Companies are facing a dilemma over whether to migrate their e-mail systems from Microsoft Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 or wait for the release of Exchange 2007, according to analyst firm Gartner.
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As reported in Computer Weekly last week, Gartner estimates that a fifth of Exchange users are still running version 5.5, which is no longer supported by Microsoft.
Although considered a stable release, the 2003 edition is set to be replaced by Exchange 2007 next year, which begs the question, why upgrade to Exchange 2003?
At the moment users could justify an upgrade to Exchange 2003, but Gartner vice-president Matt Cain advised users still on version 5.5 to delay any decision to upgrade for another six months. At this point, there would be little point in upgrading to Exchange 2003; instead users could focus on preparing for a migration to Exchange 2007. Gartner expects most users to deploy this release in 2008.
A year of preparation may seem like a long time, but for Dean White, technical solutions manager at WHSmith News, thorough preparation was key to his company’s smooth migration off Exchange 5.5 (Computer Weekly, 13 June).
Third-party tools were also crucial, as the standard Microsoft toolset was unable to provide for real-time access to both the legacy and new Exchange server. This was essential to avoid downtime and minimise disruption in a 24x7 business such as WHSmith News, said White.
Maurene Caplan Grey, principal analyst at Grey Consulting, said, “Except for small businesses, nearly all Exchange users use third-party tools to move from Exchange 5.5 to 2003.”
The main reason for using third-party tools is that the mailbox data structure changed drastically between versions 5.5 and 2000, which gave birth to a cottage industry of migration toolsets, Caplan Grey said. These include Bindview (since acquired by Symantec), Quest, Aelita (acquired by Quest) and NetIQ.
One of the benefits of these tools is that they allow the 5.5 and 2000/2003 mailboxes to coexist during the migration. “Mailbox data is gradually moved to the 2000/2003 environment. This can occur while the mailboxes are available to users (ie online),” said Caplan Grey.
Another migration option from Exchange 5.5 involves implementing archiving software to move a significant amount of messaging storage off Exchange, said Lee Benjamin, an analyst at Ferris Research. He said that archiving eases the migration and upgrade to the new platform. “Additionally a company like Quest can offer archiving and tools to migrate from other messaging systems and directories,” Benjamin said.
Microsoft said it works closely with software companies to support the needs of companies with bespoke requirements, such as staged migration, which is not available with the basic Exchange tools.