BES server “emergency” migration

I’ve had very mixed results with Blackberry Enterprise Server (BES) installs over the years.  At its best, BES is a pain in the ass to install and manage; at its worst it is a cast-iron nightmare.  We (itgroove) abandoned Blackberry and BES a few years ago and moved to a mixture of iPhones, Androids and WinPhone 7 (Keith).  Frankly, it was a no brainer and we’ve never looked back.  However, we have customers that cling to Blackberry and we’ve had to manage (even install) our share of BES servers.

A big customer of ours had their BES server die after a server reboot.  To be fair, the BES server didn’t die, just the MAPI interface to Exchange (BES installed on the Exchange server).  No amount of massaging would resurrect MAPI and Sean wasted more than a few hours trying.  He passed the problem over to me after I suggested that standing up a new server and moving BES to the new server might be a solution.

I found a few posts on the Web that described various procedures but the one I followed is here:

I followed the process to install on a new server but use the SRP from the existing server along with the existing configuration database.  The process worked after I allowed the installation process to upgrade the configuration database and then apply the SRP identifiers to the new server which included created a “pool” DNS record that pointed to the new server.  Once the installation finished I logged into BAS on the new server and migrated all Blackberry users to the new server and then forced policies and service books to be resent to all Blackberries (again, all documented in the link above).  The customer had slightly more than 30 Blackberries in BES, it took about 30 minutes for all the Blackberries to complete the update process before email started to flow again. I then disabled ALL BES services on the original server.

Aside from stupid problems that I encountered with the new server build (VM) that really had nothing to do with BES, the actual BES user migration process worked quite well; surprisingly well considering some of the gong shows we’ve had with BES in the past (like a 30 hour installation on an SBS2008 server, but that’s another story). 

I’m still no fan of BES and we don’t recommend Blackberry and BES to any of our customers as we feel it’s just another layer of un-needed complexity (sorry RIM).  Yes, Blackberry still has better overall security than iPhone, Android, et al but for the majority of our customers the added security simply isn’t worth all the extra overhead and hassle.  But if you ARE a BES user it’s nice to know that you can recover from certain BES failures with relatively little fanfare.