Life would be much simpler for IT managers if Microsoft had a tool called “Exchange Migration Wizard.” It could take all the thrills and adventure out of migrating one Exchange server into another.

Wake up! You will need your wits about you if you wish to sync a directory with someone else’s Exchange directory, or to include another Exchange server into theirs.

At TechRepublic, we once had to synchronize directories with our parent company in Stamford, CT, and another company in Minneapolis, MN.

Later, TechRepublic executives decided to incorporate the Minneapolis Exchange server into TechRepublic’s server and standardize the use of the TechRepublic domain.

TechRepublic’s Exchange server administrator Mike Laun describes how the migration of the Minneapolis company’s Exchange server into TechRepublic’s was accomplished. In the first installment of this two-part series, “Exchange server migration: Getting past the gotchas,” Laun described what tools to use to quickly move individual mailboxes to a new Exchange server.

In this article, Laun discusses how to:

  • Include new domain names on the Internet Mail Service.
  • Migrate public resources such as folders and conference rooms.
  • Sort out and re-create distribution lists.
  • Reconfigure client profiles at the user machine.

Tricks, tips, and complications
In the first article, Laun explained how he migrated the user mailboxes from the old Exchange server in Minneapolis to the new Exchange server. The big tip for IT managers that will save lots of time and effort is to find the ExMerge tool in Microsoft’s BackOffice Resource Kit (BORK).

Laun also warned managers about the loss of recurring appointments during a transfer and described how that can be rectified. He described how he was able to avoid losing any incoming messages during the migration by using the queuing capabilities of virus-wall software.

There are several other tips and tricks Laun employed that could help you oversee an Exchange migration at your organization.

For example, remember to change your configuration of the Internet Mail Service (IMS).

As Laun planned the TechRepublic project, he knew that the Minneapolis company brought two of its own domains to the mix. Because of the numerous business contacts that have that company’s address based on these two domain names, the IMS had to be configured to accept mail to these domains, while all outgoing mail would have the TechRepublic domain.

Laun wanted to ensure that all mail would be accepted no matter which Minneapolis domain was on it. He used an interesting trick to do that. He placed a pound sign (#) in front of the two domain names in the IMS setup. The pound sign acts like a wild card allowing acceptance of all addresses ending with the Minneapolis domain names.

Exchange migration bit by bit

This article is the second in a series of two articles examining issues IT managers need to know about combining two Exchange servers. “Exchange server migration: Getting past the gotchas” covered migrating the mailboxes from one server into another without losing incoming and existing data. This article will describe some complications and how the end user is affected by the migration.

So far, the migration has gone well. The new mail is streaming in to the new mailboxes, and the new servers are accepting incoming Internet mail. The next task can be the most time-consuming—migrating the public folders.

“Public folders are handled considerably differently than user mailboxes,” Laun said. He could not find any tool like ExMerge that would handle public folders with the same ease.

The end result was a very intense series of steps in which the public folders from Minneapolis were re-created in a new subfolder off the root of the new mail server.

Another TechRepublic systems administrator, Bob Jungbauer, opened the public folders on the old server with an Outlook client and copied the folder to a PST file. Jungbauer then opened a client program in the new server and dropped the PST file in it, making a new folder.

After all the public folders were re-created on the new server, Jungbauer had to go to each folder and re-create the permissions for those folders.

“That’s where the time was spent, besides waiting for the copies,” Jungbauer said.

“Public folders were extremely intense work, getting the aliases right on each individual. I think we had somewhere around 500 public folders to deal with,” Laun said.

Another complication that is bound to crop up with most any Exchange migration is the possibility of duplicate distribution lists.

Just about any site will have an @Helpdesk or @IT Support. They will need to be differentiated unless the departments are integrated between sites. In this case, because TechRepublic’s main offices were in Louisville, KY, and the other company’s main office was in Minneapolis, Laun and Jungbauer decided to simply tack “Minneapolis” onto the distribution lists that were that company’s exclusively.

Let’s take a little walk
After dealing with all those public folders, you might think that the IT staff deserved a break, but it wasn’t to be.

Now they had to deal with client connectivity issues. The IT team spent time with each desktop computer used by about 60 Minneapolis employees.

Even though the mailboxes had the identical names on the new Exchange server as on the old, each individual mailbox has an object identity allocated by the Information Store (IS) called a globally unique identifier, or GUID.

“We had to make a desktop trip, delete their existing profile, re-create a new one with the new server name and their mailbox name. Then, they had the proper connectivity. It obviously can be a major task if they had been a really big company,” Laun said.

All of the employees were forewarned that the next morning they would need a support person to handle their reconfiguration.

The only thing left now is the day-to-day administration of the Exchange server in Minneapolis, which Laun said could be done from his office in Louisville or in Minneapolis by Jungbauer.

Exchange info about Exchange

Have you had to migrate one Exchange server into another? Was it easier or more difficult than it was for Mike Laun? Did you find any programs for the public folders that had the same functionality contained in ExMerge? Share your thoughts in a discussion below, or send us a note.