Server 2012 or 2016: To Upgrade or Wait

To upgrade or wait?

Once again, we are faced with the age-old IT question – should we upgrade or wait? In this case, the question refers to Windows Server — “Should we go to 2012 now or should we wait?”  As in most cases within IT, the answer depends on the situation and is different from environment to environment.  Let’s look at the timeline that bring up this question:

  • Windows Server 2016 is expected to be released  first quarter 2016.
  • Windows Server 2012 R2 released in October 2014.
  • Windows Server 2012 had a general availability release back in September 2012.
  • Windows Server 2008 R2 has a tentative End of Life (EOL) set for 2020.

Currently, Windows 2008 R2 makes up the majority of the server workloads in use today.  Many organizations have barely started working with 2012, if at all.  Most organizations are still operating Active Directory at the 2008 level.  Some are still on Windows Server 2003, even though it has already hit EOL.  The past repeats itself because we have again hit a point where the most utilized version of a Windows software is going to be two or more generations behind the latest release.  Server 2012 adaptation increased when R2 was released and particularly when Server 2003 hit EOL and companies needed to migrate off that platform.  Timing and other factors went into the slow adaptation of Server 2012.  However, Server 2012 suffered from the same issue Windows 8 did – the interface.  Server 2012 is a solid product, but the interface turns off so many IT professionals who have to live in it day-to-day.  The interface is based on the Metro Interface used in Windows 8.  The Metro Interface was designed with touch screens and tablets in mind.  How many IT professionals have touch screens available or use tablets when connecting to their Windows servers?  Yes, you can put a start menu in 2012 with a third-party product.  But how many of us are against the cluttering of our servers with unnecessary software installations?

Given what was just stated, let’s get back to the question at hand.  Should you got to Server 2012 now or wait?  The answer depends on your organization’s needs, plans, and project timeframes.  At this point, the most compelling reasons to install server 2012 right now is if you are installing or upgrading to the latest versions of a particular application, you are still on server 2003, or a company mandate is in place.  Here are some reasons to wait for server 2016:

  • At this point in the year, if you have not budgeted for an upgrade/migration project for this year, then you can put it in the budget for next year.
  • Server 2016 has an interface that is based on Windows 10’s interface. Yes, it has a start menu.
  • Going to server 2012 R2 in the near future will immediately put you one version behind.
  • Along with Server 2016, Exchange, SQL, and SharePoint 2016 will be released as well.
  • The preview builds have had favorable reviews.
  • Needed improvements in Hyper-V.
  • If you migrate now, how long before you will need to migrate again.

Let’s look at the reasons against waiting for Server 2016:

  • Keep in mind that even though the release is expected first quarter, it is not a good thing to have your production environment on the bleeding edge. I usually advise my clients that adapting a new version of a software should be held off for a few months after the release at the least.  The major issues will most likely be found and resolved within the first few months.  I usually advocate waiting until the equivalent of the first service pack comes out.
  • If you are still on a 2003 environment, you are waiting too long and sitting on vulnerabilities that will no longer be remediated.
  • Application compatibility. We are looking at a new operating system.  You know there are going to be applications that are not compatible with it.  Even if a piece of software proves compatible, you may still need to wait until the vendor says it supports the installation.
  • Knowledge and the ability to support the features. This is a new Operating System.  You can relate what you know about previous versions of Windows Server, but there will definitely be new subject matter to learn.  Features like containers will need some research and knowledge.  If you are not comfortable with PowerShell, you better get comfortable.

In short, if you are not on server 2012 at the moment, are off of Server 2003, and you can wait about eight months, then consider waiting for Server 2016 to do your migration.  The nice thing I have seen so far, is that you can treat 2016 like another version of Windows Server with improvements for what you know and use now.  However, it is the new features and concepts that will make it worth the wait.  I will be posting a blog or two (or three) concerning the release of Windows 2016 in the next few months.  I usually write blogs like this one for a wide range of readers involved in IT from the technical to the not-as-technical.  The future blogs on Windows 2016 will be more technical.

Feel free to post any questions or comments below or reach me directly by email.

 

AZS-3

 

 

Craig R. Kalty (CCIA, CCEE, CCA, MCITP:EA, MCITP:SA, VCP)| Sr. Network Consultant craig.kalty@customsystems.com

 

 

©2015 Custom Systems Corporation

Troubleshooting: Migrating Office 365 Public Folders

Migrating Office 365 Public Folders

Not that I expect many people to have this problem, but I learned something new today. Did you know, that if you have public folders you are moving to Office 365 that exceed 50 GB, you have to wait for Microsoft to “Auto-Split” them?

Basically what is supposed to happen is you have a public folder and as it grows close to the 50 GB limit, an automated process is kicked off that will migrate some date to a new public folder mailbox. This is seamless to the end user and allows you to continue to add data. What I was doing was migrating a very large amount of data at one time. This caused the public folder to reach the limit of 50 GB in a few days. I was not moving data slowly, so the automated process did not have time to run. Since I was in a time time, crunch I needed to find a solution.

According to Microsoft, it can take up to two weeks for this process to happen. And I didn’t have two weeks. I needed it to happen, roughly — immediately — so I knew I needed to figure something out. I thought I could just create a new public folder mailbox and that would be that. The problem is, that was not working. It was still binding me to the 50 GB limit. I read that if you create a new public folder mailbox Microsoft will use it for its auto-split process. Again this did not help me.

I did a little research and found that there were two solutions to my issue. The first was to wait the up-to-two-weeks for the automated process, and the second was to run two PowerShell commands. Of course, I opted for the PowerShell commands. Here is what I did.

First I started power shell as an administrator. Then I ran the following script to connect to Exchange online via PowerShell.

Set-ExecutionPolicy Unrestricted -Force
$LiveCred = Get-Credential
$Session = New-PSSession -ConfigurationName Microsoft.Exchange -ConnectionUri
https://ps.outlook.com/powershell/ -Credential $LiveCred -Authentication Basic -AllowRedirection
Import-PSSession $Session

Once connected I then ran this command (The public folder email address can be anything you wish.):

New-Mailbox -PublicFolder -Name MasterHierarchy

Once that was complete I ran this command (Again the name can be anything you wish.):

New-PublicFolder -Name PF201 -Mailbox SecondaryPFMbx

Once the commands were complete I had a new folder under my public folders. In the Exchange management console, in the Office 365 public folder mailboxes I had a new 50 GB limit. I was now able to start moving more data and effectively had a 100 GB limit to now use.

I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below. Also, make sure you follow and friend us through social media at Twitter or Facebook.

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015

 

Troubleshooting: Exchange Hybrid Mobile Device Setup

Troubleshooting: Exchange Hybrid

I recently set up a hybrid configuration between Exchange 2010 SP3 and Office 365 for a client. First let me just say this process is not nearly as easy as Microsoft makes it out to be. There are many steps involved. One issue I came across after the Exchange hybrid configuration was set up was when I migrated an account from the on premise server to the cloud mobile devices such as phones and IPads. The Outlook client did not automatically update to the new server name. Everything I read says this should happen and devices should auto configure. It just failed and would not connect to the new server. After many hours of research and talking to Microsoft to no avail, I finally find the solution on my own. Below is what I found, how I resolved it and how I tested it.

After reading dozens of articles I finally pieced together what the potential issue was. When I opened a browser and went to the OWA URL for the onsite Exchange server, then typed in the user name and password for a user that I had already moved over (in this case my test user), what I found was the URL that it was redirecting to was https://outlook.com/owa/companyname.com. Company name is your company name. You would think at first look this is correct, but what I found was the address was not the correct one. Since our external DNS points to this address and that is the correct address for the onsite Exchange server it did still redirect me to the Office 365 portal because of the Hybrid configuration setup. Even though this aspect of it did work, I wanted to change the URL to what it was supposed to be according to Microsoft.

To verify that the URL I was seeing was the one coming from the on premises Exchange server, I opened the Exchange Management Shell and ran the following command.

Get-OrganizationRelationship | fl name.targetowaurl

This returned the https://outlook.com/owa/companyname.com that was wrong. The same one that I saw in my above testing. I then wanted to change this to the correct URL so I ran the following command in the Exchange Shell.

Set-OrganizationRelationship “On Premises to Exchange Online Organization Relationship” -TargetOwaURL:https://outlook.com/owa/federateddomain

Federated domain is your company name used for your OWA URL. For example, mail.contoso.com, you would use contoso.com in place of federated domain.

Once this was changed I again went through the test above to make sure the correct address was now showing up when OWA redirected me.

I have been testing moving email accounts that were set up in Outlook, on an android Samsung S5, and on an IPad and they were failing, forcing me to delete the accounts and re-add them. Now that I had made this change I wanted to test again. I had an account in Office 365 and all three items (Outlook, phone, iPad) were all pointed there and working.

I migrated the account back to the on-premise server using the Office 365 portal. Once completed, none of the devices worked. This seemed correct to me since I had read it does NOT work when going from Office 365 to on-prem.

I started a migration back to Office 365. Once completed, I checked OWA and it redirected me correctly. I then looked at Outlook on my computer and it said “An Administrator had made a change and I needed to restart Outlook”. This was a good sign. I restarted Outlook. I again got the same message. I had read this would happen twice so I restarted Outlook for a second time and once it came back up it was working correctly.

Next I checked the IPad and Android phone. Both had worked correctly and automatically changed to the Office 365 server. I checked the server name on both and it was correct.

It appears the Target OWA URL was the issue. I hope this can help anyone else that has this issue.

In case you are curious the Target OWA URL is set when you go through the Hybrid Configuration Wizard. Sometimes it appears it just needs to be changed. As explained here.

The other two websites that lead me to my conclusion are:

http://www.stevieg.org
http://blogs.technet.com

I hope you have found this helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to post them below. Also, make sure you follow and friend us through social media at Twitter or Facebook.

Ryan Ash

 

Ryan Ash
Network Consultant
ryan.ash@customsystems.com

 

 

 

©Custom Systems Corporation 2015