Planning your server upgrades

There are plenty documentation on the Net on the technical side of upgrading your server environment but very little on the actual processes that should be followed, things to consider and what to look out for. So we thought we will give you a brief run down on this. You can download the detailed process document here.

As with most projects you need to focus on the following 4 phases:

  1. Site analysis
  2. Preparation
  3. Execution
  4. Testing and problem solving







1. Site Analysis

This is a very important phase and is crucial to the success of your project. This phase is many times neglected as it can be time consuming when done properly.

  • Firstly, you would need to do a proper information gathering of what software, roles and services are being used on the servers, how they are configured and how they connect to the network (Both LAN and WAN).
  • You need to identify any problems that are currently on the servers and resolve them before you start with the execution phase.
  • Identify any compatibility issues. Make sure the software that you will be installing on the new servers are compatible with the operation system (Eg. MS Server 2008 64bit). Should you be installing the 64bit version of Windows or make use of virtualization technology, make sure that your hardware supports this.
  • Identify all risks related to the project. This includes anything that may prevent a successful execution of the project.

  2. Preparation

Preferably you would like to do as many tasks as possible as part of your preparation phase to ensure that you have everything ready before you start with the execution phase.

  • Images and Backups. This is crucial and should never be overlooked. It is recommended to make images alongside your daily backups before the project. With images you can usually get your system back to a certain state much quicker than with conventional backups.
  • Prepare your hardware. Check and test all hardware, make sure that the server has the correct specs and create your RAID.
  • Prepare your software. Make sure you have all the software and license keys for the necessary installations. This includes installation disks that might be needed to decommission certain servers / services. Contact 3rd Party vendors and arrange with them for the necessary installations.
  • Communication. Communicate expected downtime to the users as well as any changes the users might experience after the new servers are implemented.
  • Get all the necessary technical documentation that you migth need.

  3. Execution

Most of the time the execution phase can only start when you have network downtime (Users no longer working on the system). Remember to make a final backup before you start with the execution phase. This can be an incremental backup to save time. Do this as soon as you have network downtime and ensure that there are no users working on the system.

You will now install and configure your new servers. We recommend that you follow Microsft best practises to install and configure your servers – See our Best Practises section for detailed information on this.

It is very important to plan your time frames correctly. Start tasks that require the most time first (Data copy, mailbox moves etc.). Document all the settings that you configured (Passwords, account details etc.). Allow enought time for the 3rd party vendors to install their software.

It is often a good idea to try and keep the computer name the same if you are replacing servers. It elimanates a lot of workstation work and additional configuration changes that might need to be made.

  4. Testing and problem solving

Once you have completed your execution phase be sure to test all relevant services. Allocate enought time for this so that you can resolve any problems that might arise. Be sure to test the services both internally and externally and from all necessary devices.\

After you have done all the testing and you are sure that all is working you can decommission your old servers. You might need the original installation disks to do this (Exchange 2003, SBS2003 etc.)

You can download the accompanying Project Workflow and Site Analysis Checklist which you can modify according to your requirements.