You have gone from vision and scope all the way through implementation of Microsoft Exchange 2000. The weeks and possibly months of meticulous planning have paid off. With Microsoft Exchange 2000, your e-mail is flowing as smoothly as the blood running through your veins. Forgotten now are the days of Exchange 5.5, Lotus Notes, or whatever e-mail system you migrated from. But now that you have migrated to Exchange 2000, what’s next? The following suggestions for post-Exchange migration activities will help you get the most mileage out of this groupware engine.
More than just e-mail
Remember that Exchange 2000 is not just an e-mail server. You can implement many collaborative solutions that do not require the knowledge of a developer or custom programmer. Using the Workflow Designer, you can add a workflow process to any items in Exchange 2000 folders. Another often-forgotten workflow tool of Exchange and its companion, the Outlook client, is the creation and use of Outlook forms. The forms designer is built into every version of Outlook and allows for additional workflow processing that can really make both you, as the administrator, and Exchange 2000, itself, shine.
There are features within Exchange 2000 that you may not have implemented because you were concentrating on just getting the migration done with no data loss and little disruption to users. Now may be a good time to take a second look at many of those features. What about that instant messaging that everyone has been talking about or even the ability to stream audio and video data in and out of your Exchange 2000 database? Sometimes, even a feature as simple as setting the Deleted Items Retention Period can be overlooked during a system migration. Dig into these and other built-in features of Exchange and ensure that you are getting the greatest return on your investment.
No matter how much we despise it, documentation is one of the necessary evils of being an IT professional. But no one can argue with the fact that it is difficult to ensure that your documentation is up to par while you're migrating a complex e-mail system in a short amount of time. Now that the dust has settled and things are back to normal, take the time to transform that notepad of chicken scratch into documentation recording the details of your Exchange environment. This will come in handy both for managing change and for disaster recovery purposes.
Speaking of disaster recovery, now might be a good time to run through those Exchange 2000 restore procedures you have documented. Building a test restore environment that closely resembles your production environment takes time, but you'll gain some peace of mind knowing that you can quickly get your e-mail environment back in production in the event of a corrupt database or failed server. Build a test network that mirrors your production network and practice a data restoration.
Many IT professionals are faced with implementing a new technology, such as Exchange 2000, without first acquiring adequate training to implement and support it. This is definitely putting the cart before the horse, but more often than not, that's what happens. Often, through the assistance of a consultant or simply through careful planning, the migration to Exchange 2000 can be successful even without this training.
However, with the migration behind you, look at ways to increase your knowledge of this new release of Exchange. Training can take the form of a traditional classroom setting, Computer Based Training (CBT), or even common on-the-job training (OJT).
In a perfect world, you could install an Exchange 2000 server according to best practices and vendor specifications and never worry about the box again. Unfortunately, that is not the world most of us live in, so even after a successful Exchange migration, periodic system updates, patches, service packs, and monitoring are needed.
At the time of this writing, Service Pack 2 for Exchange is available, but there are also many post-SP1 patches and fixes that your server may require. Keep in mind that even though Microsoft has made strides in reducing the administrative effort required for Exchange 2000, careful monitoring and administration are still needed. Check disk space, event logs, performance, and mail queues regularly. If possible, take this time to develop and set up proactive monitoring of your Exchange server(s).
An Exchange 2000 migration will no doubt eat up a good portion of an IT budget, but hopefully you have a little time and money left over to look at third-party solutions that can add value to your Exchange implementation. Programs exist for adding wireless communication access to Exchange, integrating enterprise-faxing capability, and automating sales forces and customer relationships, among other things. Just one of these programs may be all you need to greatly enhance the benefits gained from your Exchange 2000 migration.
Congratulations to those who have completed a successful migration to Exchange 2000. The most difficult process is behind you. Use this time after your migration to increase the business value of Exchange 2000 and to catch up on important administrative tasks related to managing Exchange.
What tips do you have for post-Exchange 2000 implementation?
We look forward to getting your input and hearing about your experiences regarding this topic. Post a comment or a question about this article.