Can I move an Exchange server to a new organization or site?

A. If you're accustomed to moving Windows NT servers and workstations between domains, you might think that moving an Exchange Server system between sites wouldn’t be particularly difficult. You'd be wrong, though. Every object in the directory has a distinguished name (DN) that includes the organization and site under which the object was created. Moving a server means that you have to rename every object in the directory on the server you're moving; you also have to adjust the old site's directory to reflect the absence of objects that you moved along with the server. You can’t do this manually because most of the objects whose names you need to adjust aren't visible in Microsoft Exchange Administrator.

The Exchange Move Server Wizard (MSW) handles the task, performing the following steps:

  • MSW updates every object in the server's directory to reflect the new site and organization the server is moving to. Each object gets a new DN and placeholder address. MSW keeps objects' old addresses so that an object can get mail at either the old or new address after the object moves; the Message Transfer Agent (MTA) is responsible for resolving the addresses and delivering mail to the proper location.
  • MSW updates the messages stored in the private Information Store (IS) on the server so that all stored messages have the correct address for any item modified in step 1.
  • MSW checks for duplicate names or objects because moving a server into another organization may result in some duplication.
  • MSW removes the server from the original site (and possibly organization), removing references to the server's objects from the original directory.
  • MSW adds the server to the new organization and site, creating them if necessary. You can split one organization into two if you use MSW to move a server to an organization that didn’t previously exist.

You have some tasks to perform after MSW finishes its work; for example, you have to restart the MTA on the server you've moved, clean up public folder replicas, and reset permissions.

MSW can do four jobs, each of which is useful under some circumstances:

  • It can rename a site by moving the last (or only) server in the site to a new site with a new name.
  • It can split an existing site by moving one server out of a multiserver site into a new site with a new name.
  • It can move a server from one multiserver site to another one without removing the original site.
  • It can merge two sites with different names into a single site. For example, when two companies merge and their existing organization names aren't the same, one company can use MSW to join the other company's organization, then both of the companies can create sites in the same organization.

In general, you can rename and merge sites only when you have one server in each of the sites. You can collapse a site onto a single server by moving mailboxes, connectors, and public folders to one server in the site and removing the other servers. After you’ve done that, you can disconnect the site from its organization, use MSW to create a new site in the organization, then rejoin the original site to the organization. As a final bonus, MSW can also change the NT domain and service account information for a server, whether you're moving it or not.

Before you use MSW, you should also know what it can’t do (the good news is that MSW checks for, and warns you about, most of the following limitations before it proceeds):

  • You can’t use MSW to move servers running Exchange Server 5.5, Exchange Server 5.0, or Exchange Server 4.0 without Service Pack 1 (SP1) or later. You also must upgrade all of the servers in the original site, as well as any bridgeheads in the destination site, to Exchange Server 5.5.
  • MSW can't move the Internet Mail Service (IMS) or Key Management Server (KMS), nor can it move any connectors or gateways (including third-party gateways and extension products). You must remove connectors or gateways before you do the move.
  • You can’t run MSW on computers linked in a Microsoft Cluster Services (MSCS) cluster.
  • You can’t run MSW in the middle of a replication cycle—you should run it only after replication has been completed.
  • You can't change languages when moving. If you want to move a German server, use the German MSW, or you will lose all of your localization information.
  • Messages that are queued when the MSW runs may be bounced, so you can't effectively run the MSW when you have a large queue of pending messages.
  • Users must decrypt any encrypted stored mail before an MSW move because they won't have access to their keys after the move.
  • MSW doesn't update a number of things in the private IS, including message signatures, public folder permissions, public folder contents, and client-side Outlook rules.
  • MSW doesn't update things that depend on the server name, including link and server monitors, Outlook Web Access (OWA), and Network News Transfer Protocol (NNTP) news feeds.

This material is excerpted from Managing Microsoft Exchange Server (ISBN 1565925459) and appears courtesy of the publisher, O'Reilly & Associates. This material is ©1999 Paul Robichaux and may not be reproduced in any form without prior permission.

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