Exchange Server 2003 – System Policies

Introduction to System Policies in Exchange Server 2003

Every where that you look in Windows 2003, you see a Microsoft policy in action.  For example, Group Policies to lock down the users’ desktop, RAS Policies to control dial-in users, IPSec Policies to manage your network encryption.  In the case of Exchange 2003, it has its own System Policies which control common settings for multiple servers.  Configure once, then apply many times, sums up the philosophy behind Exchange’s System Policies.

Topics for System Policies in Exchange 2003


System Policy Strategy and Tactics in Exchange 2003

Remember that all these Exchange 2003 System Policies could be set on the individual server, mailbox store or public folder objects.  However, the more servers that you have, the greater the benefits of central configuration.  Incidentally, just creating Exchange System policies makes me a better administrator.  The policy menus encourage me to check all the settings and then apply consistent values to all Exchange servers.

One quirk of Exchange 2003 administration, is that applying your settings is policy-centric.  What I mean is that you activate the policy by right-clicking the policy itself, then attach the server to the policy.  Surprisingly, when you try the other way around, go to the server or mailbox store and try to add the policy, no can do.  This is a shock at first, since Microsoft usually give you three ways of configuring any object.  In Exchange 2003 there is just one method, the policy-centric way.

Creating the System Policies Container

These Exchange 2003 policies are stored in special folder underneath the Administrative Groups folder.  The hardest part of configuring these policies is getting started and finding, or creating the initial System Policy Container.  As soon as you complete this one-off task then you can start designing your policies.

Key instructions to configure System PoliciesExchange 2003 System Policy Container

1) right-click the Exchange Organization (CPNou in the Diagram), properties, check the box for display Administrative Groups.

2) right-click First Administrative Group, new, System Policy Container

3) Once you have the System Policies container (see diagram), right-click and select: New policy.  Decide on which type of policy; Mailbox store, Server or Public Folder.  Even if I am going to configure just one type of setting, I like to make sure that my policy has all possible tabs, so I check all the available boxes.

4) When you have finished choosing your settings, right-click the System Policy and assign to the Server, Mailstore or Public folder.  Later, if you examine say the Mailstore , but the corresponding tab is greyed out, this means your Mailstore is under the control of a System Policy.  For example, you cannot set any Limits at the Mailstore tab, if a Limit System Policy has been assigned to that Mailstore.

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Mailbox, Server and Public Folder Settings

Mailbox Store

  • Limits (Tab)  Deletion settings for messages: Keep Deleted items and Mailboxes  How long should you keep emails on the server?
  • Limits (Tab) Also size of mailboxes, e.g. 20 MB, set limits for Warning, and Prohibit Send and Receive.
  • General (Tab)  Offline Address List, S/MIME.
  • Database (Tab)  Archive All messages – ‘Grasp the nettle’, keep a journal of all messages, but make sure you choose a very safe account.

Server Settings

  • Enable Subject Logging.
  • Message Tracking  (My favourite).
  • Remove Log Files.

Public Folder Store

  • Replication settings, frequency, message size.
  • Run Maintenance Schedule.
  • Indexing, speeds up advanced search in Outlook.

Overriding Mailbox Limits.

Take the situation where one or more users needs more generous limits than you configured for the mailbox store.  If you go to Active Directory Users and Computers, it is possible to override these System Policy limits.  The method is to right-click the user, properties, Exchange General Tab, Limits button.

Another solution would be to create an additional mailbox store with larger limits and employ the move mailbox technique to migrate just the user’s mailbox to a store with more liberal limits.

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Summary – Exchange 2003 System Policies

Time spent planning Exchange System Policies will repay with interest.  Note that there are 3 types of System Policies, Server, Mailbox and Public Folder.  Creating  these policies will not only mean that you can configure new Exchange 2003 servers quickly, but also that you will have one central store for all the settings.  Remember that Exchange System Policies are ‘Policy-Centric’, the technique is to click on the policy and assign to the Server or Mailbox.

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