Extra-Strength Pain Relief for Exchange Mailbox Migration Headaches

Binary Tree would like to welcome Dean Sesko as our guest blogger. Dean is a Systems Architect at Netarx where he focuses on designing and implementing large-scale messaging environments using Microsoft messaging technologies. Dean has several certifications from both Microsoft and VMware and has proven work experience with various enterprise customers.
When he’s not working, Dean loves to brew beer and integrate technology into that process. He’s even written his own beer brewing software application to track the what, how, and when of each step in the beer brewing process.
Check out Dean’s blog ExchangeBytes where he discusses Microsoft Exchange and related technologies.

Having performed hundreds of Exchange email migrations over the past 16 years, I can say without a doubt that managing mailbox moves is the biggest headache of the entire migration/upgrade process. I’ve worked with Microsoft Exchange since version 5.0, and I can say that the process is getting better with each version. Technically, moving mailboxes is quite simple - a few simple clicks in the Exchange Management Console or the execution of a crafty Exchange PowerShell command and you are off and running. However, from a business perspective, there was never an easy way to manage the process. It requires loads of manual intervention for monitoring, tracking and troubleshooting.  Cartoon Drawing of an Office  
Since mailbox migrations reach so far into an organization, touching not only the end users’ mail client, but also business critical mail-enabled applications, tracking and scheduling downtime is crucial to the success of a migration. The process of informing each user when their mailbox will be migrated and handling exceptions to the schedule requires significant effort. The necessary evils of gathering this data and managing user communications helps keep projects on time and on budget. Unfortunately, this also consumes precious resources that could be better spent elsewhere on the project. Further adding to the mailbox move headache is the stress and strain on staff due to these activities typically being done after hours and on weekends. However, in a 24/7-production facility, there are limited time slices when mailboxes can be moved, thus creating an even bigger logistical nightmare causing migration teams to work around the clock. 

In the past I’ve used a series of Excel spreadsheets and PowerShell scripts to lessen the time spent managing this process. For example, I would export data into a CSV file from Get-Mailbox, Get-MailboxStatistics, Get-MoveRequest, and Get-MoveRequestStatistics to use as a foundation for my reports. I would take this data and make it look readable to the non-technology inclined individual by adding graphs and tables to try and articulate where in the project we were and how much further we would have to go. This laborious process was usually done repetitively throughout the night as mailboxes were moved. It goes without saying that this process requires strict monitoring of the mailbox moves to avoid unexpected failures in the process. Nothing is worse than setting up a bunch of migrations to run before you go to bed only to wake and find an error happened in the middle of the night and a majority of the mailbox moves were stalled.

Thankfully, I found a cure for my migration headaches ...

Binary Tree has taken a once manual process and created a fantastically simple application with a web interface that handles the management and migrations of mailboxes from one Microsoft Exchange server to another. Their software, called E2E Complete, allows me to hand off not only the mailbox migrations, but also the management, user communications and reporting aspects as well. From a web browser you can see how many mailboxes are out there, how big they are, and a schedule of when mailbox migrations will start. From the same web application you can schedule mailbox moves to run on specific dates and E2E Complete will provide estimates on how long it will take to complete. This removes the guessing game (will this move complete before morning? will I be working over the weekend?) for migration processing. From an end user perspective, a notification can be sent to a mobile device or alternate email address when the email migration is complete. Another benefit of E2E Complete is the reporting of both successful and failed mailbox migrations. Administrative logs are created when migrations start, finish, or fail. These logs can be monitored remotely and failures can generate notifications to administrators which eliminates the wasted time watching mailboxes move. And if one mailbox does fail, the application doesn’t stop. It logs the problem and starts migrating the next mailboxes in the queue so the project stays on track.  
Centralized Control for the IT Transition Team
Spending a few minutes setting up the migration schedules in E2E Completeallows the system to work around the clock instead of you and your IT staff. You set it up, configure the blackout times, group the migration collections of users, and walk away. E2E Complete provides real-time tracking and reporting information at the click of button allowing organizations to make better-informed decisions during an Exchange 2010 migration
Being a consultant, I rarely get involved in the internal systems at Netarx (the company I work for). However, earlier last month I was assigned the task ofupgrading the entire Netarx staff from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. The major difference with this email migration was after I completed the server deployment and configuration, I was able to hand over the mailbox migration to the full time network administrator. I did a few minutes of training on how E2E Complete worked and gave them access to the web interface and turned them loose. A few days ago one of my managers sought me out to express how easy the upgrade had gone for him. He said how great it was to get an email informing him of the mailbox move and a follow up SMS text message when the move was complete. Since our own migration was so painless, our sales team started including E2E Complete in all our future Exchange engagements.
- Dean