Moving Exchange Server 2003 to another location without missing e-mails.

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Microsoft Exchange
I currently have Exchange Server 2003 installed and running in the office. The office is moving to another location. What is the best way to move the server without missing any emails? Thanks in advance.

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Depending on the downtime you probably won’t miss any. Most other email servers will simply retry up to a limit (defaults are different for different systems) Usually 4 hours is a safe bet. If you need more time than that (and I would recommend it anyway), set yourself up a mail relay/gateway to handle incoming mail. Then when the server is disconnected it will continue to queue the incoming mails for delivery until the server is reconnected (make sure the defaults for deliver time as mentioned above are not too small though). Then change things back over to not using a relay after you are done. (To set up relay requires either a dns change or an ip address change, though since you are changing locations, I assume a dns change is in order anyway)

If you use an external service to filter your incoming mail, then they are already queueing it for you, just find out what their delivery timeout is so you don’t exceed it.

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  • Bigshybear
    My answer makes a few assumptions. 1. Your mail server is behind a firewall and you are port forwarding port 25 (and possibly port 80) from the firewall to the mail server. 2. You have your own internet domain. 3. You have the ability to add entries to your internet DNS domain. 4. You are NOT in a From this point, short answer - add an MX record to your DNS table. Identify the IP address range you will have at your new location, pre-allocate one IP address for the firewall/mail server and add this address to your DNS record. Cleanest way to do this is 24 hours before the move add an A record for a dummy mail server name (e.g. mail2.companyname.com), pointing to the current IP address. Add an MX record with a higher priority (lower number) pointing to this new record. Modify the existing A record for the mail server to the preallocated IP address from the new location. You'll end up with two A records for mail servers, and 2 MX records. For 24 hours mail will come in to the 2nd choice mail server 'mail2.companyname.com' Day of move, shutdown the server and the firewall and move them. At the new site change the IP address of the firewall, and mail will start coming in within minutes. During the physical move mail will queue up at the sending mail servers. IETF RFC 1123 says "the give-up time generally needs to be at least 4-5 days". I've NEVER seen a mail server implementation that didn't give you at least 4 days. If you have web access to the mail, you'll need to tell people to use the temporary 'mail2.companyname.com' for the last day before the move.
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  • Bigshybear
    One other off the wall remark. The physical move of your servers will put a physical stress on physical hardware, including the hard drives. I STRONGLY recommend you make sure you have a good backup(s) for the mail server. My personal pattern for moving mail servers (or any server) is to check out all the hardware on the server at least 1 week in advance, including identifying the models of the hard drives, and the model of the SCSI controller or the RAID controller. If the drives are in a RAID configuration I make sure I know EXACTLY how the RAID is configured, how many drives, what RAID mode, and container size(s). I then make sure I know where I can get replacement hardware in a hurry, from 1 drive up to and including replacing the entire server. In the last week I VERIFY that backups are being made, and they are good. Then, as a last step, at the last possible moment before the physical move I shutdown the Exchange services and use NTBACKUP and backup an image of the entire mail server to an external hard drive, or to a Network Attached Storage device separate from the mail server. (For the last two moves I used a 250 GB USB external hard drive.) Then I powerdown the server, disconnect the cables and move it. On the last two moves, the movers were waiting on me, but tough - let em wait. Now if anything happens - the server falls off the truck, the truck gets into an accident, a drive fails you know EXACTLY how to rebuild the server, and you can do it FAST - within 12 hours after getting all the hardware. My experience over the last 20 years has been that moves are very hard on hard drives, and older servers. With NTBACKUP you can restore an entire image of the server, and not have to worry about the Exchange utilities to repair the mail store. Second off the wall remark. Be very nervous about the internet connection at your new location. My personal experience with telco's here in southern california is that the internet connections came up correctly and on time 4 times in the last 27 moves. Means that 23 times out of 27 times they failed - with delays running from 4 hours to 26 days, most common was 3-1/2 days. Try to time things so that the internet connection is up at least 3 days before hand, and YOU test it, or somebody you absolutely trust tests it, not the telco's techs.
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