Moving right along…

It was just a year ago that I blogged about our progress in the direction of migrating to Exchange Server 2007. One year on, we have just finished uninstalling that server after migrating everyone for a second time, to Live@Edu. What changed our great plan to run our own in-house Exchange server?

  1. Exchange 2007 is a very complex system that requires a lot of technical resources to set up and maintain. We don’t have those resources in-house, and contracting people to bring them in is expensive.
  2. The complexity of Exchange will continue to increase with subsequent releases. 2007 increased markedly over 2003. Maybe if we had 2003 my view of it would have been different.
  3. Exchange proved temperamental to get running on our configuration, apparently because IPv6 was running by default on Windows Server 2008.
  4. We had only 40 mailboxes max running on the Exchange server which is a very small usage considering its capabilities
  5. The server it runs on can only have 8 GB max RAM due to Intel’s designed architectural limitation of the particular chipset (dumb, huh!). Exchange for even this small number of mailboxes uses a lot of that memory.
  6. We have not had time to set up a regular backup of the Exchange database.
  7. Two of our other servers will need to be replaced at the end of 2010. We decided the best use of the hardware resources of the server running Exchange is to virtualise these physical servers rather than replace them. To do that Exchange has to be taken off that server because it uses too much resources, considering the server’s memory can’t be increased.

Now, why did we get Exchange in the first place?

  1. Exchange provides a compelling server based solution which leverages all of the rich functionality of Microsoft Outlook. If you are like me, someone who likes to use their Contacts, Calendars and Tasks, then the advantages of Exchange above just a mail server are very strong.
  2. We had to move from a Linux platform to a Windows platform and Exchange is an obvious fit with Windows.
  3. Email hosting with our local ISP would have (and probably still does) cost around $1500 per year which means that the cost of a $4500 Exchange server would pay for itself in 3 years.

Hence we went for the Exchange solution which we started to implement at the beginning of 2009. Just as we were starting to do this, the Live@Edu hosting solution was starting to become available. I chose to create a Live@Edu solution for our hundreds of student email accounts. We carried on with Exchange and got all the staff onto it at the end of Term 2 (mid year). The honeymoon did not last very long and within weeks I was testing Outlook Live on a subdomain. Once it became clear that this would be a viable solution it was put into our plan for 2010 and has now been implemented. So the staff switched mail solutions twice in three terms. And today I uninstalled Exchange from the server so there is no more conflict with the Live@Edu hosted solution.

The other items I wrote about in that previous post were Terminal Server and ISA Server. We have instances of both of these in operation at present and will be continuing with them. ISA was a bit of work to get going but now it’s fine. TS was relatively straightforward but had to be put onto its own virtual server (Hyper-V) for security reasons. The next step is to move the TS Gateway off the Hyper-V server itself (the former Exchange server) onto the TS virtual server. Once that is completed I can get on with my task of turning the Exchange server into a dedicated Hyper-V host server which will eventually have a DC, TS and ISA running in separate client server instances. Our other Windows Server 2008 box is also going to be a dedicated Hyper-V host with a DC and file/print as two separate client instances. In addition there is the question of a Vspace server for NComputing thin clients, which I haven’t worked out yet, and which in the short term runs on the FP server although it is not ideal to have that.