Five tips for handling Exchange 2010 gotchas

If you're planning to migrate to Exchange 2010, you'll want to be aware of several issues. Scott Lowe explains how to deal with some of the biggest concerns.

Exchange 2010 brings a lot to the table, including a better overall Web experience, more flexible availability options, and improved unified messaging features. However, there are a few tricky issues that Exchange administrators should understand before embarking on an upgrade from an earlier version of the software. These tips will help keep things on track.

Note: These tips are based on an entry in our Servers and Storage blog.

1: Determine your needed disk space

In earlier versions of Exchange, disk capacity trumped performance. This meant that organizations needed relatively expensive storage (from a performance perspective) to architect a system that could meet user expectations.

Although the shift to performance trumping capacity began in 2007, Exchange 2010 completes the process by fully eliminating deduplication in the software. This change has significantly reduced Exchange 2010's IOPS needs, but it has created a need for much more storage capacity to be designed into Exchange 2010 systems.

How to mitigate: Plan ahead! Use Microsoft's Exchange 2010 Mailbox Server Role Requirements Calculator as a first step in your planning process to figure out how much disk space you need. Also remember that Exchange 2010's availability mechanism (Database Availability Groups) has a major impact on capacity.

2: Be prepared to forgo support if you go virtual

One of the beauties of the IOPS overhaul in Exchange 2010 is the ease with which Exchange 2010 lends itself to being virtualized. Virtualization of Exchange brings major benefits to the architecture, including heretofore unseen availability options and cost reductions. But there is a catch: If you're planning to deploy Exchange 2010's unified messaging role, you can't get to the 100% virtual panacea and expect to receive support from Microsoft. The company still does not support the unified messaging role in a virtual environment, including the role running directly on a Hyper-V root.

How to mitigate: You have two options: 1) Go virtual and go without support or 2) Deploy the unified messaging role to dedicated virtual hardware.

3: Find a faxing system

If you deployed Exchange 2007 and use its inbound faxing capability, you'll be disappointed to learn that Microsoft has eliminated the feature in Exchange 2010.

How to mitigate: Buy a third-party faxing system that integrates with Exchange 2010. Take a look at the Fax Partners section of this page for assistance in identifying a vendor.

4: Find a remote access strategy

Exchange 2007's Outlook Web access introduced what I considered a fantastic feature: The ability to access Windows file shares and SharePoint document libraries from within the Outlook Web Access client. With that feature, telecommuters or users who were on the road could access files they didn't take with them and could potentially work more effectively. But this feature is not included in Exchange 2010. Curiously, some of the supporting PowerShell commands are still available, so there's hope that it may return in a service pack, but I do miss it.

How to mitigate: Consider any number of other remote access strategies, including VPN, DirectAccess, RDP, and SharePoint document libraries can also be accessed over the Web.

5: Watch out for related licensing requirements

If you're interested in reading something truly convoluted, pick up a copy of Microsoft's licensing guides. Microsoft licensing can be confusing even for people who have been working with it for years. During an upgrade from an older version of Exchange to a newer version, you might be surprised to learn that you'll be making a number of licensing investments, including:

  • Exchange 2010 Server license -- either Standard or Enterprise
  • Exchange 2010 Client Access License (CAL) -- either Standard or Enterprise
  • Windows Server 2008/R2 CAL

If you're upgrading your Exchange 2007 environment to Exchange 2010, you also need to make sure that you obtain an adequate number of Windows 2008 Server CALs. Remember, each Exchange user will be accessing the Windows server on which Exchange is installed, so these licensing are a must.

How to mitigate: Read and make sure you understand Microsoft's On-Premise Licensing for Exchange Server 2010. Unfortunately, if you're intent on using Exchange 2010, you don't have much choice on the licensing. At Westminster College, we use a Microsoft Campus Agreement licensing contract to simplify the morass that is Microsoft licensing.