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questions on new in-house exchange setup

My companies Exchange server 2010 is currently being hosted outside our network by a third party provider.
I have been administrating it for a few years now and we are now looking to possibly have our own Exchange server "in-house" (inside our network)

My plan: I am thinking of setting up a test server on a low end server with a trial of Exchange 2013. I want to get the feel for the setup process and do some testing with my technical team and to save on cost until I am ready to go live with our production server. After we are satisfied with the test server we will purchase a higher end server spec'd out for production use for 250 mailboxes.  

I have some questions about the in-house setup.

1. Do we have to use a different domain name for our testing (test email accounts) since our live server at the third party company will still be active.
2. Can anyone recommend a trial spam filter I can use as part of my testing.
3. Can anyone recommend an Exchange support company that can help with "out of scope" questions and issues that come up. Paid support is ok.
4. Once we go live with our production server can we migrate our mailboxes over without our third party hosting company knowing about this.
5. Any common issues that I should avoid running our Exchange server in-house in a Windows environment and/or while having our live server active at the third party company.
6. Let me know if "my plan" mentioned above is the right approach.

Thank you much!
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paul_techy
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paul_techy
1 Solution
 
Andy MInternal Systems ManagerCommented:
If you haven't done much on Exchange before then setting up a trial system is always a good way to get a feel for it - Exchange 2013 is slightly different to previous versions and I've had a few email admins who have struggled to find their way around it following a migration.

As for your questions:

1. It would be best to use a different domain for testing. Although mail will not flow to the server until you amend your MX records any autodiscover settings/internal dns records may cause issues internally with Outlook if you use the same domain as your hosted system.
2. There's loads of anti-spam systems out there. We use Barracuda Anti Spam firewall on our systems and are quite impressed by it. (https://www.barracuda.com/products/spamfirewall)
3. Any large IT support firms should have someone who can assist with Exchange. Suppose it would depend on your location and what sort of support you are after.
4. If you have access to all the mailboxes on the hosted server and have access to your MX records you should be able to transfer the mailboxes over fine. Though I would inform the hosting company of this anyway as if they have their system running it could cause some mail flow issues (and they'll continue to charge you).
5. If your in house server is setup fine and Outlook is working for all your staff correctly issues should be at a minimum. The main one I've found in the past is if the hosted server is still active any other customers they have may not be able to send email to your in house server (the hosted system still believes it's authoritative for your domain and doesn't deliver the emails to your 'external' server).
6. As noted above - testing is always a good plan where possible.
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paul_techyAuthor Commented:
thanks for the advice
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