Exchange 2016 Migration Process

It has been an exciting year of migrations to our new Exchange platform and now that we’re reaching the tail end (under 500 accounts/domain) we wanted to make sure everyone was up to speed about how the migration will work. While we have done everything to make it completely seamless and non-intrusive for the users (most will just continue working without even noticing anything) we still manage every single migration as if it were our own personal email. Carefully.

Here are some steps that are involved in every migration.

Step 1: Let us know that you want to migrate at least 5 days in advance

It takes a little bit of coordination for every migration project and we want to make sure we treat each migration with white gloves – if we can address issues or potential issues ahead of time and have someone present that you can dial directly, we can minimize problems. Once you know you’re ready to go, let us know at least 5 days in advance and we’ll guide you through the process. After all, you’re paying us, don’t DIY it and chance getting lost Googling for a solution to a random issue that we’ve probably encountered thousands of times.

Step 2: Pick a URL for OWA

Everything at ExchangeDefender is branded for you and each organization comes with it’s own domain for Autodiscover, owa, etc. Anything under 16 characters goes and is typically going to be https://YOUR-ORG-HERE.xd.email

Step 3: Make DNS modifications to lower domain TTL

At least 3 days in advance you’ll want to contact your ISP or domain registrar (where your domain is hosted) and “lower the domain TTL to 5 minutes” – what this means is that you want your DNS to only be cached for 5 minutes. Most DNS servers have the setting at 3 or 1 days so we need to bring this way down so that Outlook clients can switch to the new servers quickly instead of waiting for days.

Step 4: Make backups

You should be making backups all the time but a migration is a great time to do so just because everyone will be in their email aware of the migration. If you rely heavily on Public Folders you’ll have to export that data and add it to the new technology in 2016, Shared Mailboxes. There are millions of reasons to do so from productivity to better reliability and better management.

Always backup.

Step 5: Actual Migration

Best part of the migration is that after the Autodiscover change in your DNS everything is pretty much on autopilot. Email will be moved by our team on the backend to the right servers automatically. Outlook clients will automatically reconnect to the new servers and most won’t even notice any difference except for better speed and more reliability.

Step 6: Cleanup

The last step is where we look at odds and ends: random Microsoft stuff that used to work before but now it’s suddenly broken. We’ve all been here with users, we’ve all dealt with “unique business case scenarios for xyz” and so on – again, we want to make sure everyone is happy with 2016 and productive right away and that means being on top of all the issues right away.

Knock on wood, our migrations process has had enough reps and tests that it’s very fluid and predictable now. While the cutover to the new 2016 platform is pretty much instantaneous, and mail is synced up on the backend, it can take about an hour or so depending on the mailbox for all the data to move and the search index to update. But what you get with 2016 is the most stable, trouble-free, platform we’ve ever offered.

Looking forward to seeing you on 2016.