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Exchange Best Practices Analyzer: This Doctor Makes House Calls

 

Topic Last Modified: 2006-12-08

In November I shared some real-life stories in which Product Support Services was able to use one or more Microsoft® Exchange Server Analyzer Tools to troubleshoot customers’ Microsoft Exchange environments. For information about that article, see Exchange Analyzer Tools Success Stories. This month I’m discussing the Microsoft Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer Tool. This cannot only help you determine the causes of trouble after the fact but can actually help you avoid trouble to begin with. It’s this proactive dimension of this tool that should make it a key part of any strategy to minimize downtime in that critical component of your organization, your e-mail servers. Think of Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer as an actively involved partner in evaluating and improving the overall health of the Exchange topology.

Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer helps you prevent problems by scanning your Exchange environment and identifying items that may not comply with Microsoft best practices. (In case this is the first you’ve heard of Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer, here’s more about it: Microsoft Exchange Best Practices Analyzer.) Frequently, problems that customers have with Exchange are the result of a misconfiguration. The Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer will analyze your topology to look for and report out on common configuration problems.

Since Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer was developed, we have used it to find all kinds of lurking problems in customers’ Exchange environments, including (but not limited to) the following:

  • Stale Active Directory® objects

  • Inappropriate SMTP virtual server message size limits

  • Incorrect DNS host name sets on Public Folder servers

  • Default gateway being set on multiple Network Adapters

  • Outdated Antivirus Applications

What these symptoms had in common is that they were already causing problems for the customers in question, leading them to contact Microsoft Product Support Services for help. With the help of Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer we were able to help diagnose the customers’ problems and bring their configurations back in line.

But Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer can be even more helpful if you run it before trouble can start.

Consider a recent case in which a company had many small subsidiary sites which they found difficult and time-consuming to monitor and manage. A Field Engineer, knowing that Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer could check on the relative optimization of the company’s Exchange mail system, scanned and found many potential trouble spots. For example:

Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer discovered that one server had regtrace enabled, which could have led to serious mail flow issues down the line.

Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer also found that the system resource of some servers was almost exhausted. When the IT department learned of this, they optimized their configuration and received very positive effects.

In this case Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer pointed out several seemingly small problems that, in combination, could have caused much more serious problems if they had been allowed to go undetected, which in turn might have taken lots of time to unravel. Because of this one experience with Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer, the company in question now includes this tool in its weekly work routine.

This tool continues to get more effective as time goes on, because of the feedback loop between Product Support Services and the Exchange Server development team. If a Support Engineer finds a problem that the Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer is not yet looking for, he or she contacts the Exchange team to report it. If appropriate, this item is added to the Analyzer rules, which are then updated and downloaded to clients when the tool is run.

Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer can help you save your support-call dollars and reduce your downtime. Are you frustrated because you’re not getting the performance that you expected out of your existing servers? Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer may be able to pinpoint the source(s) of the problem. Do you experience annoying but minor problems with the Exchange servers that appear and disappear at seemingly random intervals? Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer may be able to determine the combination of variables that are creating these symptoms. Are you tired of calling Product Support Services only to be informed that your problem was addressed some time ago in a publicly available software update? Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer may be able to help you here, too, by identifying version differences.

Using Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer regularly to monitor the state of the Exchange servers and thereby keeping ahead of little problems before they become big ones can be the best thing you do to avoid downtime. Like a good healthcare professional, Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer can help you improve and maintain the health of your Exchange eco-system.

If you haven’t yet downloaded and run Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer, here’s a link to it: Exchange Best Practices Analyzer Download Page.

In addition to being available for download, Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer will be in the Microsoft Exchange 2007 Toolbox, available from the Exchange System Manager. It will also run as part of the Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 installation process, checking for configuration details that could cause problems with Exchange 2007.

Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer can also help you assess your readiness to migrate to Exchange 2007. For more information, see the article written by Paul Bowden’s on the Exchange Team blog at Exchange 2007 Readiness Check now available in ExBPA.

 
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