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Exchange interchange (continued)

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Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003

by Dejan Foro In reply to Exchange 2003 , a superio ...

I've been also testing Exchange 2003 since beta 2. At the moment, I am actually deploying it at the one of our major clients, The Croatian Railways. Exchange 2003 as a product seems working OK. We tested it in lab and including some more advanced scenario like having a back-end front-end configuration with several front-end servers configured in a load balancing cluster. It certainly has some attractive new features and after all Exchange has reached version 6.5 which should give us some additional confidence into Exchange as a stable and mature product.

But testing a product at home or in a lab environment, and implementation of a new system into an existing production environment is something completely different. The decision whether to move to the latest technology or not, should be not based only on the new features of the servers itself, but also on the existing environment, actual client needs and costs.

And, surprisingly, going to the latest version isn't always the best solution. Why? Simply because, your client might not need all of those functionalities or you can get those functionalities in another more simple way at much lower costs.

Let me walk you through a common scenario: A client has 500 computers on many locations - Win2000/Office2000 workstations and let's say 5 Win2000/Exchange2000 servers with Norton Antivirus for Exchange 2.5., Veritas Backup Exec 8.6. Client's network is connected to Internet through an ISA server. And you would like to get functionalities like RBL and RPC over HTTP mentioned in the above article.

For those who might not be familiar with these acronyms a short explanation:

RBL ?V Real time block list is a service which provides your Exchange server with list of "bad guys" ?V servers known to be used by spammers and if your Exchange server finds it on that list it refuses to communicate with it.

RPC over HTTP. Native Outlook client uses RPC to connect to Exchange server. RPC connects to port 135 and then negotiates a random port, and continues to work on that port over 1024 (this is called dynamic port allocation).This works fine until you get of the local network. If you are on a business trip and want to connect to your Exchange server you run into a problem: a firewall. Most firewalls don't support dynamic port allocation and even if you have one that does support this, with many connected users this means many open ports on your firewall and that of course is a very high risk these days. This can be avoided by implementing a VPN ?V Virtual Private Networks but this also often requires knowledge and additional hardware or software, which Admins in small companies usually doesn't have. RPC over HTTP is a mechanism that "packs" RPC traffic into HTTP which uses a fixed port 80 for web access and therefore is almost always opened on firewalls.

What they don't tell you, is that, you must have WinXP+SP1+patch and Outlook 2003 on client side and Exchange 2003 on the server side in order to use RPC over HTTP.

Applied on the above mentioned example your list of expenses would look like this:

500 Windows 2000 to WinXP upgrade licenses
500 Office2000 to Office 2003 upgrade licenses
5 server Windows 2000 to Windows 2003 upgrade licenses
5 server upgrade licenses for Exchange 2003
500 Client Access upgrade licenses for Windows
500 Client Access licenses for Exchange
5 upgrade licenses for Norton antivirus for Exchange
5 upgrade licenses for Veritas BackupExec
+huge cost of manpower needed for upgrading all of these
+cost of downtime while upgrading
+cost of training and lost productivity while users get familiar with new software

Or

You can stay on existing environment, and
- replace your Norton Antivirus for Exchange with a newer version 4.0 which brings RBL functionalities and spam filtering
- with a few clicks configure VPN access on ISA firewall.
- configure VPN connections on clients
And get equal or even better functionality because by using VPN clients will have same access capabilities as if they were on local network.

Another example are cases where companies deployed instant messaging. Moving to Exchange 2003 platform would mean loss that functionality, because Exchange 2003 doesn't support instant messaging anymore. In such situation clients will have to wait for Microsoft Office Live Communications Server 2003 to become available or get another 3rd party instant messaging solution.

If we have a clean situation, a client that does not have an existing infrastructure, implementing the latest platform would be the of course the most logical choice. Same if you need excellent support for mobile devices or if you are migrating from another messaging system like Linux or Notes.

As a conclusion: Based on my current positive Exchange 2003 experience I think Exchange 2003 is an excellent product which brings many new or improved functionalities and it certainly deserves to be evaluated . The decision to upgrade or not is on you and depends on your needs, current situation and cost.

I personally work for a company that lives from software sales and related services including implementation and migrations. Therefore I would certainly like all of you people to upgrade ??. But I also believe that choosing the solution that fits our client best is a winning combination in a long run and keeps our customers satisfied and returning.

Regards,

Dejan Foro
e-mail: dejan.foro@inet.hr
web: www.inet.hr/~fdejan

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Thanks for great responses and info

by rsfuller2007 In reply to Migration/upgrade methods

To all that gave such good info - thanks so much!

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