Server Upgrade Advice (2003 -> 2008?)

i work for a chairty. We are a medium sized operation with around 800 members of staff. ICT Wise we have 8 servers, Main ones being 1 DC (HP Proliant ML370) 1 Exchange Server & 1 DC Replication server. These along with the other 5 servers all run some variant of Windows Server 2003. Recently we had our Exchang server go down and (With a lot of help from Experts Exchange!  THANKS!) we managed to get it running again. However it is an old warhorse of a server that needs upgrading. Here is where we need some advice. Way I see it we have 3 options:

Upgrade Exchange to better Physical server but just keep it as 2003 server. Problem here is in 1 years time our DC is going to need upgrading, therefore making an upgrade now counter productive? (Am I right?) Other end of the spectrum we could go all out and replace the DC with a nice shiny new one and Exch. But THEN we have to decide to we go server 2008 or stay server 2003? I hope this makes sense! Obviously as a chairty we have a very limited budget and can only really make descisions like this once every couple of years, so we need to make sure it is the right one. So any advice guys?

What would you do?
What is the ideal situation?
How good is Exch 2007/Server 2008?
How interoperable is it with Server 2003?
Any other advice?
Anything we need to bare in mind when making these descisions?

Thankyou so much in advance!
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Stephen CroftTechnical ArchitectCommented:
If I'm honest I wouldn't jump to 2008 just yet. Yes, its fab and will be the standard for years to come (and all that MS stuff), but it's a massive jump in technology and required hardware.

Exchange 2007 on the other hand is well worth the upgrade, and I would migrate to new x64 hardware running Server 2003 x64 and Exchange 2007 any day ;)

And when your PDC comes for an upgrade, maybe then start the 2008 ball. Remember you dont have to have all servers up to 2008, so you can just rolling replace when you decide to (so its not counter-productive at all :) )

  • What would you do?
Exchange 2003 is robust enough to handle upto 2000 mailboxes, not sure why would you like to buy an expensive Exchange 2007 model. Look, you need to re-analyze your IT needs and understand how best Exchange 2007 could help you and in which manners (there are loads of documents floating over internet).

I would have an analysis done in this case, basis what are the difficulties being faced by E2k3 and can they be done away on E2k7. Also, write down every feature that E2k3 is good at and which features would you want "extra" which now appear on E2k7.

Being part of charitable institution, I am sure you would not have those lavish IT budgets, so its best for you to understand why exactly and for what reasons does E2k7 now suit you better than E2k3 box.

  • What is the ideal situation?
Cannot be answered unless we come to know your IT requirements in specific.
  • How good is Exchange 2007/Server 2008?
This is like asking how good is Tom Cruise with Salma Hayek compared to Bradd Pitt to Angelina Jolie. The comparison should always be made in terms of what you want VS what you already have.
  • How interoperable is it with Server 2003?
Windows 2008 does work great with Server 2003 and Server 2000.

  • Any other advice?
Awaiting your response.
Anything we need to bare in mind when making these descisions?
JohnPettiforAuthor Commented:
Sorry I didn't explain fully enough. We are a massively growing organisation, for instance last year we had only 300 mailboxes in Dec, this year we will be appproaching 1100, due to budget restrictions we have to prempt where we will be 2/3 years down the line, hence the idea of switching to Exchange 2007. Whatever we decide to upgrade to we wont be replacing for 4/5 years so it needs to be rather future proof.

Ideal Situation: By this I mean if you were in our shoes what would you do? Budget isn't neccessarily an issue with this one. We would just like to know how other people would approach the situation. Here is some more info on our IT Req's/Current situation: we have 860 Staff Accounts, 250 Student Accounts. We have a massive turnover of staff every year (ie: accounts are created and removed almost daily). Our network spans over our 70 acre site with 2 main server rooms and our 350 PC's spread accross the entirety of the site. It is a 24/7 site with email access needed all year round. we have a couple of SQL servers, a couple of storage servers and some odd and end servers. We run windows XP on all PC's and will maybe be looking at upgrading to windows 7 in the future (most likely not vista) I hope this helps. Let me know if you need any more info.  
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Stephen CroftTechnical ArchitectCommented:
TBH, MS-wise anyway, you should have a eopen-type licencing agreement, and if you have Software Assurance the upgrade will be free for that matter :)

Again, I'll re-iterate that Exchange 2007 should be the move you are looking at rather than Server 2008.

One other thing to consider is Virtualisation, you could replace many of your servers with virtualised and MS are supporting more and more products under vmware ever week!
On a personal front I am in love with Exchange 2007 especially with all those new features, but you would need to know since this is a baby in the series of Microsoft trying to explore hundreds of new features and hence requires some in-depth knowledge of the product.

Exchange 2007 is no more the GUI friendly product, however it has over-powered administrators by giving access to entire AD + Exchange + registry + codes using shell. Hence, that makes all the more fun and interesting (not a pretty fun sight for some one who is over dependent on GUI)

If I had about 4 DC, I would only upgrade 2 of them to W2k8 boxes and would leave the other two as W2k3 boxes. Since, many administrators are comfortable using W2k3 boxes more than W2k8 just for comfort level and also W2k3 is a robust box.

Ref Link for Exchange 2007:

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JohnPettiforAuthor Commented:
Excellent, thanks for all the info.
JohnPettiforAuthor Commented:
Thanks for all the advice, we will be having a meeting this afternoon to discuss where we will go.
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Windows Server 2008

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