Product Reviews

Get a Handle on Exchange Server

AppAnalyzer helps you keep an eye on server performance.

Everyone has heard complaints from users about slow e-mail, not enough space in their mailboxes or problems connecting to the mail server remotely through Outlook Web Access. Like any other Exchange administrator, you want to know how your Exchange server is handling your applications, how they're performing and what they're being used for so you'll have a ready answer when those questions arise.

NetIQ's AppAnalyzer can help. AppAnalyzer has some unique features to help you better understand how your group is using Exchange and how you can configure your Exchange server for smoother sailing.

Careful Planning
The installation and operation requirements are a bit complicated for what looks like a simple product.

Fortunately, NetIQ provides an excellent quick start guide and verification utility that will warn you if you forget to install any required element. This is one of the features that I liked best about AppAnalyzer. It's important to get an installation completed successfully and correctly on the first try. It's far too costly in man-hours to botch application installations and then have to start over—not to mention the potential for messing up other applications or settings on your servers. Using AppAnalyzer through its Web-based interface is a snap. You can run it on any platform that supports HTML 4.0, or a later version. Its Web-based interface is written in Microsoft's ASP.NET using version 1.1 of the .NET framework. This lets you run applications on multiple platforms, because ASP.NET renders the necessary HTML based on your browser's capabilities. At the very least, your browser must support HTML 4.0 and some form of ECMA compliant scripting, like Jscript or JavaScript.

The tasks page shown in Figure 1 has three panes. The upper left pane shows the tasks configured to run on this server. At a quick glance, you can see which tasks have been successfully completed, which haven't run yet and those that have errors or have failed.

The upper right screen lets you see all the Exchange servers in your organization and to connect to each one to verify that tasks have been set up for that server. The bottom pane shows you statistics on the tasks that have been configured and executed on the server. These statistics include the date and time of the task, number of items processed and the frequency of execution for tasks.

Figure 1. AppAnalyzer's Web-based interface
Figure 1. AppAnalyzer's Web-based interface makes it a snap to generate reports on Exchange server usage and performance. (Click image to view larger version.)

Serving Up Reports
AppAnalyzer uses SQL Server and OLAP Services to gather data and produce detailed reports about your Exchange server. Once you've configured the necessary settings for generating reports, AppAnalyzer begins collecting data based on your chosen parameters and time frames. You can schedule tasks to start at a later date and time or run a task immediately using the WebAdmin Console.

Once that data has been collected, you can view a report to see details of the specific Exchange feature you've selected. AppAnalyzer processes the data cube through OLAP in SQL Server and presents a graphical representation of the data analysis.

NetIQ has also added something that is a "must have" in today's virus-riddled world of e-mail. AppAnalyzer can report on and forward or delete messages based on their content, scanning for elements like keywords or certain types of attachments. Running the reporting functions at the appropriate times can also help significantly reduce the number of macro virus issues you'll have to face on a daily basis. I run Microsoft's ISA Server 2000 for my company's firewall and if you have ever attempted to install content filtering for ISA Server 2000 to provide the same functionality, you'll appreciate the ease with which you can configure this option with AppAnalyzer.

Figure 2. The AppAnalyzer Report Console is also Web-based
Figure 2. The AppAnalyzer Report Console is also Web-based, so you view it in a browser window. Shown is a report on the Information Store Sizes. (Click image to view larger version.)

Using the virus filtering, you can report on messages by attachment. This lets you view a report on selected mailboxes to determine the attachment file extension and name. The report also includes the sender and receiver's e-mail addresses. AppAnalyzer also lets you monitor outgoing traffic with the same parameters. This provides you with a great opportunity to watch the mail traffic coming into and leaving your organization so you can determine whether or not employees are abusing the system and possibly opening your company up to legal liabilities. You can also simply examine the volume of e-mail traffic per user.

Although there are some significant software and installation requirements you'll need to address, no Exchange Administrator should be without this tool.

About the Author

Gerry O'Brien, MCSE, MCSD, MCDBA, MCT, has been working with computers since the days of the Commodore VIC-20. Over the past five years he's done network administration for The Hardman Group Ltd., a real estate management/development company, and owns Canadian-Based GK ComputerConsulting, which provides hardware and software sales, consulting, and development services to a wide range of clients.

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