Is Hosting Exchange in Your Own Data Centre Dead?

Is Hosting Exchange in Your Own Data Centre Dead?

In short, no. There are still good reasons to manage and host your own email infrastructure, but these cases are getting rarer as Microsoft have invested a lot in ensuring that Exchange Online meets most organisations security and compliance requirements. In this article we will go through an overview of the use cases, options and solutions that are available for those with an on-premises Exchange environment.

Exchange 2010 creeps towards its death (or end of extended support) and on the 13th October 2020 we will mourn its passing forever.  After the 13th October you will be left without updates to Exchange and without support from Microsoft.  You may be thinking even after we’ve endured the pain of migrating from Windows 7 and Server 2008, we still have more to deal with! Unfortunately, yes. Well it’s for good reason, after all maintaining legacy systems isn’t anyone’s idea of a good time. I know what I’d rather be doing, and it isn’t running ESUTIL to defrag a mail database.

So, for those still running Exchange 2010 or other later versions lets discuss the options we have available when October creeps closer like Freddy Krueger’s claw.

Go back to fax, letter or telegram

telegram

On some days in IT departments it can feel like this is the best option. Wasn’t life simpler before you had to concern yourself with Phishing emails, 419 scams, Viagra spam and ensuring your mailbox servers have enough space? Also, who wants the stress of a 3AM call out to troubleshoot email? However, unless you can retire to a remote island, shun all technology and live off the land in a driftwood wooden hut you may still need to deal with businesses email infrastructure. Anyway, I’m sure we would get bored drinking coconuts and being bitten by sand flies.

Migrate to a later version that you host in your data centre

Server room with email icon

Migrating to the latest or newer version of Exchange is still an option for you and there are a few good reasons that you may want to do this. As mentioned early the reasons to keep hosting your own mail infrastructure are getting few nowadays as Exchange Online is a mature solution. Exchange Online have addressed most security and compliance concerns and with the Microsoft 365 integration benefits that Exchange Online can bring it’s certainly the best option if you can relocate there. Here are some of the reasons for hosting your own Exchange.

Highly secure environments

You may have requirements or regulations that require you to manage your own security or that you cannot utilise cloud services.

CapEx not OpEx

You aren’t ready to shift to paying a monthly or quarterly bill. Although, with Enterprise Agreements it’s still possible to pay up front and over a longer term and go to Exchange Online.

Applications

You may have a third party or in-house built application that doesn’t work with Exchange Online. There are options here though as you could move all mailboxes to the cloud except the one(s) required by the application.

If upgrading your own Exchange environment is your next step, then take a look at some of new features that are built into Exchange 2019 which include:

  • MCDB (Meta Cache Database) – A feature that is part of Office 365 Exchange already and comes to on-premises hosted exchange. This feature stores meta information and can greatly improve access and search.
  • Windows Server Core supported – Server Core is a simpler and more secure version of Windows, effectively it has no GUI and is managed by PowerShell.
  • Search Index – The Search Index has been completely rebuilt greatly improving search speed

For a full set of features take a look at Microsoft Docs.

Migrate to Exchange Online

Moving your email to Exchange Online gets rid of the headache of managing your own mail servers. In the past I’ve been involved with countless email restores, mail server crashes and database recoveries having an option where I don’t have to manage mail servers appeals greatly. Don’t get me wrong I enjoy a good puzzle or adrenaline fuelled Saturday; however, I’d rather get my kicks from climbing a mountain or descending one with a ski pass than recovering an email cluster.

So, if you have decided to migrate your mailboxes to the cloud here is a look at what journey you could take.

Cutover Migration

For less than 150 mailbox users and a migration that will take less than a week.  Effectively with this migration you will shut down your on-premises hosted exchange environment and then begin using Exchange Online.  This option is less complex and is great for small organisations.  Bear in mind users will need to setup a new outlook profile with this option and you will need to give them a new password so it can be a little disruptive.

Express Migration

For up to a few hundred mailbox users and a migration that takes less than a few weeks. This migration gives you some of the hybrid capabilities but without too much complexity.  You can control when mailboxes migrate which is great for controlling when teams move to the cloud.  This migration will do a one-time directory sync from your on-premises Active Directory, this will enable users to login with their existing credentials.

Hybrid Migration

Larger migrations with more than 150 mailbox users and taking a few weeks or months.  In reality this could be tens of thousands of mailboxes.  This migration gives more control over migration batches.  This migration will do a regular directory sync from your on-premises Active Directory, this will enable users to login with their existing credentials.

Whatever your strategy is there is a lot of planning involved in making it a smooth and successful upgrade or migration.  You have a lot to consider such as mail filtering, mail relays, mail clients, journaling, archiving, anti-phishing, anti-spam etc. However, there are a lot of resources which can help you on Microsoft Docs.

Also watch this space for SBL’s webinar series where myself, Krishna Pichara, Rob Blount and Tim Hall go through the options, tools, caveats and considerations.

If you require assistance with your email strategy, upgrade or migration please reach out and talk to the team at SBL.

Register for the Exchange 2010 Webinar

SBL’s own Matt Fooks, Krishna Pichara, Rob Blount and Tim Hall will go through the options, tools, caveats and considerations. Date and time to be announced but register your interest below and we’ll send more information as we have it.