How to move an SSL certificate between Exchange servers

SearchExchange.com contributor Serdar Yegulalp provides step-by-step instructions on how to move an SSL certificate from one Exchange server to another, and explains a couple of gotchas to watch out for during the process.

In order to use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) for secure communications between servers, a certificate provided by a valid certificate authority is required.

If you're creating a new instance of an Exchange server and want to use SSL on that new server as well, you'll need to move an existing SSL certificate to it.

One possible scenario involves promoting a back-end Exchange server to a front-end Exchange server -- the back-end server would need to have the front-end server's certificate loaded onto it.

The exact process for transferring a certificate isn't difficult, but there are complications that can arise due to the nature of SSL certification and server naming.

First, let's go over the process itself:

  1. Go to the server with the SSL certificate and open the Internet Information Services Manager.

  2. Expand the tree of Web sites to expose the Default Web site. Right-click on it and select Properties.

  3. On the Directory Security tab, click on Server Certificate, and export the certificate to .PFX format.

  4. AFTER putting the new server into place, copy the .PFX-formatted certificate file to the target server.

  5. On the target server, go through the same actions: Open IIS Manager -> Default Web Site -> Properties -> Directory Security -> Server Certificate.

  6. This time, select "Import a certificate from a .PFX file," and provide the file you exported.

SSL should now be enabled on that computer.

When moving a certificate from machine to another in this fashion, the most important thing to keep in mind is that the name of the server -- i.e., the external fully-qualified domain name -- should be exactly the same for both servers.

If the certificate is tied to a specific machine name (the certificate's properties will tell you what the machine name is), and if it's using the server's internal BE name, then you'll need to make sure that any external DNS pointers are updated to indicate the new server.

Otherwise, people from the outside will never be able to access the newly certified server through SSL. Instead, they'll be redirected to the old machine. For external services that depend on SSL, like OWA, this is doubly important.

About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is editor of the Windows Power Users Newsletter.

This tip originally appeared on SearchExchange.com

Dig Deeper on Network security

Unified Communications
Mobile Computing
Data Center