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Migrate to Exchange 2016 and beat the rush

The path to Office 365 is easier if you're on Exchange 2016, which brings cloud integration features that benefit users and administrators alike.

The clock is ticking if you still run Exchange 2010. Extended support for that messaging platform expires in January...

2020. It makes sense to move to Exchange 2016 now, whether you plan to put your email system in the cloud in the future or not.

A company that waits until the end of support for Exchange 2010 limits its choices and invites the administrative headaches of a rushed migration. Explore your options, and discover the perks of a messaging platform designed in the cloud era. Exchange 2010 shops should plan to migrate to Exchange 2016 sooner rather than later.

Don't panic, but get ahead now

Exchange 2010 launched in 2009, and the requirements for a messaging platform today are different. Businesses should go through an extensive planning checklist before they migrate to Exchange 2016. They must determine if they require new hardware, if virtual infrastructure replacements will work with Exchange 2016 and how to handle third-party archiving tools, such as Enterprise Vault. Suddenly, that end-of-support date isn't as far away as it seems.

Additionally, Exchange 2016 leaves mainstream support in 2020 and enters extended support until 2025. If you migrate to Exchange 2016 now, you benefit from a fully supported product in its prime rather than jumping from one elderly edition to another.

Say an Exchange 2010 business wants to get to Office 365 eventually. It will be easier to get there if it migrates to Exchange 2016 first.

Expect a more complex migration if you wait until 2020 and want the most advanced on-premises version of Exchange. Based on Microsoft's history, the company could launch a new version of Exchange in 2020. Do not presume Microsoft will allow users to migrate directly to that platform from Exchange 2010. If the past is any indication, companies will need to hop to Exchange 2013 or 2016 first.

Avoid combination of Office update and mailbox migration

Say an Exchange 2010 business wants to get to Office 365 eventually. It will be easier to get there if it migrates to Exchange 2016 first. The on-premises server ensures a simple, supportable migration path to Office 365. That's because new versions of Microsoft Office likely won't support Exchange 2010. For a direct move from Exchange 2010 to Office 365, Microsoft could require the administrator to deploy a new version of Office. Don't get stuck with the pain of an Office version switch as you simultaneously push mailboxes to the cloud.

Acknowledge that Exchange Online isn't for everyone

However, it doesn't make sense for every shop to go to Exchange Online, now or in the future. Small businesses don't always have fast and reliable internet connectivity. Midsize companies host Exchange on existing infrastructure because it's a low-cost option. Enterprises often move a few mailboxes to Exchange Online but need to maintain an on-premises presence to meet legal or contractual requirements.

Get the latest innovations in Outlook

Outlook has come a long way on its web, desktop and mobile versions since Microsoft launched Exchange 2010. Outlook on the web comes with modern functionality, such as rich text formatting and improved cross-browser support. Exchange 2016 aligns closely with the features in Exchange Online and Outlook.com.

Some other benefits to an Outlook upgrade include easier image placement and link previews in email messages. Integration with Office Online Server enables rich document viewing and inline document editing in email replies.


Exchange on premises or Exchange Online?

Outlook borrows inbox management features from Office 365, such as the sweep function to delete unwanted email. Outlook add-ins integrate with cloud services and third-party apps from both Outlook on the web and Office 2013 or higher.

Gain from a simplified deployment model

Exchange 2010 enabled admins to split server roles, which complicated the deployment process. Exchange 2016 changed that model with the Mailbox role, which bundles all the services to run client access, transport, unified messaging and the traditional mailbox role.

Microsoft also publishes its Exchange Preferred Architecture (PA), which simplifies highly available deployments. With this arrangement, there's no need for intelligent load balancers to handle traffic for Exchange Server; a round-robin domain name system manages client access. This model benefits multisite deployments with easy failover between sites. Administrators who manage a multisite database availability group deployment with Exchange Server know that failover and failback URLs are a pain. Exchange Server 2016 removes this difficulty and enables URL sharing across data centers.

Reduce hardware and backup requirements

Exchange 2010 uses significant space for backup storage and RAID disks. An Exchange 2010 highly available deployment typically has at least two database copies -- and usually three or more for a multi-data center deployment. These databases often run on RAID 10 on expensive virtual infrastructure. With this setup, Exchange 2010 requires six to eight times the amount of raw storage required for just the databases.

A PA deployment of Exchange Server 2016 does not use traditional backup software or RAID technology to protect data. This Exchange version works directly with the underlying disks, with spare disks defined within Exchange instead of the RAID array. It uses the automatic reseed feature to restore failed databases with online disks. This enables admins to use a redundant array of inexpensive servers with Exchange 2016 instead of a virtualized configuration that is not tuned or optimized to work with the platform.

Take advantage of cloud-tested compliance, DLP functionality

Organizations that use traditional journaling and archiving software usually migrate that functionality to Exchange Online when they move to the cloud.

Journaling includes in-place hold -- introduced in Exchange Online and Exchange 2013 and refined over time -- which keeps an immutable copy of the original email message even if the user deletes it. This is similar to litigation hold in Exchange 2010 but with several improvements, such as retention of blind carbon copy information, ability to set a time length on a hold and the enhanced discovery capability.

Exchange 2016's data loss prevention (DLP) technology detects sensitive data, such as Social Security numbers or credit card numbers. DLP prevents that sensitive information from entering the email system and stops users from sharing it outside the organization. Many organizations already use DLP to meet requirements such as the General Data Prevention Regulation.

Plug into the cloud to use its tool set

If you adopt Office 365 but can't move all -- or any -- mailboxes to the cloud, migrate to Exchange 2016 to benefit from its cloud-integrated features with a hybrid setup.

For example, the modern attachments feature shares files from OneDrive for Business, Microsoft's cloud storage service. It appears as a normal attachment, but instead of the user's mailbox, it is stored and shared from OneDrive.

Administrators in a hybrid setup will appreciate the simplified management, while users will benefit from Office 365 features.

Next Steps

Know your Exchange 2016 hardware requirements

Check that Exchange 2016 deployment

How Log Parser Studio helps troubleshoot Exchange

This was last published in September 2017

Dig Deeper on Microsoft Exchange Server 2016

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