Product Reviews

Many Exchange Servers, Little Time

Quest MessageStats makes it easier to keep on top of things.

While the latest incarnation of Microsoft Exchange 2000 has some good monitoring tools, administrators typically have to check each server’s load and activity individually. This tends to be too labor-intensive in medium- or large-scale organizations that host more than a half-dozen Exchange servers, which brings us to Quest MessageStats, a mature product that’s now in its fourth version.

MessageStats is a reporting tool designed specifically for the enterprise-level Exchange environment. MessageStats leverages an existing Exchange feature—message tracking—to retrieve data and produce several types of reports on Exchange usage in an organization. Need to know who owns the biggest mailboxes in the organization or which servers have the largest message stores? MessageStats can tell you.

MessageStats requires a Microsoft SQL Server or its Desktop Edition, MSDE (which is included with Office 2002) to store its data. It also requires that you turn on the message-tracking feature on all Exchange servers in your organization.

Once it’s installed, Message-Stats displays its console window, which allows you to select the Exchange servers you want to include in its reports. You can select the servers manually or create custom groups of servers called “regions” and select those—very handy if you wish to partition your reports.

MessageStats then tests to ensure that the servers are available and that you have permission to access all message-tracking logs; afterward, it reports any problems that may interfere. (A word to the wise: MessageStats will encounter problems here if it’s installed on an Exchange server; use a workstation instead.)

After you select your servers and test them, MessageStats opens an easily navigated, browser-based report window. Select the report you want to produce, apply any filters, and you have yourself a handsome report on your Exchange server usage, complete with graphs and tables suitable for framing—or at least printing, which is easily done via the icon at the top of the reports window (See figure).

Quest MessageStats 4.0
After you select the report you want and apply desired filters, Quest MessageStats 4.0 provides user-friendly reports on Exchange usage. (Click image to view larger version.)

Once you get comfortable with MessageStats’ report templates, you may want to experiment and create your own. The product allows you to create custom reports and provides a wizard to walk you through the process to make it easier. MessageStats also includes thorough online help.

For all the wonderful reports it produces, it’s still up to you to make use of the data. It would have been nice if Quest included an alerting component to let administrators know when certain activity levels displayed in the reports are reached. In fairness, however, alerts are beyond the scope of the product and are available within Microsoft’s software anyway. By focusing on creating a tool that produces one thing—reports—Quest has ensured that it does that one thing exceedingly well.

About the Author

Ronald Stewart, MCSE+I, MCT, is an IT consultant in Vancouver, Canada. He has more than 10 years of experience in IT. He’s worked with, consulted on, and taught DNS.


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