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Migrating from a bad Windows+Exchange Server setup


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#1 startover909

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Posted 18 November 2014 - 11:42 PM

I have an interesting and somewhat unique situation here that I'd really like to hear your opinion on.


First, some background information:
 

I run a small business that focuses on building custom computers, workstations and occasionally servers. I generally do not provide any business/enterprise software related services and instead focus on hardware, though I do have some server/networking related knowledge and experience, mostly limited to the deployment of simple, smaller scaled and non mission critical setups.


The Challenge:
 

A small business owner approached me after purchasing two office computers from us to replace his aging slow ones. He told me that his office server is also in urgent need of replacement because the hardware was dying and problematic, and the software was also buggy and possibly malware-infected. I told him sure we can build one, but he wanted an all-in-one solution that includes both the server and software migration since he was apparently unhappy with his IT guy and just want a fresh restart. So I took a deeper look into his current setup and here's what I found:

  • He has only 2 computers (employee workstations) plus the one server in his Office. 
  • His employees' job mostly involves exchanging emails with clients and accessing/managing client information through a proprietary CRM system (locally hosted, data driven by an Access database).
  • Now here's the kicker: for such a small scaled setup, with users total (including him), someone apparently convinced him to purchase a serious Xeon server 5 years ago along with full blown versions of Windows Server 2008 and Exchange Server 2010. So the server is essentially running AD as domain controller, Exchange Server which hosts emails for 3 people, the small CRM server, and finally, remote desktop that he occasionally uses to access stuff away from office.
  • Apparently, the Exchange Server is installed on top of the DC itself, which is highly discouraged for a variety reasons.
  • All his and his employees' email clients (including the workstations, personal laptops and smart phones) apparently are Outlook, which he has grown very used to and cannot live without.

The Solutions:
 

My initial response to him was that you really don't need a server at all. Consider a nice cloud/hosted solution that runs $5-$10 per user, that will save so much money and without all the headaches of running a server. Note that I'm an honest person and I like to tell the truth, even though in this case it means I may lose the potentially lucrative sale. Surprisingly, he *likes* the idea of having his own server, including a reason that I cannot really argue against: being a financial adviser with highly sensitive information by nature, he likes all his data, including emails, stored privately and locally, so that Uncle Sam and all the 3 letter agencies cannot easily sniff around with or without his knowledge (of course you can call him paranoid, but that's a different topic altogether).
 

So here we are, as small as he might be, he does want his Exchange Server running in his office. And yet he is budget-conscious this time around–it's not like I can really bring myself to recommend two servers (one Exchange and one DC) to him.


So given the scenario, what do you think is the best way to help him migrate to a new server? We'll be using a new server that runs Windows Server 2012 R2, and re-use his old Exchange license. But are we really going to put Exchange on top of DC again? And even if we go down this route, is there a clean way to transfer the DC? My understanding is that if we set up the new server and promote it as DC, the old server cannot even be demoted because it has Exchange on it (which is one of the reason *not* to do it in the first place), is this going to be a problem? I feel there really is no reason to have a domain in the first place for his setup, yet the Exchange server apparently must run in a domain.


Your advice on this will be greatly appreciated!


Edited by startover909, 18 November 2014 - 11:45 PM.


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#2 Wand3r3r

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 10:29 AM

Small business server runs a DC and Exchange on the same server.  Not running exchange on a DC only pertains to larger operations and really isn't applicable here.  You would first talk to the CRM technical support and make sure it can run on the newer server version.  Some will not and it will require a upgrade.  I would not recommend any kind of migration.  I would bring up a SBS server which includes exchange.  Export the outlook pst files and reimport.  Set the server with same settings as existing. Create user accounts and join the workstations to the domain and you are done.  I don't see any mention of backups.  Server should have backup media that he can take home as off site redundancy.  Minimum raid level should be Raid 1.


Edited by Wand3r3r, 19 November 2014 - 10:29 AM.


#3 startover909

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 11:38 AM

Small business server runs a DC and Exchange on the same server.  Not running exchange on a DC only pertains to larger operations and really isn't applicable here.  You would first talk to the CRM technical support and make sure it can run on the newer server version.  Some will not and it will require a upgrade.  I would not recommend any kind of migration.  I would bring up a SBS server which includes exchange.  Export the outlook pst files and reimport.  Set the server with same settings as existing. Create user accounts and join the workstations to the domain and you are done.  I don't see any mention of backups.  Server should have backup media that he can take home as off site redundancy.  Minimum raid level should be Raid 1.

 

Thanks for the response. I don't think he'll like the idea that SBS is a discontinued product and would rather like the full blown server OS. But I like what you're suggesting: forget migration. Start over. New server, new domain, new Exchange setup, just old settings and import existing data. And since his scale is small, we'll just put the Exchange on top of the DC anyway, right?

 

The server will have RAID 10, and there will be external backup mechanism in place. So redundancy shouldn't be a problem here.


Edited by startover909, 19 November 2014 - 12:45 PM.


#4 Wand3r3r

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 12:57 PM

Right.  That is raid 10 not raid 0+1?  Some folks confuse the two.  I am a big fan of raid 10.  SBS was much easier for small businesses to manage and is still supported but you are right to go for the newer version.



#5 startover909

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 01:07 PM

Yes it will be a RAID 10 SSD setup with a LSI MegaRAID controller. As you can imagine he doesn't have more than a couple of hundred GB's of data so it's not *too* expensive. 


Edited by startover909, 19 November 2014 - 01:09 PM.


#6 lastsuspect

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 01:26 PM

Small business server runs a DC and Exchange on the same server.  Not running exchange on a DC only pertains to larger operations and really isn't applicable here.  You would first talk to the CRM technical support and make sure it can run on the newer server version.  Some will not and it will require a upgrade.  I would not recommend any kind of migration.  I would bring up a SBS server which includes exchange.  Export the outlook pst files and reimport.  Set the server with same settings as existing. Create user accounts and join the workstations to the domain and you are done.  I don't see any mention of backups.  Server should have backup media that he can take home as off site redundancy.  Minimum raid level should be Raid 1.

 

Thank you for information



#7 JohnnyJammer

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Posted 19 November 2014 - 07:19 PM

From memory and i could be wrong on this, when you create a new exchange server with similar settings. After the server has been configured and setup with the same useraccount details.

Creating the same useraccount/mailboxes and then opening outlook, the server will start replicating what the outlook ost/pst will have on the local machines.

 

i have seen people accidently delete mailboxes(Wish they would take that out of exchange) by accidently deleting the mailbox which then deletes the user object in AD.

Simply re-creating the useraccount and mailbox, then opening outlook synced the new mailbox with the data from the OST from the computer.

 

With such little user base i cant understand why waist all that cash when the cloud could do it even exchange online can do it.

Google has the ability to import dabases for CRM as well from memory.






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