Dell has started offering a Microsoft Exchange 2003 migration service for those still using Exchange 5.5. At the end of the year, Microsoft will stop support for Exchange 5.5, making the shift vital for a large number of businesses.

"As Microsoft solutions were coming offline, it became critical for customers to upgrade," said Frank Fuser, services operations director at Dell Canada. "Exchange migration in messaging platforms continues to be a key element in all organisations."

He said information delivery to employees and customers has become a crucial operation requiring powerful infrastructure support. "Dell is there to deliver those services."

According to Fuser, customers can either purchase the Exchange 2003 migration service separately or have it bundled with pre-configured server, storage and software packages.

By offering this migration service - and providing the hardware and software for the upgrade - Dell has strengthened its relationship with Microsoft, according to Michelle Warren, an IT industry analyst for Evans Research Group.

Warren noted that when it comes to the services market, Dell is a relatively new player. "Dell's services are closely tied to their products," she said. "They bundle up services with their core competency, which is hardware; it is an effective strategy and serves them well."

One of the companies Dell migrated over to Exchange 2003 is Thomas Cook Travel. It happened when the company decided to replace its existing servers with new machines.

"We started talking about migration [and Dell] mentioned they have a professional services group that works with customers to achieve this sort of objective," said Robert Oei, director of IT at Thomas Cook Travel. In addition to helping with the migration Dell also provided the hardware.

In one week, Dell helped Thomas Cook Travel move to an Exchange 2003 platform that can support its 1,000 users across the country. In addition, Dell migrated Thomas Cook from Windows NT 4.0 to Windows server 2003, designed and implemented an Active Directory migration and performed a knowledge transfer of Active Directory

According to Oei, the migration was important - not only because Microsoft support on Exchange 5.5 was ending soon - but also because the previous server could not support the 500,000 e-mail messages Thomas Cook receives each month.

The new server allows Oei to build a more robust environment, increase mail capacity and build more redundancy for data integrity.

After the December 31, 2005 deadline passes, Fuser expects to continue to offer this service as he noted about 400,000 organizations out haven't migrated over to Exchange 2003.

He pointed out that a larger number of customers still need to migrate. "The industry has not done enough to make it compelling to do that. We are always looking at ways to do that and bring value." he said.