small-business-server-2008-victoryIn recent months, The VAR Guy has heard rumblings from some solutions providers struggling to upgrade customers to Small Business Server 2008. But then The VAR Guy heard from Gaeltek LLC, a solutions provider that has managed five migrations to SBS 2008 in the past six weeks. Here's the scoop.

Based in Manassas Park, Va., Gaeltek services small and midsize businesses in the Washington, D.C., metropolitan area.

Getting Started

In a June 1 email exchange with The VAR Guy, Gaeltek's Andrew Harper described his company's latest SBS migration -- involving a Washington, D.C., customer with multiple regional locations.

For starters, the customer's 74 gigabyte mailstore was the primary reason for making the move to SBS2008. The migration involved 60 users, a main site in DC (35 users) and remote sites in Illinois (15 users), California (6 users) and Texas (4 users) -- with Domain Controllers in each site.

"We did a swing migration allowing us to eliminate the risk from the project as we could always recommission the original SBS box at any time," says Harper.

Major steps, he added, included:
  1. Join server to domain and make a domain controller (TEMPDC) to grab AD
  2. Detach and cleanup other DC references
  3. Install Exchange 2003 and service packs
  4. Install SBS2008 in migration mode against TEMPDC

Initial Bumps

"We had a few issues on the install of SBS2008," concedes Harper. "They were directly related to illegal characters being used in the public folder holding the data from a PERTRAC CMS system preventing the complete install / configuration of Exchange and its integration. Having fixed those, we fork-lifted the mailstore to TEMPDC and started migrating mailboxes to SBS2008."

The mailbox migration was the critical path and that completed @ 10pm on May 30. "We logged in on the SBS2008 from one workstation and verified all operated correctly (it did) so we then DCPROMO'd the remote sites and brought SBS2008 into production (followed by the promotion of the remote servers back to DC's)," he added.

Other key steps:
  • Migrated the BlackBerry Enterprise Server to work with Exchange 2007;
  • Setup receive connectors for the clients scanners / application servers sending email and called it a night.
By the morning of June 1, there were "no issues with Outlook whatsoever (the major concern)," says Harper. "Blackberries fully functional and the CMS system migrated flawlessly (and we have them looking at their aliases)."

Concludes Harper: "It was a long weekend but we delivered the solution to the client, fully operational with no deficiencies at the start of the working day. And all with the option to revert to the original server at any point before going live in the event of a show stopping issue."

Reality Check

To be sure, this is a tricky time for Microsoft SBS and its channel of IT solutions providers.

IBM alleges that established Microsoft SBS partners are flocking to the IBM Lotus Foundations appliance because of its simplicity. And The VAR Guy has heard a few stories about customers and VARs struggling to migrate systems from SBS 2003 to SBS 2008.

Still, Harper's experience -- completing five SBS customer migrations in six weeks -- suggests that there's plenty of SBS opportunity in the market for solutions providers that look hard enough.

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