ExBPA – Exchange Best Practice Analyzer 2.8
Microsoft’s ExBPA gets better and better. Furthermore, this Exchange Best Practice Analyzer is free.
The purpose of the ExBPA Tool is to scrutinize your Exchange 2007 server with the thoroughness of a top consultant. Moreover, the ExBPA’s reports are unbiased and easy to read. What you get are details of how your configuration compares with Microsoft’s recommended best practices.
Topics for the Microsoft Exchange Best Practice Analyzer
- Download and Install the ExBPA
- Getting Started with ExBPA
- How ExBPA works
- Additional Exchange 2007 Troubleshooting Tools
- ExBPA for Exchange 2010
- Summary of ExBPA
Exchange 2007 has a built-in version of ExBPA which uses .Net 2.0. However, it’s better to run ExBPA from a workstation such as XP or Windows 7. For this purpose you can download a free copy of ExBPA from Microsoft’s site and install it on a workstation. Watch out! The downloadable ExBPA.msi requires .Net Framework 1.1. It is likely that the next version of ExBPA will work with .Net 2.0.
As of August 2008, the latest version is ExBPA 2.8. This is the first version that you can install on Vista. However, in addition to installing .Net 1.1, you need to turn on Vista’s IIS features:
- Click the Start orb, type ‘Programs and Features’ in the Search box, and select ‘Programs and Features’.
- Under Tasks, click ‘Turn Windows features on or off’.
- Expand Internet Information Services, and then expand World Wide Web Services.
- Click to select the Common Http Features check box, and then click OK.
Installing could not be easier, just double click on 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 select:
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.
The ExBPA displays six categories of information. Of most interest are the Best Practice and the Errors. I also like to skim the output for any warnings and non-default settings.
The ExBPA makes a very good and comprehensive Health Check. If you remember to run a baseline check early in your Exchange 2007 career, it will pay back handsomely later when you run future scans.
Talking of planning ahead, it’s always worth running the Exchange Server 2007 Readiness Check (see opposite).
Vital readiness checks that ExBPA performs:
- Verifying that the Schema Master is Windows 2003 SP1 (or later).
- 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.
Encouraging computers to sleep when they’re not in use is a great idea – until you are away from your desk and need a file on that remote sleeping machine!
WOL also has business uses for example, rousing machines so that they can have update patches applied. My real reason for recommending you download this free tool is because it’s so much fun sending those ‘Magic Packets’. Give WOL a try – it’s free.
The key to ExBPA is XML configuration files. In these XML files are WMI instructions for the very tests to be run on your Exchange server. At the heart of the Best Practice Analysis is a list of rules which establish whether results pass or fails Microsoft’s tests. ExBPA even checks automatically to see if there are 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 feature to lookout for is the ExBPA scheduler. This means that you can plan baseline scans to run at a time to suit you. Naturally, you would direct the output report to a file, since nobody is likely to be looking at the screen if the tests are run in the middle of the night.
Problems with ExBPA and .Net
If EXBPA says that it needs .Net Framework 1.1, then you could install this version in addition to .Net 2.0 (or 3.0)
Error Message: ‘Common Language Runtime Debugging Services’. Work-around, uninstall ExBPA and .Net 1.1. Then reinstall! .Net 1.1 first, ExBPA.
To Uninstall the Exchange Best Practice Analyzer
Control Panel –> Add or Remove Programs.
Microsoft make plenty of money from Exchange, and these tools are their way of giving something back for free. The Exchange Management Console has a rich selection of built-in tools, for example, the Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant (ExTRA). There is also the Exchange Performance Troubleshooter, which not only suggests the most likely cause any bottleneck, but also creates a check-list to cure the performance problem. Lastly, there are two more assistants, the Exchange Database Recovery Management, and the Exchange Database Troubleshooter.
SolarWinds’ Network Performance Monitor will help you discover what’s happening on your network. This utility will also guide you through troubleshooting; the dashboard will indicate whether the root cause is a broken link, faulty equipment or resource overload.
What I like best is the way NPM suggests solutions to network problems. Its also has the ability to monitor the health of individual VMware virtual machines. If you are interested in troubleshooting, and creating network maps, then I recommend that you try NPM now.
Summary – ExBPA (Exchange Best Practice Analyzer)
Best by name, best by nature, the ExBPA is a wonderful free Microsoft utility. One particularly good option is to run the Exchange 2007 Readiness test. The ExBPA is a real ‘techie’ tool, which not only makes your server more healthy and secure, but also makes it fun learning about how Exchange 2007 works.
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