Computer Performance, Exchange 2010

 

Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 - ExBPA

Introduction to Exchange 2010 Server - ExPBA (Best Practice Analyzer)

It's wonderful, it's free, you simply must try the ExBPA.  The name says it all: Exchange Server Best Practice Analyzer and you get it free from Microsoft.  Not only is the ExBPA a serious tool, which scans Exchange for weaknesses, but it's also a fun tool, which prompts you to learn as you improve your servers performance.

Topics for Exchange 2010 - ExBPA (Best Practice Analyzer)

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Getting Started with ExBPA

In Exchange Server 2010, the Best Practices Analyzer is installed during Exchange Setup (as it was in Exchange 2007.  Once installed you can run the ExBPA from the Exchange Management Console Toolbox.

However, it's better to run ExBPA from a workstation such as Windows 7.  For this purpose you can download a free copy of ExBPA from Microsoft's site and install it on a workstation.

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Getting Started with ExBPA on Windows 7 Microsoft ExBPA 2010 Exchange Best Practice Analyzer

Installing could not be easier, just double click the ExBPA.msi file.

Once the install completes, and ExBPA launches, connect to the Active Directory responsible for your Exchange Organization.  Naturally, ExBPA uses the credentials of the account under which you logged on.

The next step is to start a new Best Practices scan, but before setting the scan to run, you need to choose:

1. A name for the scan.
2. Specify the scope (of your Exchange Organization).
3. Select the type of scan, e.g. Health, Baseline, or Readiness.
4. Check the network speed.

Output

The ExBPA displays six categories of information.  The most interesting are the Best Practice and the Errors.  I also like to skim the output for any warnings and non-default settings.ExBPA Readiness Scan Exchange 2010

Recommended Scans

The ExBPA carries out a very good and comprehensive Health Check.  If possible run a baseline check early in your Exchange 2010 career, it will pay back handsomely later when you run future scans.

Talking of planning ahead, it's always worth running the Exchange Server Readiness Check (see screensot).

Vital readiness ExBPA checks:

  • Verifying that the Schema Master is at least Windows 2003 SP1.
  • Identifying any Active Directory domains which are not in native mode.
  • Checking that the Exchange organization is in native mode.
  • Identifying any Active Directory sites that do not have a Global Catalog server.

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ExBPA Scan SettingsExBPA Exchange Server Best Practice Analyzer  - Exchange 2010

One of the hallmarks of a great utility like ExBPA, is that you don't need to consult an instruction manual before you start.  All you need to do is launch ExBPA, click on 'Connect to Active Directory', and you are ready to scan.  BPA progresses through its tests, and makes a comprehensive comparison between your system and Microsoft's best practices.

A wild guess says that it will take 15 minutes to scan your Exchange organization.  Another guess says ExBPA will generate 2 MB worth of data.  When you are only troubleshooting one particular Exchange server, you may wish to speed up the scan, by limiting the test to just that problem server.

Health Check
The health check will warn you about any weaknesses on your Exchange server.   Perhaps BPA's greatest strength is to alert you to those problems, which although not serious in themselves, will collectively slow down your server.  Once ExBPA identifies an 'Issue', it gives you details, not only about the problem, but even better, on the solutions.  Unless you have tried ExBPA, it's hard for me to put over just how many tests it can do, and therefore how much time ExBPA will save you in analyzing an Exchange Server's performance.  In a word its - awesome.

Connectivity Check
It's so handy to have all the troubleshooting tools in one place, you can oscillate between health checks and connectivity tests.  The Best Practice Analyzer really does make it easy to pin down that obscure email problems.  When the ExBPA finds a problem, it suggests answers in the form of links to the Exchange 2010 Server / TechNet knowledge base.

ExBPA Reports ExBPA Best Practice Analyzer - ReportsCheck

One persistent grumble with Microsoft utilities in general is that there is no reporting feature; I hear the most complaints about ADUC*.  Well, let us hope that BPA's reporting features are a sign of the future.  Fingers crossed that all interfaces will soon have a selection of options, such as Summary, Details and my favourite - the Issues List.  Incidentally, there is BPA for SQL so the concept is spreading.

Another must have report is the Items of Interest,  what you get here is a central list of all those statistics that can take an age to find, for example Exchange 2010 database locations and disk size.

Although I mention them last, baseline reports should be one of the first scans to run on a production server.  Once you have a baseline its easy to detect trends and play 'what if' games.

* Active Directory Users and Computers interface.

How ExBPA works

ExBPA feeds on XML configuration files.  In these XML files are WMI instructions for the very tests to be run on your Exchange server.  The key to the Best Practice Analysis is the list of rules which establish whether results pass Microsoft's tests.  Amazingly, ExBPA is intelligent enough to check automatically if there any XML updates on the Microsoft web site.  The ExBPA engine has a most descriptive name - the dispatcher.  What the dispatcher does is send WMI collectors to gather the information.  The ExBPA engine then analyzes the data against the configuration files, and generates the results on screen.

One advantage of the 2010 version of ExBPA is a scheduler; this means that you can plan your scans and they run automatically at a time to suit you. In this instance, you would want the output report sent to a file, since nobody is likely to be looking at the screen when the tests are run in the middle of the night.

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Summary - ExBPA (Exchange Server Best Practice Analyzer)

Best by name, best by nature, the Best Practice Analyzer is a must have Microsoft utility.  ExBPA will detect configuration and routing weaknesses in your Exchange 2010 server and recommend solutions.  ExBPA is free from Microsoft and it's a joy to combine business with pleasure as you scan your server for weaknesses.  BPA is a real 'techie' tool, which not only makes your server more reliable and secure, but also gives you fun learning about how Exchange works.

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