Product Reviews

Doing the Mundane Easily

Managing mailboxes and users can be a chore in large organizations—ExMS makes it easier and almost automatic.

If your company has a small number of employees, only rarely changes reporting structures, or has Exchange administrators that do not feel stretched too thin, then you don't need ExMS 3.5 from Discus Data. Quite frankly, this tool is designed for larger organizations or those with a relatively fluid, sometimes volatile, structure (read: frequent reorgs). In fact, Discus Data's own corporate statement indicates that small companies are not its target market: "…enable large organizations to automate user account administration…"

Product Information

ExMS 3.5, $5 to $15/user depending on volume
Discus Data Solutions, Inc.
New York, NY

For more Exchange tools, see "Keeping Exchange Running" in the May 2002 issue.

So what does ExMS actually do? It handles the mundane, repetitive tasks that administrators wish they could offload to others or automate. It ensures that when new mailboxes on an Exchange 5.5 server are created, that they have the appropriate attributes and those that need to be notified of the existence of this mailbox are. It ensures that when a mailbox is deleted, it can be recalled within a specific time period or off-loaded to a PST file for later retrieval. It automates changes to or allows the user to perform modifications of their own Exchange mailbox's properties so that that administrator does not have to. It allows the administrator to create roles (using Dynamic Administrative Roles Technology, or DART) and delegate the administration of certain aspects of Exchange to others. Finally, and the best part of the product, it allows for the creation of scripts using common Microsoft interfaces (ADO, CDO, ADSI, etc.) to automate the bulk of what needs to get done. 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. It 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, a user's manager changes, the Exchange 5.5 directory is updated to reflect this. Combined with DART, you can configure decentralized administration of Exchange directory objects, and keep the info current using DIA scripts.

ExMS provides the ability to create scripts and configure flexible creation, deletion and update of user mailboxes. (Click image to view larger version.)

ExMS has several interfaces: an MMC snap-in, its own administrative console, and a Web page. Administrators will use the MMC snap-in or the administrative console to configure rules for account creation, deletion and update, or to create scripts and schedule their execution. Users can use the Web page interface to modify their own settings. Administrators can also use the Web pages to create roles and assign them to users to decentralize Exchange administration. If the interfaces provided don't satisfy your requirements, Discus Data also provides a set of APIs that can be integrated into your own applications or Web sites to provide a customized interface.

While a lack of an Exchange 2000 version is something that needs to be quickly corrected, ExMS has enough functionality that it can take the mundane from the typical Exchange administrator and allow it to be automated. It is a useful tool for larger organizations, for which it is intended.

About the Author

Damir Bersinic, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCT, is an independent consultant, trainer and author.


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