Exchange Upgrades – Think Before You Jump Part I

I have heard that more than 50% of all Microsoft Exchange users will have upgraded to Exchange 2007 this year. During an upgrade, administrators and end users are impacted by these issues:

  • Exchange 2007’s 64-bit machine requirement could turn costly, especially for clustered environments. Granted, 64-bit hardware is snappier and has near identical price points as 32-bit hardware. But if an organization is not near the end-of-life for their currently deployed 32-bit hardware, purchasing 64-bit hardware is an unneeded expense.
  • Direct upgrade from an existing Exchange Server version 5.5 to Exchange 2007 is not supported. You must first migrate from Exchange Server 5.5 to an Exchange 2000 or 2003 organization and then transition to Exchange 2007.
  • You can not perform an in-place upgrade when transitioning from Exchange 2000 or 2003 to Exchange 2007. The upgrade requires a data movement to an entirely new Exchange server.
  • Migration is possible for a non-Exchange messaging system or an existing Exchange organization to Exchange 2007 but you can not retain any of the Exchange configuration data from the first organization

After learning about these challenges, I wondered if organizations would let the upgrade slip into 2009.  As I asked around, I learned about some other concerns organizations have:

  • Complexity of performing an upgrade
  • Amount of time the migration or transition will take
  • Lack of commitment and budget to perform an upgrade

With all of those risks and obstacles, why is there such a big push to move on to Microsoft Exchange 2007? Compliancy and eDiscovery are on the lips of many organizations considering an upgrade to Exchange 2007. But before you set sail, it might be a good idea to validate how Exchange 2007 is actually helping.

Implementation of a compliance solution in Exchange 2007 mostly consists of using the journaling and mailbox management features to enforce retention and enable eDiscovery. On the surface it seems like a quite acceptable and convincing solution.  For example

  • Implement granular journaling at the user, group, or database level to copy information to a different mailbox
  • Use managed folders to help users categorize information, enforce retention periods, and make better use of storage
  • Allow cross-mailbox searching to satisfy requirements for eDiscovery

As a compliance solution, Exchange 2007’s use of journaling, managed folders, and cross-mailbox searching, seems to be nothing more than a bit of smoke and mirrors. As you look at these compliancy features, notice that Exchange 2007 still maintains tight and complete control of information. This really shouldn’t shock us. But let’s be a bit cautious of the fact that under the covers here Exchange seems to be just moving data around in an attempt to reduce the impact on users.

Keeping data inside Exchange is probably not the best idea as this is a major contributor to the negative impact on performance in the past and has surely helped trigger the move to a 64-bit architecture. I can’t wait until we see the impact of Unified Messaging. Regardless, in the part II, I’ll examine how an archival solution, such as LookingGlass from Estorian can not only help reduce for massive amounts of data in your Exchange server but also provide a more robust eDiscovery solution.

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