Aug
17

Migration to Exchange 2016: Best Practices

Migration to Exchange 2016: Best Practices

August 17
By

If you’ve recently installed Microsoft Exchange2016 you might wonder if you mistakenly installed Exchange 2013. On the surface, Exchange 2016 looks almost exactly like 2013 especially if you spend a lot time in the Exchange Admin Center (EAC). But as you make your way around Exchange 2016 you’ll find a number of welcome enhancements. There are a few minor UI changes and, finally, a product that embraces the cloud. It’s not a major upgrade filled with “wow!” features. Instead, Microsoft Exchange 2013 was refined in ways that don’t catch your attention, but will be welcome by administrators and users a like.

gears and looking glass data migration

I’m not going to go into great detail about all the new features found in Exchange 2016 because Microsoft and others have done a good job of documenting those. Instead, I’d like to discuss some best practices for those of you managing Exchange servers and are considering upgrading to Exchange 2016 from Exchange 2013 or Exchange 2010. There’s already a lot of information out there on technical forums and blogs which provide answers to specific technical challenges one faces during a migration.

I don’t want to duplicate, so I’m going to provide tips that are helpful to both seasoned and new Exchange administrators. You may have used some of these before, and my guide with serve as more of a reminder in that case. Let’s get started.

Use the Exchange 2016 Deployment Assistant

Even if you have a dozen migrations under your belt, this web-based tool from Microsoft will make sure you haven’t left out any crucial steps. Microsoft has continued to improve this tool which will ask a few questions about your environment, and then generate a custom step-by-step checklist for you to follow. It covers on-premise and hybrid deployments for Exchange 2016, Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2010. There’s also a smaller section for those who are migrating to cloud versions of Exchange and Office 365.

Deployment_Assistant

The Exchange Deployment Assistant is not designed to walk a non-technical person through an Exchange migration. In fact, you won’t find a lot of technical jargon in the generated checklist. It does have a helpful list of steps to make the update as smooth as possible.

Test Your Recovery Plan

Although you might feel pressure to begin the migration process as soon as possible, it’s always a good idea to take a step back and consider your recovery plan, just in case something goes wrong, and you need to recover customer data. Do you feel confident in your recovery plan? Nobody plans for a migration to be interrupted by a server failure, network hiccup or power outage, but it happens every day.

There are a number of product that will help you recover email and folders along with individual messages. Storagecraft’s Granular Recovery for Exchange supports Exchange 2016 and allows administrators to recover  email, but also attachments, calendar items, contacts, notes and tasks. It also includes powerful search tools that can help with internal investigations. Granular Recovery for Exchange can search mailboxes, email messages and Exchange databases.

Mailboxes sometimes get lost during a migration, and PST file need backups. Before you begin any migration, take a close look at your recovery plan, and see where the holes are. It’s wise to get those holes filled before you begin any migration project. You should feel confident that the tools at your disposal would allow you to recover data if necessary.

Simplified Disaster Recovery: How to Create a Great Recovery Plan

Migrating Public Folders In Exchange 2016

One of the least favorite tasks of any Exchange administrator is the migration of public folders from one version to the next. And one can’t really blame them. Microsoft implemented major architectural changes for Excel. This will be a daunting task unless you’re well versed in scripts and PowerShell commands.  The public folder database has been replaced by public folder mailboxes. This means no more public folder replication! That’s great news, but it does introduce a few changes to the migration process.

Before you attempt this project, you should feel comfortable running scripts. You should also make sure you have a backup of all public folders before proceeding. And finally, this process only works if you’re migrating public folders from Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013 to Exchange 2016. Earlier versions of Exchange are not supported.

Exchange2016

Public folder mailboxes make their debut in Exchange 2016

After you’ve made a backup and are ready to begin, follow the directions listed at Microsoft Technet. With most Technet articles, I find it helpful to click the “Expand All” box on the upper right corner just under the search box. If you need a little more description of each step, I found that Super Tekboy provides more details, although it’s not as well organized.

Update Antivirus Exclusions

It’s wise to configure any antivirus software running on Exchange servers to exclude specific paths, processes and file types. Doing so will reduce server downtime if the antivirus software happens to lock down files or folders it doesn’t recognize. Thankfully, Paul Cunningham, a Microsoft MVP for Servers and Services, updated his popular PowerShell script written for this purpose. The script will scan Exchange 2016 and output a list of exclusions that follow the Microsoft recommendations.

Paul initially published a script that scans Exchange 2013, but with the changes to Exchange 2016, the script required an update. If you’re already familiar with the 2013 script, you should feel right at home because the updated script works in the same manner. Just run the script locally on the server in the Exchange Management Shell, and then use the output to configure your antivirus solution. You can download Exchange Server 2016 antivirus exclusions from TechCenter here.

Conclusion

If you’re still running Exchange 2010, you probably already know that Microsoft ended mainstream support back in January of 2015. Extended support is available through 2020, but you’d do well to strongly consider a move to Exchange 2016. Microsoft has committed to developing, releasing and testing the Exchange platform updates within Office 365. Microsoft will test on millions of mailboxes before updates are released on-premise. That’s welcome news to administrators who place a priority on rolling out only tested and stable products.

Exchange 2016 has reached a place in development where we see many minor refinements with each new version rather than major new features each release. But improved collaboration, search and architecture are important. Both administrators and users appreciate them. Kudos to Microsoft for focusing on building a stable environment for its Exchange Server, considered to be the most important form of business communication.

Have you already migrated to Exchange 2016?