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Exchange Server 2003 Upgrade Options: Enterprise, Cluster, or...?

Q. We currently have one Exchange 2003 Standard server in a 200-user, three office environment that’s maxed out. Should we go to Exchange 2003 Enterprise Edition and/or a cluster? Or should we be looking for another solution?

A. It sounds as if you’re in the very normal situation of having a network that has gradually grown and now, certainly regarding email, is at bursting point. Now is a good time to take a step back and identify what you need from your email system. Before rushing into putting an expensive solution using an Enterprise version of Exchange, I suggest considering the following questions, in no particular order:

  1. What sort of growth do you expect in the next couple of years?
  2. What sort of budget do you have?
  3. What sort of downtime can you afford with your email system?
  4. How much data can you back up?
  5. Do you currently archive data, and do you have compliance requirements?

When you’ve answered these questions, you’ll be better placed to make an informed decision about your strategy going forward.

Some possible alternative solutions include adding a second Exchange Standard server; this would be the simplest route, although it would also bring some user inconvenience. You could, of course, go the entire route and consider a clustered solution with Enterprise servers, but do you have the expertise to maintain and run a cluster? If not, you might find that a clustered solution will provide worse uptime than standalone servers. And if you want high availability, you’ll need to consider the other areas that can fail besides the Exchange server when planning your solution.

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