Preparing to Upgrade to Exchange 2007 Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 represents a significant upgrade from Exchange Server 2003 and earlier versions. It’s as big of a jump as it was migrating from Exchange Server 5.5 to Exchange 2000 Server. You can upgrade from Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2000, but there's no direct upgrade path from Exchange 5.5 and earlier versions. If you need to upgrade from Exchange 5.5 you could upgrade from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003 and then from Exchange 2003 to Exchange 2007, but that's a lot of work. Another method is to export all the mailbox data to PSTs, then import the PST information to the Exchange 2007 mailboxes. If you use this method, make sure that your mailboxes don't exceed 2GB--the maximum size of a PST. As you know, Exchange 2007 will run on the x64 platform only, which probably means you’ll need to purchase new hardware. If you’re running Exchange 2000, one of the motivating factors to upgrade to Exchange 2007 is the lack of a (reasonably priced) Daylight Saving patch for Exchange 2000. Symantec just released Backup Exec 11d, which supports Exchange 2007, so you can finally use this software to back up your Exchange 2007 server. If you install Backup Exec 11d, make sure to download the latest version from Symantec’s Web site. The current release appears to be stable, but earlier versions of 11d had significant problems. If your backup vendor doesn’t support Exchange 2007 yet, you can use NTBackup to create an Exchange 2007 backup to disk, then use your backup software to back up the contents of the server.

If your Exchange 2007 environment will have less than 400 users, to ease the pain of purchasing new hardware, consider virutalizing the server so you can run different virtual guests on the same host server. You can use either VMware Server or ESX Server as your virtualization platform because both platforms support x64 guests. You can't use Microsoft Virtual Server 2005 because it doesn't support x64 guests. Two strategies that make Exchange 2007 more scalable are the x64 platform and the amount of memory that Exchange 2007 can use. With Exchange 2003/2000, you were ultimately at the mercy of your disk subsystem because the speed of your disk subsystem determined the ultimate performance of the Exchange server. With Exchange 2007, the strategy is to cache everything, which significantly reduces the load on the disk subsystem. However, you need a lot more memory to get good performance from the server. For an Exchange 2007 mailbox server with less than 50 users, you could use VMware Server, however you can only address a maximum of 3.8GB of memory for any virtual server guest. ESX Server lets you have a maximum of 16GB of memory for any virtual guest. If your mailbox server must support a larger number of users (more than 400), you should probably keep the Exchange 2007 server dedicated and not virtualize it. However, if you plan to have dedicated servers for specific roles (e.g., Client Access, Edge Transport, Hub Transport), you might be able to virtualize these servers. The new Exchange Management Console (EMC) runs rather slow so having fast hardware is vital to good performance of the EMC.

The roles a server can have in Exchange 2007 are much more granular that earlier versions of Exchange. Depending on the size and requirements of your company, you can dedicate separate servers to different roles or consolidate most roles on a single server. With Exchange 2007, a server can have the following roles:

  • Mailbox server.
  • Client Access server.
  • Edge Transport server.
  • Hub Transport server
  • Unified Messaging server

Separating these roles allows Exchange 2007 to be much more scalable. For smaller installations, most of these roles will be placed on one server.

Before you upgrade, make sure all your Exchange-related applications are compatible with Exchange 2007. In addition to the backup software, make sure your antivirus solution and antispam solution are compatible with Exchange 2007. Check with your vendor ahead of time to ensure the packages you have are compatible with Exchange 2007.

You must have at least one Windows 2003 domain controller (DC) designated as your Schema Master and your Active Directory (AD) domain must be in Windows 2000 Native Mode. Technically only the Schema Master role needs to be transferred to a Windows 2003 DC, but if you haven’t transferred all the Flexible Single Master Operations (FSMO) roles to Windows 2003 DCs, now is a good time to do so. Although you can have Win2K DCs in AD, having all of your DCs running Windows 2003 will simplify the installation and maintenance of your Exchange server. If you have any Win2K DCs, when you try to install Exchange 2007 you might receive an error message that the DC must be running Windows 5.2 (Windows 2003). You can override the DC that the Exchange 2007 server is using by issuing the following command switches with the Exchange 2007 setup program:

<DVDDrive>:\setup.exe /mode:install /roles:HT,CA,MB,MT /domaincontroller:<Windows2003DC>

This command will run the Exchange 2007 setup program in installation mode with the server roles of Hub Transport, Client Access, Mailbox, and Management Tools using the specified Windows 2003 DC. If you’re migrating from Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2000 and you still have Win2K DCs, you might have difficulty moving mailboxes between your Exchange 2003/2000 server and Exchange 2007 via the EMC. You can override the DC by using the PowerShell move-mailbox command with the –DomainController switch. In addition, using the EMC to run any recipient task might also present problems if you have any Win2K DCs. The bottom line is to upgrade all your Win2K DCs to Windows 2003 before you attempt the Exchange 2007 installation. You’ll have enough on your hands without having to learn new PowerShell commands in addition to the EMC. Installing Windows 2003 SP2 will reduce the number of updates you’ll need when you install Exchange 2007.

One curious item you’ll notice after you’ve installed Exchange 2007 is the inability to create a mailbox using the Microsoft Management Console (MMC) Active Directory Users and Computers snap-in. You have to use EMC or PowerShell to create the mailbox, so usually creating a new account will be a two-step process: creating the AD account with Active Directory Users and Computers, then creating the mailbox using EMC or Powershell. Although you can create AD accounts directly in EMC or Powershell you’re limited in the parameters you can add to the new account, so I suspect that most administrators will create the AD account in Active Directory Users and Computers first. Exchange 2007, in many respects, represents a quantum leap forward in scalability, functionality, performance, and features, but it has a definite learning curve.

Tip: Windows Sharepoint Service 3.0 Notifications
If you’re running Windows Sharepoint Services (WSS) 3.0, and you suddenly stop receiving notifications when items are updated on the portal, check the Timer Tasks on the portal. Try deleting any existing tasks. I’ve seen corrupted tasks get stuck in the task queue, which prevents other tasks from properly executing.