Microsoft Exchange 2010: Are you migration ready?

 There is no doubt Microsoft Exchange 2010 is project many CIOs will be tackling this year, but I wonder if they've really thought about what it means to be, ready to migrate? I wonder how many CIOs, IT managers and admins have considered how 'migration-ready' their existing environment really is?

When I think about ways to help organizations achieve a smooth Exchange 2010 migration, I'm often setting my sights on the fragmented email environments that hamper this migration readiness. These are the LAN based email management tools we've proudly built-up over the years that run on the periphery surrounding Exchange, they are many, and they are a problem; the time has come to declare them and the fragmentation & complexity they cause - The Enemy!

Why is this? Well, we live in a throw-away society where planned obsolescence is built into everything. The life of our 'stuff' is limited. The technology in our lives, whether domestic or professional, is a perfect example of this planned obsolescence; especially if you happen to be a slave to a particular vendor who is prone to releasing a new version every twelve months. I hear the iPad 3 is going to have five cameras, by the way.

We generally try to find a balance between making our technology functional and keeping it up to date. At work, our IT departments are always finding innovative ways to solve problems with what they have already got, the 'doing more with less' principle. Every once in a while they splash out on a new gadget - usually to solve another problem! This 'mentality' is about being able to balance budget with functionality and effectiveness, it's how we've operated the corporate IT department for the last thirty years. Our IT managers and CIOs have added solutions to the network as and when a new problem occurs (remember your first Anti-spam solution - oh the relief!!). They've added tools on a reasonably regular basis, holding onto the ones they already have, slowly growing the infrastructure.

Of course all these IT infrastructure tools are designed to be replaced too, but finding the time and budget to do that is hard. Patch and replace is another 'mentality' that allows us to simply keep on upgrading everything in place - but it doesn't solve the new obvious problem of complexity and fragmentation and certainly doesn't help you when it comes to being migration ready. Take your email management environment as an example - probably a collection of various solutions all working independently in support of a single Email Platform like Microsoft Exchange.

With many IT managers and CIOs thinking about ways to upgrade to Microsoft Exchange 2010, or perhaps even BPOS or Office 365, it's natural we take a look at their current setup. They like to ignore it but the fragmentation that's been built up over the years, and is getting in the way. You could even say the fragmentation is the enemy of an effective migration to Microsoft Exchange 2010. All of these fragmented point solutions simply conspire against you when you try to migrate any key component; they create unnecessary risk, unanticipated cost, planned (and unplanned) downtime. When we talk about this fragmentation we really do mean it has become the enemy of your migration plans, especially if you are thinking about moving all or parts of your services to the Cloud.

Getting rid of this fragmentation now, before you migrate, will make life a lot easier afterwards, and getting rid of on-premise clutter in favor of the Cloud means you won't be looking at the same problem again when the next major upgraded is needed. I think in order to have a really effective plan for migrating any solution, especially Microsoft Exchange, you need to find a way of making as many efficiencies as possible during the migration. A piece of core infrastructure like Exchange almost requires you to do the best job you can to make sure you're not just swapping out to a new version. De-cluttering and life laundering your current environment is the only way to really make this an effective move; it is the only way get a clean break on that tangle of technology you're so entrenched in. I mean, why bother migrate, unless you can make the outcome as perfect and brilliant as possible. You're only selling your users' short if you don't.   Image thanks to Joe Shlabotnik via Flickr