Product Reviews

Keep Current

Exchange updates with Discus Data’s ActiveDL 4.1.

Anyone who administers a Microsoft Exchange Server in a large environment knows that the task of keeping distribution lists current and manageable isn’t trivial. With employee moves, promotions, hirings and terminations, it’s nearly impossible to match employees consistently with the proper distribution lists, making sure they receive the mail they should, but not what they shouldn’t. Out of the box, Exchange Server provides few tools that work with distribution lists, so, at best, it remains a manual and somewhat haphazard process.

To assist in the management of Exchange Server distribution lists, Discus Data Solutions has released ActiveDL for Exchange 5.5 and ActiveGroups for Exchange 2000. ActiveDL/ActiveGroups allows the Exchange administrator to automate the creation and maintenance of distribution lists in Exchange 5.5 and distribution lists/groups in Exchange 2000.

The installation of ActiveDL is fairly straightforward; it can be installed on an Exchange 5.5 server or on a Windows NT/Windows 2000/XP workstation. ActiveDL 4.1 requires that the Exchange server has, at minimum, Exchange Service Pack 4.

ActiveDL uses a GUI-based query wizard that allows the Exchange administrator to create a distribution list and specify a set of rules for list membership. For example, if a distribution list is based on the user’s department, the administrator can base the membership rule on the department attribute. This allows ActiveDL to automatically add or remove users from that distribution list as they’re added or removed from the department.

The feature that makes ActiveDL shine is its ability to schedule regular distribution list updates. This allows you to “set it and forget it.” For example, after a user is added, he or she is automatically added to the proper distribution lists at the scheduled update time.

In addition to automation tools, ActiveDL provides reports on distribution-list membership, as well as who’s using the distribution lists and how often. This enables an Exchange administrator to track unauthorized usage of the distribution lists so that corrections can be made to a list’s Send permissions. This can also be used to locate distribution lists that are never used so they can be eliminated.

ActiveDL 4.1
The ActiveDL query wizard offers multiple query options, including filtering on a substring. (Click image to view larger version.)

Overall, my experience with ActiveDL was positive. Discus Data has produced a handy tool, which features a simple-to-use query wizard that hides a powerful query engine. The installation process is simple, the documentation good and the interface clean and functional. Every Exchange administrator who deals with the headaches of distribution list management in a large environment should take a look at ActiveDL.

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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