In-Depth

Keeping Exchange Running

Manage, monitor, and more—for a price


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 play.

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.

Product Information

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
Aelita Software
Powell, Ohio
614-336-9223
www.aelita.com

ExMS 3.5
$5 to $15 per user depending on volume
Discus Data Solutions Inc.
New York, New York
212-279-9090
www.discusdata.com

Ecora Config Auditor for Exchange 2.0
Starting at $500 per device with volume discount
Ecora Software
Portsmouth, New Hampshire
603-436-1616 www.ecora.com

NetIQ Directory and Resource Administrator and Exchange Administrator 6.4
$9 per user
NetIQ Corp.
San Jose, California
408-856-3000
www.netiq.com

Spotlight on Exchange 1.1
Starts at $1,195 per server
Quest Software
Irvine, California
949-754-8000
www.quest.com

ExMS 3.5
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 permissions.

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 often necessary.

Exchange 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.

Moving Beyond E-mail

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
919-388-3373
www.gfi.com

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.
—Damir Bersinic

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 installations.

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
Exchange Administrator

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.

Good 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
$69.99
Microsoft Corp.
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 a format.

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.
—Damir Bersinic

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.

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