Best Practice Ezine #31 – Exchange Tips
I inadvertently send a draft version to half my subscribers this morning. Please forgive me if you were affected, else ignore this paragraph and check out the tips!
This week’s theme is: Something for everyone.
Exchange and Outlook Topics
I love computer features which cost nothing. What is even better are applets that once set-up, continue monitoring in the background. In fact, the best of these features stay silent until a resource is in short supply, where upon they send you an informative email.
As ever, my goal is to get you started. So to see the Notification features that Exchange 2003 (2000) has to offer, open up your Exchange Administrator, then navigate to the Tools Icon (Cogs), and expand the Monitoring and Status Folder.
Amongst the many clever tricks that you can do with Monitoring are defining Warning and Critical states. The old cynics say ‘well if the email server is down how will you get a message?’ My answer is that most of the resources are not dependent on the SMTP service, for example, if the server is running low on disk space, then you will still get an email.
What I suggest is taking your time. Go through the list of resources, CPU, Memory and free disk space. As you read the list, ask your self these two questions, 1) Do I understand where this resource is used. 2) Do I need to monitor this resource? If the answers are 1) Yes and 2) Yes, then define a Warning and Critical value and so monitor that item.
Guy Recommends: The Free IP Address Tracker (IPAT)
Calculating IP Address ranges is a black art, which many network managers solve by creating custom Excel spreadsheets. IPAT cracks this problem of allocating IP addresses in networks in two ways:
For Mr Organized there is a nifty subnet calculator, you enter the network address and the subnet mask, then IPAT works out the usable addresses and their ranges.
For Mr Lazy IPAT discovers and then displays the IP addresses of existing computers. Download the Free IP Address Tracker
If we were fishing, then I would call Clustering the big tackle. By that I mean it needs moderately expensive equipment, not to mention an experienced craftsman to set-up the active / passive nodes.
I am probably ‘teaching my grandfather’s to suck eggs’, but I do like telling anyone who will listen, OWA is a fabulous feature. What is amazing about the 2003 version is how feature rich the interface is and how close the appearance is to Outlook XP.
Front end – Back end servers sound like a pantomime horse. (You play the front end, I play the back end.) All that I want to do today is to flag that large companies with 3+ Exchange servers prefer this tandem system. What it involves is a front end Exchange server(s) which just deals with authentication, whilst the actual email servers are protected behind the perimeter firewall. This arrangement means that each server deals with a specialist function, you get better security and the user gets faster service. Win-Win is always a great outcome.
At first RPC over HTTP may seem an innocuous, ‘ so what ‘ feature. But actually RPC over HTTP turns out to be useful because it enables web clients to connect through to their email using only port 80. (Or only port 443 if encrypt with SSL.) Put it this way, without RPC over HTTP you need to open all sorts of DNS and endport mapper ports that hackers love to exploit.
If, like me, you are annoyed that Microsoft hide the security tab in the Exchange Administrator, then this registry hack is for you. What it does is give you the extra tab so that you can delegate and see who has what permissions.See more on here.
Guy says it should be a disciplinary offence to set Circular Logging on the exchange storage group. Why is this so bad? Because when disaster strikes you need all the logs since the last normal backup. Those transaction logs are a life saver, because they will replay all the transactions since the last backup. It may take a while, but you will get back to where you were before disaster struck. Let us take a minute to think what would happen if the transaction logs had been overwritten by circular logging. In that situation you could only recover the server as far as the last normal backup.
To see if anyone should be sacked in your organization (just teasing), check the Exchange Server object, then drill down to each storage group. Now right-click, properties and make sure there is no circular logging.
Should you and I ever exchange emails, then you will see that I practice what I preach and include a short footer for each email. Personally, I like a tasteful little individual message, but I dislike this need for corporate to cover their backs with disclaimers that are four times longer than the message.
As a wild guess, you use this feature already, I mention it here to jog your memory to check your filter and weed out old settings. If you have not tried the Rules Wizard, then this is a must for sorting incoming email into suitable folders.
See interesting Exchange articles