Last week I wrote about some of Exchange Server 2003's new features for using and managing distribution groups. Perhaps I should have started at the beginning, with the new features and options for installing Exchange 2003. Whether you're migrating from Exchange Server 5.5, migrating from Exchange 2000 Server, or performing a clean installation, these new features and functionality will make your migration or setup experience work more smoothly.
For those migrating from Exchange 5.5, the biggest change is the inclusion of the new exdeploy.chm file. "What's so great about a Help file?" you ask. Plenty, in this case: Exdeploy.chm is a master checklist that you can use to plan and execute your migration. The checklist tells you which steps to take and in what order, leading you through the complex process of migrating from Exchange 5.5. Most of the steps are the same as those required to migrate from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000, but the file also includes instructions for running existing but lesser-known tools such as Dsadiag and Netdiag. You don't need to use exdeploy.chm; you can dive right into your migration by running Exchange 2003 Setup. However, Microsoft spent a lot of time talking with customers to find out how to streamline the migration process, and exdeploy.chm's instructions reflect that feedback. Many of the diagnostic steps are useful when you migrate from Exchange 2000, but they're most useful when you're migrating from Exchange 5.5. If you already run Exchange 2000, your Active Directory (AD) and DNS configurations probably work properly already.
Another change is in Exchange 2003 Setup's permission requirements. To install new Exchange 2000 servers, you need Exchange Full Administrator permissions on the Exchange organization. If you want to delegate installation tasks, you find yourself in an unhappy conundrum: Either grant Exchange Full Administrator rights on the organization to all the administrators in an administrative group (thus giving the members of that group more privileges than they need to do the job), or shanghai someone with Exchange Full Administrator privileges every time a server needs to be installed or reinstalled. Thankfully, Exchange 2003 breaks this deadlock for most installations. With the exception of the first server in the organization and in each domain, you can now install or reinstall Exchange 2003 into an administrative group using an account that has Exchange Full Administrator on that group only.
I vividly remember a nightmare from a couple of years ago: I was trying to simultaneously install 105 Exchange servers, and the installation kept dying because various instances of Exchange Setup were making competing changes to AD. Setup's new /choosedc switch solves this type of problem. You can use this switch to specify the name of the DC you want the Exchange installation to use, thus forcing multiple installations to use the same DC. Forcing all the Exchange-related changes to take place on one DC reduces the chance of collisions when the installation process makes multiple changes to the Exchange Domain Servers object in AD.
One other change worth mentioning: Every time you install an Exchange 2000 server, Setup resets the permissions on the Exchange organization object to their default values. This behavior is a huge hassle if you've changed those default permissions (a common occurrence as doing so is one of the best available security measures). Exchange 2003 does away with this deficiency by resetting permissions when the first Exchange 2003 server is installed or upgraded but leaving the permissions alone during subsequent installations.
Other changes include a host of new (and better) Setup behaviors and some modifications to the /forestprep and /domainprep switches; I'll discuss those changes in more detail next week. In the meantime, you can visit Microsoft's Exchange Server site (at the first URL below) and run a search for "setup" to read more about how these improvements can help you with your next deployment. Or read Kieran McCorry's Exchange and Outlook Administrator article "Exchange 2003 Deployment Fundamentals," which will be available for a limited period at the second URL below, beginning on Monday, July 28.