Exchange 2000 - Exchange 2003 Upgrade

Here is our current setup:

Exchange 2000 Native Mode Organization
All Exch2k servers running SP3
One Admin Group
12 Servers within the Admin Group representing a central office and the rest remote offices
Multiple Routing Groups and Routing Group connectors
Our AD was W2K up until a week ago when we ran /adprep /forestprep & /domainprep then introduced our first 2 W2k3 DC's

Since most of the Exchange Servers are running on older harder plus the fact that we want to upgrade to Exch2k3, I know need to put a project plan in place to list the tasks needed for a successfull upgrade to Exch2k3.  We would like to perform some consolidation back to our hub office.  We've purched two new servers which are still in the box.  These two new servers will reside in the hub office.  Each remote office has a T1 coming back to the hub.  I would imagine the easiest thing to do is:

Prepare AD schema for Exch2k3 by running /forestprep and /domainprep
Build out the two new servers with W2K3 then install Exch2k3 into the single admin group
We have 40gb's worth of PF's, so just use pfmigrate to add the new E2k3 box as a replica
Start process of identifying which connectors have the current hub server as the preferred bridgehead, then add the new E2K3 servers as bridgeheads while removing the current server then restarting the MS Routing Engine Service
Move Mailboxes from current hub server to newly deployed Exch2k3 servers

With respect to the remote sites, is a T1 acceptable for across the wire MAPI?  We're not running Outlook 2003 (Cached Mode) but we're still on Outlook 2002.  I was going to tell management that we must upgrade to Outlook 2003 at the remote sites first.  Once that is done, it should be pretty simple by basically moving the mailboxes at night to the new Exch2k3 hub servers.  The great thing is, all the servers are in the same Admin Group so we don't have to worry about cross-admin group moves and all that comes along with that.

Any chance someone has had to do this before and has an old MS Project Plan I could reference?

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SembeeConnect With a Mentor Commented:
The frontend has to be upgraded first. You will be unable to install Exchange 2003 until the frontend has been upgraded.

An Exchange frontend will happily serve backends that are of an older version. So an Exchange 2003 frontend will happily work with Exchange 2000 backends. You will not get the Exchange 2003 OWA, but otherwise it will work fine.
The thing to remember is that the frontend should be the same or higher than the backends that it looks after.

If you don't want to inplace upgrade the frontend, then what you have to do is turn off the frontend option, install the new machine and then turn the frontend option back on. Once you are happy the new server is ready, switch them round. The rest of the upgrade will go through quite easily.

Exchange 2000 to 2003 migrations are very easy. The major headache is getting the public and system folders across, as replication off Exchange 2000 is very slow. Once you have them on to at least one Exchange 2003 server things become much easier.

First thing I would look at is your SMTP and Routing Group connectors. See if you consolidate them down. Remember that an SMTP Connector can be either routing group or Exchange org wide, so a single connector can operate for all of the servers - Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003.

Once you are at that position - the movement of the mailboxes is simply a matter of local planning.

Is a T1 acceptable for running Outlook live? Depends on the number of users. 1 user - fine. 100 users? Probably not.
The deployment of Outlook 2003 can be handled as a separate issue. However if you decide to deploy Outlook 2003 preconfigured, then you should make sure that it is configured to point at one of the new servers.

The only other thing I would consider in the plan is a third server to operate as a frontend to sit in front of the two new servers. This doesn't have to be new hardware - one of the older servers being replaced could be used. Ideally have it on Windows 2003, it only needs a Standard license for Exchange 2003 - not an Enterprise edition.

msadexchmanAuthor Commented:
Hi Sembee,

Thanks for your response.  Can I ask one more thing?  I forgot to include that we have a front end server for OWA running W2K and Exch2K.  What will happen to the users mailboxes once I move them from Exch2K to the Exch2K3 box?  Do I have to upgrade the FE first?  I also have many other servers housing Exch2K mailboxes that point to this FE box and won't be moved for some time.

msadexchmanAuthor Commented:
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