Exchange 2013 migration in 12 simple steps

Take the sting out of an Exchange 2013 migration by following these 12 steps for training, installation, verification and more.

Migrating from Exchange Server 2010 to Exchange Server 2013 is rarely an easy process, but you can make the migration less painful by using this 12-step plan. We'll cover digital certificates, mail flow, training and everything else that will come up during your organization's Exchange 2013 migration.

1. Get the necessary training.

Even though Exchange Server 2013 has been widely regarded as one of the less significant Exchange Server releases, there are major architectural differences between Exchange Server 2010 and Exchange Server 2013. Your IT staff needs to receive the proper training before you even think about performing a migration. Similarly, it's a good idea to provide users with some updated training if they're used to Outlook Web App.

2. Check the system requirements.

The Exchange Server 2013 system requirements are similar to those for Exchange Server 2010. Even so, reviewing the system requirements is an important part of the deployment planning process so you don't run into issues later on.

3. Back up everything.

Prior to installing Exchange Server 2013, make a full system backup of your existing Exchange Servers and Active Directory. Deploying Exchange Server 2013 involves making updates to Active Directory, so you will need a way to roll back the directory if something were to go wrong.

4. Install Exchange Server 2013.

The next step in the Exchange 2013 migration process is to install Exchange Server 2013. You'll need to prepare your Active Directory and download the latest updates prior to performing the installation. In fact, the original RTM release of Exchange Server 2013 wasn't even compatible with Exchange Server 2010. It was only possible to join Exchange 2013 servers to an Exchange Server 2010 deployment once Cumulative Update 1 was released.

5. Verify the installation.

After the Exchange Server 2013 installation completes, verify that the installation was successful. To make sure there weren't any critical errors, start by reviewing the setup logs and looking at the Application log in the Event Viewer. You can also use the Get-ExchangeServer cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell to make sure the new Exchange Server is recognized.

6. Enter your product key.

When you've verified the new server's functionality, enter your product key. This is a simple step, but it's so simple that it's easy to forget.

7. Add digital certificates to the Client Access Server.

The next thing you should do in your Exchange 2013 migration is add digital certificates to the Client Access Server. Exchange Server 2013 includes a self-signed certificate that can be used for SSL encryption, but the self-signed certificate isn't appropriate for production use. You must provide your Client Access Server with a certificate created by a reputable, trusted certificate authority.

8. Configure the Offline Address Book.

You'll need to create an Offline Address Book on an Exchange 2013 server and then configure Exchange to use the newly created address book as the default. Otherwise, when you remove the legacy Exchange Servers, the Offline Address Book will disappear.

9. Reroute Internet mail flow.

At this point in the process, it's usually safe to reroute Internet mail flow. The idea is to direct inbound Internet mail to an Exchange 2013 Client Access Server instead of the currently used Exchange 2010 Client Access Server.

10. Move the user mailboxes.

If you're performing a full Exchange 2013 migration, the plan is to eventually eliminate the legacy Exchange servers. You'll need to move mailboxes off Exchange 2010 mailbox servers and on to the new Exchange 2013 mailbox servers. This can be accomplished by using the New-MoveRequest cmdlet.

11. Move public folders.

If your Exchange Server deployment uses public folders, now is the time to move them. Exchange Server 2013 doesn't store public folders in the same way legacy versions of Exchange did. Exchange 2013 stores public folders in a mailbox database within a special mailbox type called a public folder mailbox.

12. Install the management tools.

The last step in the Exchange 2013 migration process is to install any required management tools. This can include third-party spam control tools, management tools and monitoring tools. But keep in mind anti-malware software should be installed much earlier in the process, preferably before the server contains any live data.

Final thoughts

Although this 12-step process can help you with the basics of an Exchange Server 2013 migration, there may be additional steps, depending on how your existing Exchange Server deployment is configured. This plan doesn't take into account unified messaging or multi-tenancy. These types of specialized configurations will require additional steps.

About the author:
Brien Posey is a ten-time Microsoft MVP with two decades of IT experience. Before becoming a freelance technical writer, Brien worked as a chief information officer at a national chain of hospitals and healthcare facilities. He has also served as a network administrator for some of the nation's largest insurance companies and for the Department of Defense at Fort Knox.

This was first published in September 2013

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