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Good Exchange Server Consultants

By tncpeterd ·
My company needs an exchange server solution for around 200 users. I'm IT support for our company but setting up exchange servers reliably and quickly is a little shall we say, out of my league.

I need some advice on a good Exchange consulting company. Someone who can come in and draw out a solution for us and who can later setup/install the servers and setup our employees accounts and just leave me and our IT staff with administrative privilages.

We are based out of Northern California, San Francisco, Monterey, Sacramento and San Jose. We would like to base the exchange servers out of San Francisco , so a consulting company from the area would probably suffice.

Any and all input and ideas are greatly appreciated.


Thanks guys!
-Peter D.

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I'll Do It ;o)

by RagingBull In reply to Good Exchange Server Cons ...

Book me a flight and hotel for a week, cover my expenses and I'll pop over from London and do it for you in a day and chill out for the rest of the week! ;o)

Seriously though, it's all in the preperation. Look for a company that's wants to spend time in advance look at the whole email architecture, not just one that's gonna rush in, stick in server and walk straight out again!

A 200 user site isn't that big in relative terms so it's not a big technical headache but you need to plan for growth, usage, budgets, email policy, availability (clustered - you mentioned serverS? Althougha single server will more than cope but you have no redundancy) etc etc

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Make that 2 tickets ...

by RagingBull In reply to I'll Do It ;o)

The missus is insisting she comes too, so I'll need 2 flights now ... lol

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would if i could buddy

by tncpeterd In reply to Make that 2 tickets ...

As much as I would love to fly you over , we need to have a free consultation, hehe. After the consultation and after we discuss the proposed solution within our company, then we can make the decision weather to go forward with the company or not.

And you made a very good point about redundancy, as a matter of fact we were looking to buy/install/setup 2 exchanger servers, both would mimic each other, just incase one went down we would have a backup that would take its place.

Again, I am not 100% up to speed with exchange servers/windows server 2003 etc. This is why we are looking for a consulting firm to help us out and see what they can do for us. If we find a company that is pitching a reasonable solution we just might take them up, but you made very good points about finding a company that isnt going to be in and out and never heard from again.

Thats why I'm here!!! :) I'm trying to get your guy's input on what some good companies are, the larger and more well known the company the better, we are trying to put together an exchange server that will be handling both low priority employees and our mission critical executives as well.

I'm totally unsure on how much an exchange server that would handle 200 users and be expandable up to 500-1000 users would cost to purchase/install etc.

But I do know what our budget is, and its almost anything that will get the job done. I'm expecting to spend upwards of $6,000-$10,000 to have a company come in buy the hardware, set it up, set up our users, and leave our IT support staff with administrative access. But again, I really dont know what it will cost, and at this point we will pay what it takes to get a redundant and reliable exchange server system in place.

There is a lot I'm not mentioning here, like how to consolidate our current servers, transfer accounts, etc. etc. These are things we would discuss directly with the consultation firm.

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OK

by RagingBull In reply to would if i could buddy

OK here's some free consultancy

You probably want 2 mid-range servers (dell 6750 for example) with shared storage (don't know if you have a SAN?). Then you can run an Active/Passive high availability clusters (this is not quite fault tolerant but provides a hot stand-by server in event of failure)

My tip would be to make sure you set limits from the start so that your databases don't grow unmanaged. With storage being so cheap this shouldn't be a problem - you could probably afford 500Mb-1Gb per mailbox but at least the limit is in place.

Backups is also a key point.

Exchange is fairly simple to set up but you earn your money as a server admin when things go wrong not just running the show. Make sure you get in-depth knowledge on recovering your exchange environment.

Happy to help if you have anymore q's ...

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Get the traingin

by djameson In reply to Good Exchange Server Cons ...

Get the training run the show. Tell your Manager that it would be cheaper to send you to trainging to get the knowledge to install and maintain Exchange then to hire a consultant, and you will be there to fix it when it breaks.
EX2k3Corporate is what you're after. Has a large store size, I break down the stores into 4( that's all it will let you ) for backups So I can backup the entire store. Use BX10 it's got great exchange tools. I wouldn't do a cluster, it's a lot of headache, I use a cluster for my SQL servers and there is a lot to know about clusters for maintainence. Just remember Exchange loves the memory, My config is a Dell 2850 dual 3.2 zeons with 6G of memory, and a 250G raid 5 array for mail storage. it was about $5500 with my discount. As long as you run with a good server dual ps dual proc dual nics etc it will be highly available. Since I brought my Exchange server up I have had to bring it down twice, but not for more then 5 minutes each -% Damn windows update%-

SA-

We could do this over the phone :)

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by RagingBull In reply to Get the traingin

Don't mean to rude but you "wouldn't use a cluster because they're a headache"??? So you would be happy to tell your boss "sorry exchange has been down the RAID controller went and I didn't understand clustering so the whole business will have to wait until the engineer comes out to replace it???" While your waiting I'd be sending my CV out mate!

Clustering is more expensive but it's all relative to the importance of the email system. If your company is quite happy to do without it for a day then fine but I suspect to most companies these days that is unacceptable.

I do agree though to see about getting the training and doing it yourself. As I said in an earlier post, Exchange is pretty simple to set up - it's went it goes tits up that you need to be on top of your game!

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Cluster

by djameson In reply to

I agree that clusters are a good Idea, But I use redundant controllers in all my machines and keep a common spare (matching hardware as a backup to all my machines, I can have it back up in under an hour we also provide our own hardware support. I have had an exchange installation go wrong in a mixed nt/2k environment that was an extreme pain in the a55. I agree entirely with what you say... Just a different approach. with 200 users I wouldn't cluster, with 800 I would most definatly. I just try to size a solution based on availability requirements and be cost concience.

SA-

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Example ...

by RagingBull In reply to Cluster

I used the RAID controller as an example only - I hear what you are saying bud but a year ago we lost email for a day when a contractor moved a load of mailboxes and didn't turn on circular logging crashing the databases, now I know it's not hardware related but the grief that came down from that you wouldn't believe!!! All I am saying is that if you are gonna keep a spare server (for parts or otherwise) might as well stick it in a cluster ...

Agre 100% that I wouldn't cluster with 200 users the author did say they expected to grow to 1000 ...

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yup

by tncpeterd In reply to Example ...

Clustering is deffinately something we would be interested in implementing. All technical diificulties aside, we could not afford a day without e-mail, and the added redundancy that clustering provides would be invaluable to our company.

Although training me to setup an exchange server is something that I think is a very good idea, that might take longer than we want. We need to have a solution put together on paper within a couple weeks, and fully implemented in no longer than a month.

We currently have an exchange server in place, but its not a true exchange server, our e-mail is being sent to the exchange from our domain hosts through a pop3. I know this sounds a little sketchy and it is. We have our most important users, ie: ceo, accountants, coo etc. on a hosted Exchange account through www.mi8.com . They do a good job but are extremely expensive, we hope to eventually save money by replacing our current exchange server/hosted server/weird pop3 forwarding crap, and consolidate it into a brand new high end exchange cluster, with 2 servers. I belive we also have a NAS that is pretty new so we would be attaching that to the exchange servers as well.

I think we currently have found a new firm to handle our needs, but Its good to know what we need and how it should be implemented, just so I dont get swindled by the consultation firm. We really dont need the top of the line stuff for 200 users, but we need something that is going to be scalable up to 500 users within a year or two, and we cant afford to upgrade the entire cluster every 2 years.

Anyway, I'd like to thank you all for your input. I will continue to do research on the subject because as of know I am still misinformed on the entire subject.

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cost

by djameson In reply to yup

I charge about 70.00/hr loaded cost to setup exchange. and clustering, our economy may be a little different but that should be a good ballpark. One piece of advice with exchange. build seperate stores. it makes backing them up a ton easier when they're smaller.

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