Exchange Server 5.5 Rides into the Sunset (Exchange 2000 Server, Saddle Up!)


Topic Last Modified: 2005-11-02

Every day, IT professionals go to work for large and small companies, comfortable in the knowledge that they are running the best Microsoft® products to meet their business needs. However, this comfort level can sometimes lead customers to think that the Microsoft product versions they are running will always be supported. The reality is that support for each product version must eventually come to an end. If customers are not prepared for this inevitability, their company could be caught running unsupported software.

Is your company going to be caught?

What is the Microsoft circle of life, otherwise known as the Microsoft Support Lifecycle? Our passion to deliver the best available software to support your company is the reason that Microsoft developed its lifecycle support policy on October 15, 2002. This policy (updated in 2004) provides IT professionals with a predictable, world-class support structure. The policy defines a product’s, telephone support, hotfix support, and Web-based support availability for the extent of a products life. The Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy has three distinct phases:

  • Mainstream support

  • Extended support

  • Self-help online support

Custom support is also an option for customers who need additional time to complete their migration to Exchange Server 2003.

Mainstream Support includes (release through year 5):

  • Incident support

  • Security update support

  • The ability to request non-security hotfixes

Extended support includes (Year 5 through Year 10):

  • Paid support

  • Security update support at no additional cost

  • Non-security related hotfix support requires a separate Extended Hotfix Support contract to be purchased. Per-fix fees also apply.

  • Microsoft will not accept requests for warranty support, design changes, or new features during the Extended support phase.

  • Extended support is not available for Consumer, Hardware, Multimedia, and Business Solutions.

Self-help online support (Beyond year 10)

Self-help online support is available for a minimum of 10 years after the product is released. By using Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, FAQs, troubleshooting tools, and other resources, many customers can quickly resolve their issues without contacting Microsoft directly.


To learn more about the Microsoft Support Lifecycle policy, please visit the Microsoft Support Lifecycle Web site. From that site, you can visit the Select a Product for Lifecycle Information site (products listed by product family) or the Support Lifecycle Index (products listed alphabetically) to find the support timelines for your particular product. If your product is not listed there, check for lifecycle information on the Additional Products site and the Obsolete Products site.

Although the Microsoft Support Lifecycle provides IT professionals with confidence that they will receive support for the products they invest in, it also designates a clear point in time when they should evaluate their approach to specific product versions. Exchange Server 5.5 is now at that point.


On December 31, 2005, Microsoft will follow through with previously announced Microsoft Support Lifecycle plans to retire public technical support and security updates for Exchange Server 5.5 (end of Extended support). If your organization is currently running Exchange 5.5, make sure that you are not soon caught running an unsupported product.

For Exchange Server 5.5, Microsoft took the unusual step and waived Extended Hotfix Support contract fees for the first year of the Extended support phase (January 1, 2004 through December 31, 2004). This provides customers with more time to adjust to the initial wave of Lifecycle anniversaries.

Customers who need additional time to complete their migration from Exchange Server 5.5 have the option to enroll in a custom support program. Starting on January 1, 2005, this custom support program (a second year of Extended Support) is available for a fee. For more information about the Exchange Server 5.5 custom support program, contact your Microsoft account manager and technical account manager or visit the Microsoft Exchange Server 5.5 Web site.

Some good news: Microsoft is passionate about driving the delivery of leading-edge technology through new product versions. Since the release of Exchange Server 5.5, we have significantly improved the security, efficiency, integration and management of Exchange Server. These enhancements translate directly into increased productivity at a lower total cost of ownership (TCO) for your company.

Microsoft takes pride in continuing to deliver the best software products in the world. If you are still running Exchange Server 5.5, explore your options and upgrade to Exchange Server 2003. There is a strong business case for upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003. With the latest tools provided by Exchange 2003, the task of migrating is easier and less stressful than before. These new tools will walk you through the migration process, step by step.

Still focused on the barriers of migration? Or asking yourself why your company should spend the time and money to buy the hardware and licenses to upgrade to Exchange 2003? Well, beyond the fact that Extended Support for Exchange 5.5 is ending this year, Exchange 2003 includes some great features and functionality that are not available in Exchange 5.5. For more information about these features and functionality, see "Upgrading to Exchange 2003: Why Take the Trip?" later in this article.

For detailed information about upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003, including links to virtual labs, webcasts, deployment tools and more, visit the Upgrade to Exchange 2003 page on the Exchange Server TechCenter.

If you are running Exchange 2000 Server, it is important to note that, on November 29, 2005, the product reaches its 5-year release anniversary. On December 31, 2005, Exchange 2000 is moving from Mainstream support to Extended support. Additionally, on December 31, 2010, Exchange 2000 will be ending its Extended support lifecycle. As an IT Professional, you recognize that it is never too early to plan for long-term success. Well, the time to begin planning is here.

Exchange 2000 Server was a great leap forward for Microsoft and the Exchange Server community. The features in Exchange 2000 helped Exchange Server become the premier e-mail and collaboration product in the market today. Aside from the fact that Mainstream support for Exchange 2000 ends on December 31, 2005, there are many reasons for upgrading your Exchange 2000 organization to Exchange Server 2003. For information about why you should upgrade to Exchange 2003, see "Upgrading to Exchange 2003: Why Take the Trip?" later in this article.

If you do decide that the benefits of Exchange 2003 are worth upgrading your Exchange 2000 organization, you will find that the actual upgrade process is quite painless. Because Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003 are both based on the same architecture, the upgrade process is much simpler than upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003.

For detailed information about upgrading from Exchange 2000 to Exchange 2003, including links to virtual labs, webcasts, deployment tools and more, visit the Upgrade to Exchange 2003 page on the Exchange Server TechCenter.

What can Exchange Server 2003 do for you? Here are just some of the highlights of what you get with Exchange 2003:

  • Multiple databases   Exchange 2003 Enterprise Edition lets you create multiple database and storage groups that can reside on different disk partitions. This allows you to segment users and better manage backup, restore, and failure risks.

  • Recovery storage groups   With Exchange 2003, you can create recovery storage groups. You can use recovery storage groups to restore production databases to an alternative location on the production server without having to take down the databases that are currently running. Whether you need help rebounding from a system failure or just help recovering a single mailbox, using recovery storage groups can get you back up and running much faster.

  • SMTP   Unlike Exchange 5.5, Exchange 2003 is SMTP native. This means that Exchange 2003 was designed to send e-mail to and from the Internet. Exchange 2003 is more configurable, more controllable, and much more robust.

And with the October 2005 release of Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2), there are even more reasons to upgrade!

  • Increase in storage limit—from 16 GB to 75 GB   Starting with Exchange 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) the maximum size of a database for Exchange 2003 Standard Edition has been increased to 75 GB. You are still limited to one database with Standard Edition, but you can now maintain a much larger database.

  • Exchange mobility   New mobility features allow your users to access their mailbox from anywhere in the world using a mobile device. For more information about these new mobility features, see New Mobility Features in Exchange Server 2003 SP2.

  • Intelligent Message Filter   The Intelligent Message Filter gives you a free built-in system for detecting and eliminating junk e-mail. This filter works with Microsoft Office Outlook® to keep the junk e-mail and phishing schemes out of your Inbox. For more information about improvements to the Intelligent Message Filter, see Anti-Spam Enhancements in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2.

These are just some of the features available in Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2003 SP2 that will make your productivity and management tasks easier, faster, and better. Customers who have already upgraded to Exchange 2003 are reporting improved security, lower TCO, and increased mobility support.

We understand that gaining approval for migration costs sometimes seems like bad news waiting to happen. Well, we have some good news. A Ferris Research white paper titled Upgrading from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2003: A Financial Case Study analyzed the costs and benefits of upgrading to Exchange Server 2003. The white paper lists such benefits as:

  • Improved administration, including better backup and recovery, and more flexibility in system maintenance

  • Better remote access

  • Better fault tolerance through clustered Exchange servers

In the study, the cost of the upgrade was approximately 138 U.S. dollars per user. The upgrade took about six months to complete and was performed largely by internal resources. The users experienced essentially no downtime or e-mail service disruption, which met the company's requirement for 100 percent availability.

Download the white paper to explore the project's preliminary research, evaluation approach, design specifications, implementation plans, testing methods, custom application analysis, hardware investment, training and other costs.

The piece of mind you'll receive by running a reliable, supported product such as Exchange 2003 will far outweigh any costs associated with the upgrade. And best of all, if you need any help, Microsoft Help and Support is just a click or a phone call away.