Exchange 2007: A (mostly) successful migration

Many of you who regularly read my Exchange tips will be migrating to Exchange 2007. This week I want to report on my experience with a mostly successful migration from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007. For a variety of good reasons, my organization (a college) took the Exchange 2007 plunge over the summer. We're a small place, and were running on a single Exchange 2003 server with about 1,200 mailboxes.

Reasons for the upgrade

Some of the reasons we jumped into the upgrade included:

  • Cost was not an issue: We have Exchange on our Microsoft Campus Agreement. Further, even though we went "Enterprise" for both the server and the CALs, which are more expensive than Standard licenses, we were able to redirect money from other expenses (namely voice mail system maintenance) into this upgrade.
  • Outlook Web Access 2007: Simply put, the new OWA, the method by which a majority of our users connect, is a killer app in and of itself. We've already received rave reviews on the new functionality.
  • Unified messaging: This is one area that we have not yet implemented. Our telephone manufacturer only recently released software for our PBX that "Exchange 2007 UM-enables" our PBX. This upgrade will be done very soon and then we will move to Exchange 2007 UM. Our existing voice mail service is no longer supported by anyone. So, the funds that were going into that maintenance helped pay for the Enterprise CALs necessary for Exchange 2007 UM. And we still save a few dollars. I will give you a full report once we get this part done.

The migration

I've done multiple migrations between e-mail systems - GroupWise upgrades, GroupWise server consolidations, Exchange 5.5 to 2000, Exchange 2000 to 2003, IPswitch iMail to Exchange 2003, etc. Even though Exchange 2007 is very different from Exchange 2003, the migration was simply the most seamless I have encountered. It was even smoother than Exchange 2000 to 2003. All 1,200 mailboxes were moved within a few days. With only one notable exception, we ran into no problems.

The notable exception: For about three dozen users, we ran into a situation in which they could not use OWA 2007, which failed with the error message "A problem occurred while trying to use your mailbox. Please contact technical support for your organization." After a little digging, I discovered that these users all had one thing in common: The box in Active Directory Users and Computer labeled "Allow inheritable permissions from the parent to propagate to this object and all child objects" was not checked for these users. In the interest of full disclosure, it was these folks who provided an explanation of the problem along with a solution that worked.

The only major item not supported with OWA 2007 is access to public folders. However, we have left Exchange 2003 up and running to serve this purpose until Exchange 2007 SP1 arrives.

To do

There are still a few things left to do:

  • Remove the Exchange 2003 server: Once we install Exchange 2007 SP1, which will add public folder support back to OWA, we will take down the '03 box.
  • Implement Unified Messaging. As a mentioned earlier, as soon as our PBX vendor installs new software, we'll be on our way to implementing Exchange 2007's UM features.
  • Learn. I've co-authored a book about Exchange 2007 and I write a whole lot about the product, but I keep discovering new things. In a nutshell, learning Exchange 2007 is time-consuming.

If you have questions about my migration, please leave a comment.