Demazter’s Migration Tip #2 – The Practice Run

Next in our series of Guest posts by Exchange specialists is Glen Knight, aka Demazter. Glen is tackling a tough topic- preparing your environment for a migration- essential for keeping the migration free from additional Costs, Risks and potential Downtime.

Glen Knight is the founder of Demazter IT Services, a UK based IT consulting company which specialises in installation, support and maintenance of secure environments based on VMWare and Microsoft technologies. He has been working in the industry for the past 14 years providing support, installation and consulting services for all sizes of businesses working with all versions of Windows, Microsoft Exchange and Small Business Server, including large scale Active Directory design and maintenance.

Glen also has a blog: and very active in one of the leading technical community sites - Experts-Exchange.

Welcome to my series of short tips on migrations. Whilst based on Microsoft migrations the same principles can be applied to any type of migration.

My first tip Migration Tip #1 – Source Server Health can be found here.

My second tip is about making sure you are familiar with the technology you are migrating to.

For many people, migrating to a new technology will be the first and only time they perform this task. So, it’s always a good idea to familiarise yourself with the setup process before you do it for real.  With the use of virtualisation technologies we can install and test new products without the need for new hardware and without the possible impact on our live environment.

There are a number of virtualisation products that will allow you to do this on your desktop/laptop computer. You need to consider that most new products (if not all) will be based on x64 bit architecture. This does limit the virtualisation technologies that you can use on the desktop. Some of my favourites are listed below.

  • VMWare Workstation, this is a paid product but worth its weight in gold
  • VMWare Server, this is free for use and technically should only be used on a Server Operating System, but it does work on Desktop OS for testing purposes.
  • Virtual Box

Whichever technology you use, virtualisation will allow you to install the new software in a test environment, and keep installing it until you are happy with the process. Run through it 2, 3 even 4 times. Make sure you are familiar with the screens and what answers you are going to provide to the wizards. Take notes, even write a step-by-step of what you encountered and when you encountered it. Remember, the more you do now when you are in a safe “sandbox” environment, the easier and less pressurised the real thing will be. Don’t pay too much attention to the actual data you are entering as some of this will change when you do a migration as opposed to a new installation.

For the actual Migration Pick a migration guide for your technologies, it’s always best to use one that’s recommended by others and they have had good success with.  You will find my migration guides here. I use my guides in my own migrations and update them with any changes as often as possible.  Read the guide thoroughly before you start the migration.   It’s easier to get answers when you are not under pressure to fix things.

If you have the time and the inclination I would also suggest that you convert your physical source server to a virtual one. This will allow you to do a test migration with your actual source server. There are many tools for performing the capture and they depend on the virtualisation technology you are using and whether you want a free or paid product. Some examples of methods that can be used to convert physical machines to virtual ones can be found here.

Doing a virtual migration with a virtual copy of your actual source server is a great way to identify any problems you may encounter during the real live migration. You then have the opportunity to rectify these issues and then try the migration again. Once you are happy the migration has worked you are then in a position to do the live backup. I would be doing 3 to 4 virtual migrations just to be absolutely sure. Watch out for tip Migration Tip #3 – Preparing for Live Migration in the next day or two.