Individual fix for Exchange soft delete problem proves worth of support contracts

 

Based on the number of reports flowing into forums such as the Exchange TechNet Forums, it seems like quite a few customers were affected by the “soft delete” bug that emerged when they installed Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 or Exchange 2010 SP3 after Microsoft released these updates in February.

After a great deal of investigation, Microsoft determined that the problem was related to messages that had voicemail or PDF attachments delivered to Outlook clients configured to work in online mode and duly issued KB2822208 to advise customers to either reconfigure Outlook to use cached mode or “hard delete” the offending items with the SHIFT/Delete combination.

The good news is that Microsoft has now fixed the problem and that individual fixes are available for Exchange 2010 SP2 RU6 and Exchange 2010 SP3. I expect that the fix will be incorporated into the next roll-up update released for Exchange 2010 SP3 (RU1), due in a couple of months if Microsoft’s normal release pattern holds.

Microsoft has not said why the bug appeared, but the symptoms point to some mismatch in item properties that Outlook cannot handle. As the offending items all seem to be generated by third-party products such as multi-function printers, it could be that someone changed an interface in a way that caused Exchange to fail to process delete requests in the same way as previous server releases.

The bad news is that if you don’t have a support contract you will not be able to get the fixes. Individual fixes are just that – code to fix individual, well-identified bugs. Microsoft releases individual fixes only to customers who have current support contracts after customers report that they are experiencing a problem and Microsoft support staff have an opportunity to determine that the problem is the one that will be fixed by the patch. After all, there is no point whatsoever in applying a patch in the hope that it will fix a problem that the code does not handle. Although it would be great if it was possible for software to morph itself to fix problems that it detects, the current state of software engineering does not usually accommodate this kind of intelligence.

If you have been affected by the problem, you probably already have a support call open with Microsoft and can expect to receive a call back soon to tell you that a fix is available. If not, you can always call Microsoft to request the fix – provided you have a support contract.

All of this goes to prove the worth and value of having a support contract. Of course, it can be argued that you can simply wait for Microsoft to release Exchange 2010 SP3 RU1 or whatever other vehicle they choose to include the updated code, but waiting for bugs to be fixed in an email server that you depend on for external communication is not good practice. Cheaper than having a support contract, yes. A recipe for happiness, probably not.

 

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Discuss this Blog Entry 4

on Apr 13, 2013

It is just immoral to supply the fix to only support contract customers.
My advice for current Exchange 2003 clients: Stick to your version and never, ever upgrade to Exchange 2007 or 2010. If the upgrade is inevitable then consider switching to Gmail or Yandex mail. Yandex is free for up to 1000 mailboxes.

on Apr 16, 2013

@Muraty, it's not immoral at all; it's just the way that business works. When customers buy Exchange, they know they have to maintain it. Just like when they buy a car, they know that eventually some oil will be needed for the engine or a new tyre or two will be required to stay road legal. Software updates are just the same. Taking out a contract to keep up to date and have the latest code makes a heap of sense - and Google will want their pound of flesh too if you want to use Gmail for business.

on May 8, 2013

This is not necessarily 100% true. We noticed this bug the following day after SP3 was installed. I called Microsoft (no contract) and stated that a recent Service Pack is causing an issue and from what I understand, that does not require a contract as their update broke something that was not broken previously. Microsoft assisted us with about 4 engineers on the phone, assigned one engineer dedicated to the issue. We were one of the first company that got the interim fix to resolve this issue and tested and provided feedback to Microsoft during the entire engagement. I repeat, we did not have any contract with Microsoft to get this support nor did they ever say during any conversations that this issue was out of scope of our licenses. We don't even have SA coverage on our Exchange and CALs. BTW: This did fix the soft delete issue and it was not just third party attachments, it was also Microsoft's own calendar invite confirmation emails that couldn't be deleted either. We use Cisco Unity and they did say that others with Cisco Unity are the ones reporting the issue. We never had an issue with any MFP printers sending PDF files (use HP, Kyocera and Xerox). Hope that helps anyone and call Microsoft for this fix, it shouldn't be a charge.

on May 30, 2013

@rfaria, Your experience proves that Microsoft will do their best to fix a known problem when it is encountered, which is what they should do. I guess my point is that if you have a support contract it will smooth the path to getting the kind of help that you received.

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Tony Redmond is a senior contributing editor for Windows IT Pro and the author of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out (Microsoft Press) and Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox...
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