Considerations When Migrating From Notes to Exchange

Organizations change email platforms for a variety of reasons. Sometimes it’s to take advantage of a specific feature in the new system, or it can be the result of a merger or acquisition where one entity’s email needs to be converted to create a consistent environment. At Sherpa Software, we offer content solutions for both the Lotus Notes and the Outlook/Exchange platforms. From time to time, we do see customers transition from one of these popular email systems to the other.

Sherpa doesn’t offer direct migration tools per se, although there are plenty of other vendors and consulting firms that do. We also don’t endorse one mail platform over another. Where we fit into the picture is by offering – regardless of your preferred email platform – email management and e-Discovery solutions designed to assist you with document retention and storage needs, as well as regulatory compliance and other legal requirements.

Migrating from Notes to Exchange and Vice Versa

When we see customers migrate, it’s typically from the Notes environment to Exchange – although we’ve seen the reverse scenario as well. While planning the move to Exchange, email administrators often want to be assured that they won’t be giving up the mail management, archiving and e-Discovery capabilities that Sherpa provided in the Notes world. Fortunately, Sherpa offers solutions of equal reliability for both platforms.

Cloud-based Hosting Alternatives: Are they for you or not?

Before we get into specific considerations about migrating, let’s take a moment and discuss cloud-based alternatives to Exchange, particularly Microsoft’s Office 365. If you’re transferring from Lotus Notes, it’s a safe bet you have a large number of users. Office 365 may not be appropriate for organizations with high-volume email. For Lotus Notes users making the switch, sticking with an on-premise solution is probably the way to go.
More importantly, if you’re already a Sherpa customer, you’re used to having absolute control of your email environment. If you’re in a highly regulated industry, or face stringent compliance restrictions or potential litigation, a cloud-based solution is probably not for you.

Migrating to Exchange: Which Version is Best?

Once you’ve decided to migrate to Exchange, the next question is… to which version? At first glance, the obvious answer is to upgrade to the latest and greatest, Exchange 2010. But the answer may not be as simple as it seems. Exchange 2007 included an integrated migration tool, the Microsoft Transporter Suite, to facilitate converting mail messages and calendar items from Lotus Notes or POP/IMAP sources to the Exchange format. However, Microsoft has opted not to update Transporter with Exchange 2010, but rather has decided to allow third-party vendors to create migration tools. While third-party tools may be far more flexible than the fairly bare-bones Transporter Suite, they are also expensive, with pricing typically based on the number of users. If you’re planning on using third-party software to help with your migration, be sure to include researching these tools as part of your planning process, and include their costs within your budget for the migration.

Pros and Cons of Migrating to Microsoft Exchange 2007

As an alternative, you could use the Transporter Suite to migrate to Exchange 2007, at least as an interim step. This saves you the expense of purchasing a third-party migration tool, but it also means you’ll essentially be performing the migration process twice – assuming your ultimate goal is to be on Exchange 2010. Another downside is that you can’t simply upgrade an existing Exchange 2007 server to 2010 – you’ll need to install an Exchange 2010 server and then make the transfer. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to invest in new hardware. If you have a virtual environment, you can install a VM with Exchange 2010, and then eventually drop the 2007 server after the transition.

Test, Test, Test! Transferring Users from Notes to Exchange

Whichever route you take, it’s a good idea to create a test environment that mimics your production environment as much as possible. Once you start transferring users in earnest, you’ll probably be taking a phased approach where you’re moving users to Exchange in batches. During this period, the Notes and Exchange environments will need to co-exist, with users on either platform able to send and receive mail both internally and over the Internet. You’ll also need to ensure calendaring is available and that users can see each other’s free/busy time. Finally, you’ll need to take into account the synchronization of any mobile devices that users need for messaging.

Another big consideration is whether you use Notes for custom applications outside of ordinary email. If that’s the case, it might make more sense to continue to maintain some semblance of your Notes environment in order to retain access to those applications. It’s difficult to predict if some other solution can substitute for your current Notes database applications. It may be possible to use Microsoft SharePoint or some other tool to recreate the functionality of some Notes applications (such as discussion databases, or QuickPlace or TeamRoom applications), but that might be a time-consuming and costly alternative. The fact that you may rely on Notes for more than just email may have some huge implications when deciding whether or not to migrate.

Making Switching Email Platforms as Easy as Possible

Switching email platforms is never a decision that should be made lightly. But while it doesn’t have to be a nightmare, it’s almost guaranteed to be a lengthy and expensive process. The good news is, regardless of whether you’re using Lotus Notes or Microsoft Exchange, or transitioning between the two – if you need to augment your email system with tools for email or content management, archiving, or e-Discovery, Sherpa Software provides solutions that are practical, reliable and affordable for organizations of all shapes and sizes.

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