Messaging in a Bottle

Mission-Critical Microsoft Exchange 2000 is a must-have for new installs and offers invaluable insight for those who've already done the deed.

The first thing I do when selecting a technology book off the shelf is to check the publication date. I was initially put off when I saw that this book was published way back in December 2000. Surely this book must be hopelessly out of date! Despite my initial impression, I found that I was missing the point of a book like this. The art (or science, if you prefer) of building mission-critical systems is not something that is dependent on the latest/greatest technology or service pack. In most cases, bleeding edge technology is anathema in a mission-critical environment.

The author, Jerry Cochran is a Principal Technology Consultant with Compaq Global Services, an organization that is famous for creating and managing some of the largest Exchange installations in the world. He brings those experiences with him as he explains the strategies, procedures and best practices associated with designing and maintaining high availability Exchange 2000 environments.

The author starts out by defining the basis for a mission-critical environment. He spends time explaining the meanings of the proverbial "five 9's," Service Level Agreements and analyzing and accessing downtime and the reasons for it. He then moves on to examine the major components that are responsible for downtime, and examines the technologies that are available to lessen the risk and consequences of component failure. Next he provides explanations of how to make design decisions on the different hardware and software configurations depending on your environment and desired level of risk.

Of special note is the chapter on Disaster Recovery. The author outlines several best practices for backup and restore. In addition, he provides information on how to modify your Exchange design to reduce the time required for backups and disaster recovery.

The final two chapters are devoted to subjects that too many people overlook when designing implementations-security and proactive management. For example, you can design and implement the perfect hardware and software configuration, but it doesn't really get you anywhere if someone hacks into your system, uses your server for mail relay, mounts a successful denial of service attack against you or a virus trashes all of your mailboxes.

A lot of organizations simply give lip service to the idea of proactive maintenance, but this is a critical area. As the author explains in the final chapter, there are a lot of benefits in understanding how your servers are operating under normal conditions. This makes it much easier to understand when they are starting to have a problem. Most modern software is capable of warning you when a problem is imminent-if you only pay attention.

Administrators who are running small shops should not be put off by the title. Just because you're small in size doesn't mean that the loss of your server won't create a big problem and negatively impact your business. This is especially true if you've implemented some of the collaboration features of Exchange.

Overall, I have to recommend this book for anyone that is embarking on a design and implementation of an Exchange server deployment. In addition, a careful perusal of this book will provide important insights for those who have already implemented Exchange server and would like to make sure that they have all the bases covered.

About the Author

As a senior consultant Lee Scales, MCSE, CCA, has worked extensively with Windows NT/2000, Exchange and BackOffice. His specialty is designing Win2K infrastructures.

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