Last week, I began discussing the preparatory steps for moving your network in the direction of Exchange 2000 Server. Step 1 (information gathering) was based on the fact that Exchange 2000 and Windows 2000 (Win2K) represent a significant technology evolution, which requires you to get a head start on this steep learning curve. This week, I continue with two more steps along the migration path.

Step 2 involves analyzing your current systems. You should gear your analysis toward understanding how your existing Exchange environment operates. Your analysis should involve activities such as capacity analysis of your existing systems to determine whether they can support Win2K and Exchange 2000. You might want to evaluate the feasibility of server consolidation now, so you can make the move to Exchange 2000 easier. This is also a good time to evaluate processes and procedures for operations, administration, and disaster recovery. You might have opportunities to revamp these procedures in preparation for Exchange 2000. The final point of this step is to look at configuration management across your deployment. Are all hardware, firmware, and driver revisions current? Do you have the latest service packs applied? For example, to successfully interoperate and migrate Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000, you must have Exchange 5.5 Service Pack 3 (SP3) and Windows NT 4.0 Server SP4 applied.

Step 3 is one of the most important steps for Win2K: network preparation. If your network isn't ready for Win2K, your deployment will fail. In this step, you have three important components to examine: TCP/IP, Domain Name Service (DNS), and Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP). The IP design of your network is key. There are never enough IP addresses, and some of us have fudged a little to make our networks function in the past. You need to ensure that your DHCP scopes and subnet schemes are usable when Win2K comes along. If your company has merged, you might have several IP address classes deployed in your environment, and you need to work this out. Your DNS services are also important for Win2K. Win2K requires that your DNS services support dynamic updates and service records. If you run a legacy DNS service that doesn't support these features, you must solve this problem before deploying Win2K and Exchange 2000. The LDAP protocol is another factor you need to consider. Because Active Directory (AD) uses LDAP for synchronization and access, you need to be familiar with this important directory access protocol. Preparing the network will have other benefits throughout your organization, so even if you don't plan to move to Win2K immediately, you should still look at these items.

Next week we'll continue on our path to Exchange 2000 by looking closer at what steps we need to take to prepare for Win2K and AD.