey toward migration readiness today.
In order to fully understand your organisation and how it works, it’s critical to migrate only the most relevant data. Start by creating a complete inventory of your existing environment. This should include evaluating categories like data, applications, hardware, configuration settings and bandwidth limits. Be sure to take note of existing activity and data within AD, Exchange, SharePoint, OneDrive for Business public folders, PSTs, IBM Notes, Google Apps, local file shares and enterprise social networks Ensuring only relevant data is migrated and that it is migrated in the correct order is vital for minimising the impact to your organisation during a migration.
Planning for continuous security and compliance is also imperative. Not only do you need to ensure the integrity and security of your data during the migration, but you also want to be able to quickly restore Exchange should a problem occur. This means developing a plan that rests on four key pillars: assessment, auditing, recovery and ongoing management. Assess your existing Exchange environment to identify access rights and permissions, configurations and policy settings that should be copied to the new environment and sensitive data that should not be carried over. Evaluate your malware protection and other auditing tools by performing a small test migration with a subset of your data. Implement a recovery solution with Windows-centric features, if you don’t have one already. Finally, automate some of the ongoing security maintenance processes, such as the provisioning and de-provisioning of users, monitoring your environment for critical changes and performing backups.
It’s key to ensure in advance that both your move-forward and back-out plans work. For example, if you’re creating scripts to remove old data no longer being used by employees, you’ll want the ability to quickly restore data from backup without any server downtime in the event that a script accidentally removes the wrong data. Also, it’s smart to have tools in place to help you find data whether it’s on the old environment or new, such as an email discovery console that can search both environments at once. Be sure you have tools, procedures and appropriate SLAs in place for mailbox recovery. Once these tools are in place, test them to make sure they’ll function properly during your Exchange 2016 migration.
Finally, plan to make the most of Exchange 2016.This is when you decide what your implementation model will be: on-premises or hybrid? Do you want to include any additional solutions, like SharePoint or Yammer? Determine how you will conduct the migration. Will Microsoft’s native e-mail migration tools work for you, or should you seek out a third-party solution? And should you hire a migration partner? Doing so can help you avoid pitfalls and surprises and let you focus your energy on the core business strategy rather than the migration process. Set a realistic timeline and budget and create a checklist for your team or an RFP for third-party migration partners.
Start working through these pre-migration steps now as it will ensure a smooth migration project. Remember, a migration that suits the individual needs of your business with no surprises and no downtime is the ultimate goal, and it’s absolutely possible with the right pre-migration processes in place.
Tom Crane is director of product management, Dell Systems and Information Management
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