Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 Coexistence and Upgrade Planning


Microsoft Exchange Server 2016 supports co-existence with Exchange Server 2010 and 2013. Older versions such as Exchange Server 2007 or below need to be upgraded to Exchange Server 2010 or 2013 before moving to the latest release. Some of the topics that should be considered when planning an Exchange Server 2016 upgrade or migration are outlined in this article.

Business Requirements

Organizational business requirements vary depending on how critical the email solution is, particularly from an executive and management perspective.  Some of the business requirements which should be considered when deciding whether to upgrade an Exchange Server infrastructure are: 

•    Total cost of ownership
•    Service uptime
•    Minimum user impact
•    Compliance and legal requirements
•    Is it supportable and expandable?
•    Security
•    Data retention and recovery
•    Recovery Time Objective (RTO)
•    Recovery Point Object (RPO)

Technical Requirements

The technical requirements help Exchange Administrators implement and manage the Exchange Server environment more efficiently, deliver business benefits, and help organizations meet any legal requirements related to messaging. Exchange Server 2016 has improvements in the following areas that should be considered when deciding whether to upgrade or not:

•    Ease of administration and implementation
•    Bigger mailbox size support
•    Bigger database support
•    Multiple client support
•    High availability and disaster recovery
•    Integration with other applications and hardware
•    Physical/virtual coexistence
•    Automatic server recovery

Understanding the Current Environment

Understanding the current environment plays a major role when designing a solution that will include Exchange Server 2016. It is very important to understand every component of Exchange Server and services and applications such as, Active Directory, Skype for Business, Lync, and SharePoint, which work together with Exchange Server. Without understanding the current environment it is impossible for anyone to design a new solution. To start with, you need to have the following information:

•    Exchange architecture diagram
•    Exchange design document
•    Exchange configuration information document
•    Exchange Server CPU utilization and specifications
•    Exchange Server memory utilization and specifications
•    Exchange Mailbox database configuration and sizes
•    Exchange Server storage utilization types and design
•    General network diagrams 
•    Current high availability and disaster recovery model
•    Gateway solution and configuration
•    Vendor support documents and support numbers

Microsoft provides several tools that can be used to help gather the information outlined in the previous list. These tools play a vital role in the design process for Exchange 2016 deployments. They are:

•    Exchange Profile Analyzer
•    Exchange Environment Report
•    ExIISLogParser
•    Exchange Best Practice Analyzer

Understanding the Dependent Technology Environment

Exchange integrates closely with many other applications. If your Exchange Server infrastructure integrates with other applications then understanding them plays a key role in the success of any upgrade or migration project. A sampling of some integrations that should be considered when thinking about an Exchange Server 2016 migration or upgrade are listed below. Full documentation should be compiled for any of these integrations, and for other applications and services that integrate with Exchange server and which may not be included in this list: 

•    Active Directory
•    Blackberry Enterprise Server
•    Mobile Device Management (MDM) Software
•    SharePoint Solution
•    Instant Messaging and Unified Messaging Solution
•    Backup Solution
•    Fax Solution
•    Archiving Solution
•    Journaling
•    Antivirus Software
•    Gateway and Spam Filtering Solution
•    E-mail Encryption
•    Custom Business Applications configured to Exchange
•    Monitoring and Reporting Solutions
•    Custom Outlook Plugins
•    Signature Software
•    Server Patching Solution

All the topics mentioned in this article should be considered when planning for Exchange Server 2016 deployment. Considering all these aspects will help the design of a robust solution for your organization. Failure to plan properly will result in a solution that is not fit for purpose and that will need changes and more administration over time.