Category Archives: Expert advice on Windows based systems and hardware

Expert advice on Windows based systems and hardware

Mastering PowerShell commands for Exchange by the book

The key to manage Exchange Server 2016 is to master PowerShell commands for Exchange.

With this latest version of Exchange, IT administrators must learn how to manage Exchange 2016 mailbox and client access and troubleshoot issues with the edge transport server, which routes email online and protects the system from malware and spam. Part of the difficulty of managing Exchange Server is learning how to use PowerShell, as the web-based Exchange admin center cannot handle every issue.

The book Practical PowerShell Exchange Server 2016: Second Edition by Damian Scoles and Dave Stork, teaches administrators with little PowerShell experience how to use the scripting language to ease configuration jobs or handle tasks with automation.

For experienced PowerShell users, this book shares ways to improve existing scripts. Administrators can learn how to use PowerShell commands for Exchange to customize their servers, manage mailboxes and mobile devices, and create reports.

From migrating to Exchange 2016 to taking advantage of its new functions, this book walks administrators through common tasks with PowerShell commands for Exchange.

From migrating to Exchange 2016 to taking advantage of its new functions, this book walks administrators through common tasks with PowerShell commands for Exchange. This excerpt from chapter 14 explains why mailbox migrations work better with PowerShell commands for Exchange:

It’s very unlikely that there is no Exchange admin that has not or will not have to move one or more mailboxes from one Exchange database to another. While some scenarios are quite easy, there are some scenarios that require some more planning, reporting and so on.

With the introduction of Exchange 2010, Microsoft also improved the one element that would grow into an almost impossible task: Mailbox moves. The revolutionary change in Exchange 2010 made it possible to move mailbox data while the user still could access and modify his/her data: Online Mailbox Move. New incoming mail is queued in mail queues until the mailbox is available again (i.e. when it’s successfully moved or has failed).

Practical PowerShell Exchange Server 2016

With the trend of growing average mailbox sizes, this was a necessary step. Otherwise it could mean that a migration would take too long to perform in a single big bang, meaning that you have to migrate mailboxes in stages and maintain a coexistence environment until the last mailbox has been moved. It was also a major step towards making Office 365 more accessible to migrate to and more flexible for Microsoft on managing servers and databases. Just consider moving mailboxes like in Exchange 2003, hoping that every mailbox has moved before your maintenance window closes… .

Luckily this has changed, and as Exchange 2016 can only coexist with Exchange 2010 and 2013, earlier versions of Exchange won’t be an issue. However, the option is still there with the -ForceOffline switch in the New-MoveRequest cmdlet. You shouldn’t have to use it under normal conditions, however from time to time a mailbox is fickle and can only move via an Offline move.

Now, most of the move mailbox options are available from within the Exchange Admin Center in one way or another. But in our experience, EAC is probably fine for simple migrations or the incidental move of one mailbox. If you migrate your server environment from one major build to another, it’s almost impossible to ignore PowerShell. Those migrations are far more complex and full of caveats, that it mostly always requires the use of custom PowerShell cmdlets and scripts

Editor’s note: This excerpt is from Practical PowerShell Exchange Server 2016: Second Edition, authored by Damian Scoles and Dave Stork, published by Practical PowerShell Press, 2017.

Breaking down the Exchange Online vs. on-premises choice

We all know the cloud is there, but how does an organization determine if a move from an on-premises platform is the right one?

Many companies currently using Exchange Server cannot escape from the siren call of the cloud. Untold numbers of organizations will weigh the pros and cons of Exchange Online vs. on-premises Exchange Server. There are many reasons to move to the cloud, just as there are ones to stay put.

Whether the cloud is better requires some deeper analysis. I’ve spent most of the last eight years migrating organizations of every size to Office 365. Over that time, I’ve grown familiar with the motivations to move to the cloud, as well as the ones to maintain the status quo.

This article will dig into the Exchange Online vs. on-premises Exchange Server debate and examine the differences between the two offerings, as well as which has the advantage in certain areas.

Is Exchange Online less expensive?

In many cases, the first selling point of Exchange Online is the cost. Since Exchange Online and Exchange on premises are very different, it’s difficult to do an apples-to-apples comparison. To get started, you must look at several factors.

The first factor to weigh is how long you plan to keep your on-premises servers. If you upgrade your on-premises servers every three years, then it’s likely those costs will exceed the payments for Exchange Online. If you plan to keep your on-premises Exchange servers for 10 years, then you’ll likely pay considerably less than Exchange Online.

There are a number of costs associated with on-premises Exchange, such as hardware, electricity, data center space and repair costs. Due to all of these factors, the real answer is a lot more complicated than the de facto response from Microsoft that the cloud is always cheaper. Of course, it’s to the vendor’s benefit to get as many companies signed up for an Office 365 subscription as possible.

Is Exchange Online more reliable?

Just as there are several ways to look at the question of cost, it’s also difficult to determine reliability in the Exchange Online vs. on-premises equation.

Microsoft touts its 99.9% uptime guarantee for Office 365. Upon closer inspection, does that assurance hold up?

Open any Office 365 tenant at any time and look at the service health dashboard. Every tenant I check has items marked in red almost every day, but those customers still pay for the full subscription. I’m not saying Office 365 has a lot of downtime, but that 99.9% uptime guarantee is more gray than it is black and white.

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What are the perks and drawbacks
of a switch to hosted email?

As for on-premises Exchange, there is no way to evaluate the overall reliability of Exchange Server. I’ve seen organizations that almost never have problems, while others experience numerous major outages. I don’t think Office 365 is more reliable than on-premises Exchange, but my expectation is data loss is less likely with Exchange Online.

Exchange Server is a very complicated and difficult product to manage. Unless you have some very talented Exchange admins, Exchange Online is the more stable choice.

Do you get newer features with Exchange Online?

In this area, there is no doubt which platform has the advantage. Due to its nature as a cloud service, Exchange Online gets new features well before on-premises Exchange. Not only that, but there are many features that are exclusive to Exchange Online. For a company that wants all the latest and greatest features, the clear choice is Exchange Online.

Every organization has specific needs it must consider, and quite often the traditional on-premises mail system does the job.

However, there is a downside to the constant stream of new features. It can take time for both users and administrators to recover from the culture shock that sets in after the migration to Exchange Online when they realize the feature set changes constantly. There is always something new to learn. Many workers prefer to come into work without spending time to learn about new features in the email system.

What’s the final verdict?

Now that you’ve gone through the Exchange Online vs. on-premises deliberation, which is better? With the sheer number of factors to consider, there is no definitive answer.

Every organization has specific needs it must consider, and quite often the traditional on-premises mail system does the job. For example, a company that relies on public folders might see some difficulties migrating that feature to Exchange Online and decide to stay with the on-premises Exchange.

It’s no secret Microsoft wants its customers to move to the company’s cloud services, but they continue to develop on-premises versions of their software.

Microsoft plans to release Exchange 2019 later this year. When that offering arrives, take the time to evaluate all the features in that release and determine whether it’s worth moving to the cloud. For some organizations, on-premises email might continue to be a better fit.