Keeping Exchange Running
Manage, monitor, and more—for a price
- By Damir Bersinic
- May 01, 2002
If you ask many individuals working in the corporate environment these
days what the most important business tool they use is, the answer may
be e-mail. Many of us don’t think about it, but when we sit down at our
desks in the morning, one of the first things we do while drinking our
coffee is check e-mail. It keeps us informed; allows us to communicate
with clients, business partners, and suppliers; and has replaced the telephone
in many cases.
If e-mail has become a critical tool in the operation of many businesses,
Microsoft Exchange Server is the e-mail engine of choice for a growing
number of organizations. Other vendors provide similar or better functionality
in some areas, but for overall features and performance, Exchange is hard
to beat. However, Microsoft doesn’t provide all the tools for getting
you from one version of Exchange to another, monitoring the performance
of your Exchange server, or extending its functionality. This is where
third-party solutions, including the tools I evaluate here, come in to
Managing and Monitoring Exchange 5.5
Even though Exchange 2000 has been out for quite some time, many
organizations have decided to continue running Exchange 5.5 until all
of the issues associated with the move have been carefully thought out.
In the meantime, Exchange 5.5 servers still need to be maintained and
mail has to be delivered to users’ mailboxes.
Read comprehensive reviews of the products featured
in this roundup by clicking on the links here:
Enterprise Directory Manager 4.0
$15 per user account with volume discount
Exchange Migration Wizard 2.0
$12 per migrated user mailbox with volume discount
$5 to $15 per user depending on volume
Discus Data Solutions Inc.
New York, New York
Ecora Config Auditor for Exchange 2.0
Starting at $500 per device with volume discount
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
NetIQ Directory and Resource Administrator and
Exchange Administrator 6.4
$9 per user
San Jose, California
Spotlight on Exchange 1.1
Starts at $1,195 per server
Sometimes the simple things found in a small company can become a big
deal in large organizations. This is where ExMS from Discus Data comes
in. Simplicity in the application of business rules in the creation, deletion
and management of mailboxes is what ExMS is all about.
The product consists of four services, three of which deal with creating,
deleting and updating mailboxes on Exchange 5.5 servers (an Exchange 2000
version is in development). The fourth component, ExMS Directory Integrity
Agent (DIA) is the real powerhouse of the product. DIA allows you to configure
and execute scripts that can be run against mailboxes, distribution lists,
public folders and custom recipients. The idea behind the scripts is to
ensure that when, for example, an employee is assigned to a new manager,
the Exchange 5.5 directory is updated to reflect this. Combined with the
Dynamic Administrative Roles Technology (DART) you can configure decentralized
administration of Exchange directory objects and keep the info current
using DIA scripts.
Spotlight on Exchange 1.1
Microsoft’s Exchange Administrator program provides for the configuration
of Monitors to keep you appraised of any problems on the server; however,
this requires that the Exchange Administrator program be active. Many
of the things that you may want to track—messages in the Internet Mail
Service queue, cache utilization in the Information Store, and others—aren’t
visible through Exchange Monitors. Spotlight on Exchange 1.1 from Quest
Software solves the problem.
On one screen you see complete status information on all of the key areas
of Exchange. The Connections portion of the screen lists connections to
the server by different client types (MAPI/RPC, IMAP4, POP3 and others);
Internet Mail Service and Message Transfer Agent queue status; Information
Store storage usage (PRIV.EDB, PUB.EDB and the transaction logs); Directory
Database performance; as well as NT/Windows 2000 memory, disk and CPU
usage for the system and for Exchange.
Not only can you get an overview of what’s happening, but also if any
part of the system violates a pre-defined threshold, the status will change
to a warning or alert. You can, at any time, drill down further to look
at more detailed statistics. On top of that, you can monitor more than
one server in the same console, provided your user account has the appropriate
Spotlight is easy to install but you need to know the Exchange administrator
account name and password and use the same one for all servers being monitored.
The screen colors are a bit unusual for Windows-based programs, but livable.
[As we went to press, Quest announced the release of Spotlight on Exchange
2.0. The new version includes Exchange 2000 server management as well
as improved calibration and new diagnostic screens. You can get a sneak
peek in the online edition of this article at MCPmag.com.—Ed.]
Moving from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000
One of the hardest things to do is migrate an existing Exchange organization
from Exchange 5.5 to Exchange 2000. This is, as anyone who’s done it will
tell you, no small feat. Microsoft provides the Active Directory Migration
Tool (ADMT), the Move Server Wizard, Active Directory Connector and a
few other tools, but none are easy to use or provide a comprehensive feature
set for most scenarios. Furthermore, while you could run multiple Exchange
5.5 organizations in a single NT domain, this isn’t the case with Exchange
2000, which only allows one organization per AD forest, making consolidation
Migration Wizard 2.0
Aelita’s Exchange Migration Wizard is designed to provide a path
to migrate, not just upgrade, one or more Exchange 5.5 organizations to
an Exchange 2000 organization in AD. It allows for the coexistence of
both structures, thereby providing the ability to perform a gradual migration
without losing connectivity between users. It can migrate and synchronize
directory information, users’ mailboxes, public folders and calendar information.
The migration can be scheduled, and it even allows you to have the Outlook
configuration of users automatically switched to the new server once the
users’ mailboxes are migrated.
Although it might seem hard to believe, not everyone
has e-mail and e-mail isn’t always appropriate. However,
instead of killing a tree to print a piece of paper
and then put it in the fax machine to send to someone,
why not fax from within Outlook to someone who just
might receive the same fax electronically in Outlook?
This is the premise for FAXmaker for Exchange from GFI.
FAXmaker for Exchange 2000
$750 for 25 users GFI Software
Cary, North Carolina
GFI has long been a player in the Exchange tools market,
and FAXmaker isn’t a new product but the most recent
enhancement of its existing faxing option for Exchange
5.5 upgraded to support Exchange 2000. Installation
is quite straightforward and requires that a fax modem,
Brooktrout card or ISDN card be on the local computer
to configure FAXmaker. The major hurdle during installation
is the requirement to modify the Active Directory schema
to support the objects and attributes for faxing. This
necessitates that Schema Admins perform the install,
a possible problem in large AD environments.
Once you install FAXmaker, you configure it by running
the FAXmaker Configuration Wizard, which verifies your
fax device (Windows 2000 fax drivers are supported)
and installs the necessary components to associate the
fax device with Exchange. The next step is to install
the FAXmaker client on the computer for each user who
needs faxing capability. The FAXmaker client includes
a printer driver that can be used to send a fax from
any application, including Outlook. To send a fax, specify
an Outlook contact’s business fax number when prompted
by the driver or when sending an e-mail in Outlook.
Support for shared contacts is also available.
While FAXmaker does the basics, it also excels in such
advanced elements as support for least-cost routing,
an optional OCR module that scans a fax for the recipient
and then routes it to the appropriate mailbox, automatic
fax header and footer generation, call accounting, and
an API that can be incorporated in your applications.
In fact, except for the requirement to modify the schema,
I can’t think of a reason not to implement it.
Exchange Migration Wizard is a great tool and it works quite well, provided
you have the software it requires: Exchange 5.5 Enterprise Server and
Exchange 2000 Enterprise Server. The need for the enterprise version of
both products is necessary because of Exchange Migration Wizard’s reliance
on X.400 connectors to keep information in sync between Exchange 5.5 and
2000. While this may not be a problem for larger organizations, it effectively
removes this fine tool from the hands of many small- to mid-sized Exchange
Managing Exchange 2000
Once you’re fully in an Exchange 2000 environment, management of users,
public folders and other aspects of Exchange 2000 become paramount. Management
includes both the directory services aspect of the job, such as maintaining
users and mailboxes, as well as managing storage elements. The tools in
this roundup don’t deal with managing Exchange storage but only with creating,
managing and deleting users and other AD objects.
Aelita Enterprise Directory Manager 4.0
Aelita Enterprise Directory Manager (EDM) allows you to manage users,
groups and other AD objects directly, as if you were in the MMC snap-in
provided by Microsoft—and then takes off from there. It deals with three
basic elements: Access Templates, Policy Objects, and Managed Objects.
These can be applied to one or more AD domains, allowing enterprise-wide
administration. Policy Objects are the elements that can be applied against
one or more Managed Objects (Users, Groups, OUs or any valid AD object).
Access Templates determine who can use, create, modify or delete any aspect
of EDM administration.
While a lot of the functionality of this product can be provided by Microsoft’s
tools and Windows Script Host, having it all in one place will be a benefit
to larger organizations. For those companies with fewer than 200 users,
it may provide limited rewards.
NetIQ Directory and Resource Administrator and
If you need a comprehensive administration tool that deals with AD, Exchange
5.5, Exchange 2000 and (with the optional File System Administrator) files
and folders, NetIQ has a powerful duo of products for you.
The power behind the combination of DRA and ExA comes from their three-tier
architecture in which an administration server sits between the client
console and the various AD, Exchange and other servers being managed.
You can create ActiveViews, which present a specific view of various objects,
the rules applied to the objects, and any assistant admins and roles allowed
to manage them. From an Exchange perspective, this was the only set of
products I reviewed that allowed management of both Exchange 5.5 and Exchange
2000 servers, as well as AD.
Perhaps the only downside is that DRA and ExA try to do too much. The
resources needed to run them are significant, although only an Access
database is required for reporting (unlike the Aelita tools, which require
Microsoft Data Engine or SQL Server). It can take some time to learn the
product but the upside can be quite tremendous.
Advice and Utilities Too
In an attempt to provide administrators with additional
information on deploying Exchange 2000 as well as include
some tools that can be used to manage the product, Microsoft
released the Exchange 2000 Resource Kit, which can be
purchased separately or found on TechNet and MSDN in
CD-ROM format. The main reason to get the Resource Kit
is to read Microsoft’s recommended strategies for deploying
Exchange 2000 (although coverage of migration and upgrade
scenarios is weak at best). It also provides a number
of utilities for Exchange 2000 (tools would be too strong
a word here, because there’s no cohesive focus in what
Microsoft gives you).
Microsoft Exchange 2000
Server Resource Kit
Redmond, Washington www.microsoft.com/
Utilities provided with the Resource Kit come in six
categories—Administration Tools, Client Tools, Distribution
List Management (odd, considering you’re supposed to
use distribution groups in Exchange 2000), Public Folder
Tools, Security Tools and Simulation Tools. Many are
simple command-line utilities, while others are Web-based
or MMC snap-ins.
One of the more useful tools that Microsoft ships is
LoadSim, which can be used to test the performance of
your server under simulated stress conditions. Often,
you need to know what will happen to a server after
it enters production, and LoadSim allows you to get
a sense of this. Another worthwhile tool is Profile
Generator, which can be used in conjunction with NewProf.exe
to generate MAPI profiles for roving or other users
during a deployment.
If you want to delegate some of the administration
of public folders, the Public Folder Administration
tools lets you do this. The AutoDL tool, along with
SQL Server, can be used to manage distribution lists
(groups) outside of Active Directory Users and Computers,
which you may not want everyone to have access to. The
Resource Kit also includes a number of individual monitoring
tools for mailbox usage, Message Transfer Agent performance,
various Exchange queues, as well as the Web Monitor
Tool, which provides similar functionality to Quest’s
Spotlight on Exchange 1.1, though in not quite as comprehensive
The Exchange 2000 Server Resource Kit is a good starting
point for anyone planning to deploy Exchange 2000 or
looking at taking the first steps of managing and administering
Exchange, or monitoring its performance. The tools don’t
provide as much functionality as third-party vendors’
solutions, but then they’re not intended to. The advice
in the printed component of the Resource Kit is the
main reason to buy it, not the utilities you get—although
they don’t hurt.
Ecora Configuration Auditor 2.0 for Microsoft Exchange
What problems lurk under the covers of your Exchange installation? If
you don’t know, Ecora can find out for you. While not really an administration
tool, Ecora Configuration Auditor 2.0 for Exchange provides for the generation
of intelligent reports on your Exchange configuration. In one spot you
get a complete rundown of what you’ll find in Exchange System Manager
plus information from AD.
As a management tool, Ecora is helpful only in the sense that it allows
you to document what you have. If you’re a consultant, this can save many
headaches trying to resolve a client problem that they swore was there
before you left. Now you can see that they may have changed something.
Seeking the Perfect Tool
All of the products in this roundup provide features that are useful to
an Exchange or Active Directory administrator. Some, like Ecora, allow
you to get a succinct view of what you have and then store that for later
review if problems arise. Others, like ExMS, Aelita Enterprise Directory
Manager, and NetIQ’s DRA and ExA, provide the capability to automate and
delegate administration of AD and Exchange in more flexible ways than
provided by Microsoft. Aelita Exchange Migration Wizard helps to ease
the transition from Exchange 5.5 to 2000 if you have the X.400 connector
available, while Spotlight on Exchange provides excellent monitoring of
what your Exchange server is doing now. No tool is perfect or satisfies
all needs—although NetIQ tries to get there and almost succeeds.