Essential deployment tools for Microsoft admins

Microsoft is making deployment of its wares that much easier, with tools aimed at Exchange, Lync, and Windows 8

The deployment process can make or break your experience with any given technology solution; the tougher ones may even deter you from rolling out a solution. Nearly every admin has scraped through a difficult deployment that resulted in improper setup of a technology or one riddled with problems that left you worrying.

Admins will be happy to note that a series of updates to Microsoft's deployment tools is vastly improving the experience for many of the company's higher-end solutions, including Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync. Microsoft's reason for investing in these deployment tools may be obvious, as the more difficult a deployment, the less likely you'll adopt that solution. But the results of that effort are rewarding to admins as well.

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Here's a rundown of essential deployment tools for your Microsoft server environment.

Essential tools for deploying Exchange and Lync

Deployment Assistant for Exchange is a great example of Microsoft lending admins a helping hand. The tool, which is updated continually, will soon include Exchange 2013 assistance. Another useful example is Remote Connectivity Analyzer. This online tool, also updated continually, can be used to test your Exchange environment and Office 365.

Microsoft has great incentive to improve Lync deployment. Otherwise, admins might be more content to stick with their enterprise voice solution if Lync installation turns out to be a headache.

Topology Builder for Lync provides checks and balances to ensure that you don't deploy an incorrect topology. The tool, required in rolling out Lync, won't publish your topology if it isn't configured incorrectly. Topology Builder didn't exist with OCS (Office Communication Server), and anyone who deployed OCS can attest to the fact that the omission complicated those earlier deployments.

But there's more! The Lync 2010 Planning Tool is a simple 2MB download you can use to map out your topology before deploying any servers. It helps you put together a .tbxml file that can be pulled into your Topology Builder, which you then use to publish the Lync design for your environment to SQL. This optional tool is a no-brainer for deployments and should be your first step in deploying Lync. (Note: Lync 2013 uses the same type of Planning Tool/Topology Builder for deployments.)

Another way Microsoft assists in deployment strategies: Its Service Pack releases allow for scenarios that didn't exist prior to that SP. Exchange Server 2010 SP3, slated for release in the first half of next year, will include coexistence with Exchange 2013 and support for installation of Exchange 2010 on Server 2012 -- SP3 is essential to both deployment scenarios.

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