Get IT Done: Planning your Lotus Domino/Notes to Exchange 2000 migration

Tips on what to consider when migrating from Lotus Domino/Notes to Microsoft Exchange 2000

Two of the most popular groupware applications on the market today are Microsoft Exchange and Lotus Domino/Notes. These two packages battle for market share as companies decide what product to base their groupware strategy around. Eventually, the time may come when you need to migrate an existing Domino/Notes installation to Exchange 2000. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll show you how to prepare properly and how to make the move.
When Lotus first shipped Domino/Notes, it called both the client and server versions of its groupware package Lotus Notes. Currently, Domino refers to the server package, which actually maintains the mail databases and other groupware applications. Notes stands for the client software. For the rest of this Daily Drill Down, to keep things simple, I’ll refer to both packages as just Notes.
Why would I want to move from Notes to Exchange 2000?
As a network administrator, you probably have little actual control over why your organization would want to move from Notes to Exchange. Most of these decisions are made for political or organizational reasons. However, there are a few technical reasons that moving to Exchange 2000 would make sense in some instances, most of them having to do with Exchange’s tight integration with Windows 2000.

First, if you’ve migrated to Windows 2000 as your main network operating system, you can gain some administrative advantages. Because both Windows 2000 and Exchange 2000 store all of their user information in Active Directory, you don’t have to worry about maintaining two sets of user databases the way you do when you administer Notes on Windows 2000.

Second, if you run an organization that relies on server clustering to increase efficiency, you’ll be in better shape using Exchange 2000. Again, the reason has to do with Exchange 2000/Windows 2000 integration. Exchange 2000 takes advantage of the clustering services included with Windows 2000. Lotus relies on its own proprietary clustering scheme.

Exchange 2000 is also somewhat more secure than Lotus Notes and easier to use for end users, while still maintaining security. Exchange 2000 is based on Windows 2000’s security scheme and relies on Kerberos and PKI to provide security both locally and across the Internet. Exchange 2000 also provides a single sign-on capability for end users. When they authenticate to the Windows 2000 server, they can use Outlook to access their e-mail without having to enter or remember additional passwords. Notes uses its own security system, which isn’t based on Internet standards like PKI. Also, Notes uses one password for the Notes client and a different one for Web browser access. These passwords aren’t related to the user’s Windows 2000 authentication password and must be entered separately when the user starts the Notes client.

Because Exchange 2000 is integrated so tightly with Windows 2000, it also gains the advantage of being able to work well with IIS 5.0, which is also tightly integrated with Windows 2000. This gives Exchange 2000 the ability to allow end users to store documents from Office 2000 directly to the Exchange 2000 Web store using Office Server Extensions on the Windows 2000 server. Exchange 2000 also supports WebDAV to make it easier to share documents across the Internet. Both of these features make collaborating with other users much easier. Notes doesn’t offer anything similar.

Phased vs. one-step migration
When you make the move from Notes to Exchange 2000, you have two choices: You can do either a phased migration or a one-step migration. In an ideal world, you’d do a one-step migration. This migration moves all of your Notes users over to Exchange 2000 in one step. Unfortunately, things may not be that simple for you. If you’re in a situation where it will take some time to move everyone over to Exchange 2000 or you plan to maintain Notes in parallel with Exchange 2000, then you must do a phased migration. For the rest of this Daily Drill Down, we’ll go through a phased migration because this is probably the one you’ll face most often. Don’t think of this Daily Drill Down as a step-by-step approach about how to do the migration itself. Instead, I’ll take you through the concepts you’ll have to be familiar with to make the migration successful.

The first thing you must do in a phased migration is deal with the coexistence problem. Coexistence occurs when you must deal with both Notes and Exchange in your organization. Your main goal at the beginning is to set up a link between the two mail systems to allow users to pass messages between them. This makes the ultimate migration that much easier. You should also make sure when you’re starting a phased migration that you cease adding new Notes users. Any new users must be created on and use Exchange 2000.

When you’re adding Exchange 2000 to your organization and making it coexist with Notes, be sure you keep a few things in mind. First, when you synchronize directories between Notes and Exchange 2000 (via Active Directory), make sure the Notes user exists in the Windows 2000 domain where the user will ultimately reside. This is important because when the synchronization occurs, the user can reside only in one Windows 2000 domain. If you have Notes users who don’t exist in the Windows 2000 domain, you can either create them in advance or create them when you run the Migration Wizard. You’ll save more time and headaches if you create the users in advance, however.

When you set up directory synchronization between Notes and Exchange 2000, you can set Notes entries as disabled Windows 2000 user accounts, new Windows 2000 user accounts, or Windows 2000 contacts. Because your Notes users have Windows 2000 accounts already, the best choice is to set the directory synchronization to create Windows 2000 contacts. You can then merge the Windows 2000 contact information with the appropriate user account using the Active Directory Account Cleanup Wizard.

Chances are that when you migrate your Notes servers to Exchange 2000, you will not be migrating the servers in place. That means that you’ll be using new hardware for Exchange 2000 while maintaining separate servers to host Notes. Therefore, you’ll need to establish a gateway between the two servers.

When configuring the gateways, there are a few issues to keep in mind:
  • Converting Notes Doc-links: Notes messages may sometimes contain Doc-links, which are Notes links to other objects. You must decide how to deal with these Doc-links in Exchange 2000. You can convert them to OLE documents, Rich Text Format (RTF) attachments, or URL shortcuts. If you exclusively use Domino servers, which can support Web-enabled applications, convert Doc-links to URL shortcuts. If you’re using an older version of Notes/Domino or don’t support Web-enabled applications, convert them to RTF documents, which is the default.
  • Mapping fields: The Lotus Notes Connector allows you to map Lotus Notes fields to Active Directory attributes and vice versa. If you have custom Notes fields or special fields you want to make sure you synchronize, make sure you identify these in advance.
  • Lotus Notes applications: When you migrate Notes, the Wizard moves Lotus Notes to Exchange public folders. If you’re running custom Notes applications, you can then use the Application Converter For Lotus Notes Wizard to migrate your applications to Exchange. Complex applications may not convert properly using the Wizard. Rather than reprogramming those applications, you may want to keep a Notes server around to run them.

Looking at the coexistence and migration process
When you make the move, you’ll do so in essentially three steps. First, you’ll make the two systems talk to each other. Second, you’ll configure the Internet communications, if necessary, and move those over. Finally, you’ll move the users in the final migration.

When you make the systems talk to each other, you’ll need to have the Lotus Notes Connector in place. The easiest time to install the connector is during your initial Exchange 2000 installation. When the Exchange 2000 Installation Wizard comes to the component selection screen, all you have to do is click Action next to the Exchange 2000 component and then select Custom to indicate a custom installation. Click the Action down arrow next to Microsoft Exchange Connector For Lotus Notes and select Install. Then just continue the installation as normal. The Lotus Notes Connector will extract messages from Lotus Notes 3.x, 4.0, 4.1, and 4.5 or later right up to Domino R5. You’ll configure and work with the connector in the Exchange System Manager.

After you’ve got the gateway functioning and the connectors passing messages, you can move the SMTP gateway from Lotus Notes to Exchange. Because Exchange 2000 is so heavily reliant on SMTP, you’ll want to do this early.

After you have the communications running, you can then safely migrate your users. You can do this over time or immediately. In a phased migration, this may be your longest step. You’ll create new users directly in Exchange and allow current users to continue to use Notes, moving them to Exchange at a pace you determine. When everyone moves over, you can then decommission the old Notes servers and remove the Notes connectors from your Exchange servers.

How the migration works
When you migrate from Notes to Exchange, naturally there’s more to it than just switching boxes. You must also import copies of existing mailboxes, messages, calendaring, contacts, and other data into Exchange. You’ll also have to migrate individual archives that users create and personal address book information. If you’ve created Lotus Notes distribution lists, those must go to Exchange 2000 as well.

You’ll use two utilities to make the migration: the Exchange 2000 Migration Wizard and the Active Directory Account Cleanup Wizard. As you can probably guess from their names, the Migration Wizard moves the information from Notes to Exchange 2000 and the Cleanup Wizard deals with any duplicate information the Migration Wizard creates during the migration.

The Migration Wizard has two parts: the source extractor and the migration file importer. The source extractor does as its name suggests. It reads the Notes databases and directory and copies directory, messages, calendaring, and collaboration data from Notes and saves the information into a file. The migration file importer then imports the file created by the source extractor into Exchange. Like most wizards, the Migration Wizard is basically point-and-click and isolates you from these two parts. You can run both parts in the Wizard in one step or run the Wizard multiple times to do it all. (I’ll cover the Migration Wizard in an upcoming Daily Drill Down.)

Don’t forget the training!
There’s one last step during a migration that many network administrators skip, and that’s training. Make sure you incorporate into your plan a training schedule that includes both administrators and end users.

As an administrator, you and your other Notes/Exchange 2000 administrators need to be familiar with the new challenges you’ll face with Exchange 2000. You’ll need to know the ins and outs of Exchange 2000 and how it differs from Notes. A few courses on Windows 2000 and Active Directory would also be helpful. Topics to focus on include the following:
  • Managing users and groups in Active Directory
  • Exchange public folders
  • Routing and administrative groups
  • Backups and server recovery
  • Maintaining connectors

End users don’t need the deeply technical training that administrators do, but they still need to know how to get their work done. You’ll probably have to offer or find courses that familiarize them with Outlook and how it works in relation to the old Notes client. They’ll need to know how to send messages, schedule meetings, and do other tasks related to their careers. If you take a little time training and recruiting cheerleaders up front, it may save you headaches and help-desk calls down the road.

Making the move from a mission-critical piece of software like Notes to Exchange 2000 can be a nightmare. However, when you know what’s in store and have a basic concept of the work in front of you, it’s not nearly as bad as it seems.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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