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)
- Getting started with ExBPA
- Scan settings
- How ExBPA works
- Also – ExBPA for Exchange 2007
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.
LEM will alert you to problems such as when a key application on a particular server is unavailable. It can also detect when services have stopped, or if there is a network latency problem. Perhaps this log and event management tool’s most interesting ability is to take corrective action, for example by restarting services, or isolating the source of a maleware attack.
Yet perhaps the killer reason why people use LEM is for its compliance capability, with a little help from you, it will ensure that your organization complies with industry standards such as CISP or FERPA. LEM is a really smart application that can make correlations between data in different logs, then use its built-in logic to take corrective action, to restart services, or thwart potential security breaches – give LEM a whirl.
Getting Started with ExBPA on Windows 7
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Import users from a spreadsheet, complete with their mailbox. Just provide a list of the users with the fields in the top row, and save as .csv file. Then launch this FREE utility, match your Exchange fields with AD’s attributes, click and import the users. Optionally, you can provide the name of the OU where the new mailboxes will be born.
- Bulk-import new users and mailboxes into Active Directory.
- Seek and zap unwanted user accounts.
- Find inactive computers.
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.