Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog

Jul 26, 2012
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Workcycles and the Managed Folder Assistant (MFA)

The Managed Folder Assistant (MFA) debuted in Exchange 2007 as part of Microsoft’s first attempt to introduce a subsystem called Messaging Records Management (MRM) intended to help users retain information that might be required for purposes such as audits and administrators impose some control over folders in terms of how long items could be retained. MFA is the component that imposed the control by implementing whatever policies are created by administrators and assigned to mailboxes....More
Jul 24, 2012
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First impressions of Outlook 2013 Preview

As I noted on July 16, alongside every new release of Exchange you’re almost certain to find a new release of Outlook. And so it is with Exchange 2013 as we have a preview release of Outlook 2013 to play with. I downloaded the Office 2013 Professional Plus Preview and installed it onto my work PC (running Windows 8). After all, you might as well use software for real work if you’re to discover its strengths and weaknesses. The upgrade installation was painless, which is always a good thing. My Office 365 and Hotmail accounts were imported and everything seemed to work. However, then I noticed that I had two Hotmail accounts, one using Exchange ActiveSync (the new approach to synchronization), the other using the older Hotmail Connector for Outlook, which uses MAPI and is now deemed to be obsolete.Hotmail has supported ActiveSync for quite a while now and it makes sense to move to a common approach to synchronization across all platforms, which is after all the reason why ActiveSync exists. Unfortunately the ActiveSync version didn’t work so well, so I edited the account properties to point it to m.hotmail.com, which is the access point that I’ve used successfully with mobile phones in the past. Outlook proclaimed itself happy with the change and everything promptly started to work. I then cleaned up by deleting the entry for the other Hotmail account. The only add-on for Outlook that I use consistently is TechHit’s Twinbox for Outlook, which integrates Twitter into Outlook. The upgrade procedure detected Twinbox and migrated it across to Outlook 2013 and the add-in has continued to work as before. Score one to Microsoft for excellent backwards compatibility for this add-in. I’ll say up front that I’m not altogether convinced that the new Metro-style interface is more attractive or productive than the one used by Outlook 2010. And by the way, I still see the same number of Outlook synchronization logs as with Outlook 2010, so it doesn’t look as if much prog...More
Jul 19, 2012
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Microsoft finally sees sense about multi-mailbox searches 1

A certain amount of joy erupted across the Exchange community after last Friday’s announcement on the EHLO blog that Microsoft had decided to remove multi-mailbox searches from the set of Exchange 2010 features that are licensed through an Enterprise Client Access License (ECAL). The announcement says: “Multi-Mailbox Search required an Enterprise Client Access License (CAL) for each mailbox searched. We’ve heard your feedback on how you use this feature and the licensing requirements. Today we’re making a change to Exchange 2010 licensing so you’ll no longer require an Enterprise CAL for Multi-Mailbox Search.” I always thought that it was a bit silly to require an ECAL for mailboxes that were liable to be searched. After all, the whole purpose of having multi-mailbox searches is to be able to find information that’s needed to satisfy a legal discovery action or to satisfy some other appropriate reason for administrators to delve deep into the innards of user mailboxes. It does make sense to require an ECAL for those who perform multi-mailbox searches as these folk are by definition using the feature. Penalizing “normal” mailboxes simply because their contents are being searched doesn’t seem quite so sensible. Put another way, it’s pretty insane. The problem with any multi-mailbox search is that you don’t necessarily know what mailboxes need to be searched before you start, nor do you know what mailboxes will actually contain anything of interest to the search,...More
Jul 17, 2012
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Installing Exchange 2013 Preview

The task of installing Exchange 2013 Preview isn’t particularly onerous for anyone who has installed Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2010. All it takes is a little upfront planning and preparation. The first thing to emphasize is that this is truly a preview release that is intended to give you an insight into what the final shape of Exchange 2013 might look like when Microsoft has completed development and released the product for general availability. As such, you must not attempt to use the preview in production. Any attempt to do so means that you’ll be entirely on your own when you meet the inevitable bugs that characterize prototype software. Associated with this point is the fact that you cannot introduce Exchange 2013 preview into an existing Exchange organization. The preview depends on a different Active Directory schema and other technical points that make it incompatible with the current releases of Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010. Microsoft plans to release updated versions of these products in due course to work alongside Exchange 2013, but you don’t need this code to use the preview version for its intended purpose. Next, you’ll need to prepare Windows 2008 R2 SP1 or Windows 2012 servers for use with Exchange 2013 preview and then make sure that these servers are equipped with all the prerequisites such as .NET Framework 4.5, the Microsoft management pack 3.0, and various hot fixes. The Office 2010 Filter Pack is also needed for the same purpose as Exchange 2010....More
Jul 16, 2012
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Exchange 2013 and Outlook 2013 preview versions debut 1

As part of their Office 2013 preview release, Microsoft has made the preview edition of Exchange 2013 available for you to download. There are many changes in Exchange 2013 – far too many to describe in a solitary post. Windows IT Pro has a comprehensive review of Exchange 2013 scheduled to appear before Microsoft formally reveals the new version at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Orlando on September 24. MEC is likely to be really interesting as Microsoft explains the concepts behind new features such as “modern public folders'” (some might consider this an oxymoron, but that’s not important right now) as well as why they have elected to reduce server roles to just mailbox servers and Client Access Servers (CAS). Another interesting topic is likely to be the closer connection that Exchange 2013 and SharePoint boast in terms of “site mailboxes”. Users of Exchange Online in Office 365 will see the new features after Microsoft deploys the new software into its datacenters. The exact details of when this might happen and what control tenant domain administrators will have over when new features are revealed to users are not yet 100% clear but we expect more detail from Microsoft in the near future. Of course, a new version of Exchange wouldn’t be complete without a new version of Outlook, so there’s no surprise that we find a preview version of Outlook 2013 is available too. Like previous versions of Exchange, you need the latest and greatest version of Outlook....More
Jul 12, 2012
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The Bad Item Conundrum (or, How much data would you like MRS to drop?) 3

My recent article “Corrupted Items and Mailbox Moves in Exchange 2010” provoked some comments about the number of corrupt items that are met when administrators attempt to move mailboxes as well as some suggestions as to how you might reduce the problem. A “bad item” to Exchange 2010 is an item that the Mailbox Replication Service (MRS) considers to be corrupt in some form when it attempts to process the item. The most common scenario is when MRS moves a mailbox but bad items also come into play when MRS imports or exports mailbox data from or to a PST. The default bad item threshold for MRS is zero. In other words, unless you explicitly tell MRS otherwise, it will attempt to process every single item and if corruption is met in any item MRS will halt the operation. You can restart a mailbox move or PST import/export by changing the properties of the MRS request with a higher bad item threshold and then resuming the operation. For example, commands like this might be used to set a higher bad item limit for a mailbox move and then resume it: Set-MoveRequest –Identity “TRedmond” –BadItemLimit 20 Resume-MoveRequest –Identity “TRedmond” Unfortunately, you can only amend the bad item threshold using the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) as the Exchange Management Console (EMC) interface dealing with mailbox move requests doesn’t allow access to this property. And of course, EMC doesn’t have any UI at all for dealing with PST imports and exports....More
Jul 10, 2012
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Research proves that stupidity is a major factor in 419 email scams

An interesting Microsoft Research paper titled “Why do Nigerian scammers say they are from Nigeria” provides an answer to a question that has worried many email administrators over the years, viz. how do so many users fall for the worst-written scams? By now surely the vast majority of email users know that receiving a message that proudly proclaims to be from Nigeria carries a high risk of being scam, unless of course you are from Nigeria or have other connections with that country. The kind of thing I mean are the heartfelt appeals from people who apparently have fallen on hard times because their father/brother/husband/wife/other relative has been killed/removed from office/disappeared/fallen foul of some government bureaucrats. All would be well if you would only extend a helping hand by helping this unfortunate to extract money/gold/diamonds/other valuables out of the country. Fortunately your correspondent has had the foresight and wisdom to set everything up for the transfer to take place and only needs details of your bank account to make it all happen. And perhaps some money that your new friend will use to grease the palms of whomever needs to be bribed before the valuables can be transferred. When everything is done, you’ll end up with 20/25/50%. The path to great wealth is truly obvious. At least it is to the target section of society to whom the scammers direct their efforts. In a nutshell, the research paper tells us that stupid people are targeted....More
Jul 5, 2012
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Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer 1.4 is released – a wonderful tool

It’s difficult to quantify just how useful the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer (ExRCA) has been in its short existence, but let me hazard a guess – a heck of a lot. For those who don’t know about RCA, let me explain that it’s a utility engineered by Microsoft to help Exchange administrators understand when their deployments are configured correctly to allow external network connectivity for clients such as Outlook Anywhere, Outlook Web App, or ActiveSync. Autodiscover validation is also supported as is testing inbound and outbound SMTP connections. Making changes on Client Access Servers or front-end servers and hoping that those changes had the required effect of exposing secure access to email to properly authorized clients used to be a long drawn-out process. Make the change. Test using a client of the desired type outside the firewall. Observe the response. Iterate until successful. In other words, a royal pain in the rear end. In a nutshell, RCA provides you with a tool to test various methods to connect to your Exchange deployment using the mechanisms employed by different clients. Go to https://www.testexchangeconnectivity.com/, select the client type you want to test for either on-premises Exchange or Office 365, provide credentials for a test account that’s otherwise locked down, and off you go. You’ll soon find out whether your configuration works (which it obviously does in the example shown below) or if it doesn’t, and if so, why not....More
Jul 3, 2012
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Counting mailboxes 2

I’m sure that everyone admired the warm glow of achievement that broke out around Mountain View when Google reported that Gmail now has 425 million users at their annual Google I/O conference on June 28. I know that I did. Some seconds later, after I had digested the content of the news report, my mind wandered to consider two other pertinent questions. First, how did Google count so many mailboxes (for it is surely mailboxes rather than users that they mean – and a person can have many mailboxes)? And second, how many of these mailboxes are actually used? After all, my family of five has five Gmail mailboxes, but only one is used on any consistent basis. The others are used for other purposes, such as a convenient email address to provide to the many annoying web sites that insist on gathering email addresses before they allow access. The resulting spam can then be safely ignored as it accumulates in Gmail. Administrators of email servers will understand the need to know about mailbox data because similar questions have been asked ever since mailboxes were assigned on the earliest email systems. Of course, way back before the dawn of Internet time (in the 1980s), there was a very good reason to be concerned about mailbox numbers and their usage. System resources were so scarce and expensive that mailboxes were only allocated to the most essential users (otherwise known in most companies as the most senior management) and their mailbox access was monitored...More
Jul 2, 2012
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Dell wins Quest

Well, it looks like Dell has managed to close the deal to acquire Quest Technology, a transaction that appeared to have hit the rocks on May 25. The deal is for $2.4 billion, or $28 a share. When I last wrote about the potential deal, I thought that it was a bad one for Dell and I don’t see anything in the new detail to make me believe any different. The same difficulties of a fragmented software portfolio assembled over time being acquired by a hardware company exist. But perhaps Dell views the Quest portfolio as a way to make a statement in software that broadens the strategic value that it can bring to customers through enterprise software, something that Dell hasn’t been known for in the past. If so, I hope that it takes the necessary steps to retain all the programming talent in Quest for more than six or twelve months. If not, the fear is that the talent will ebb away and take a lot of the value with it. There’s no doubt that Dell can afford to acquire Quest. The question now is how Quest responds to being acquired. And on another topic altogether, whether the well-regarded “The Experts Conference” (TEC) will continue in its present form. It would be a great pity if TEC disappeared after corporate accountants go through the normal cost excising process that invariably follows post-acquisition. Many folks in the Active Directory, PowerShell, and Exchange communities hope that TEC continues. I hope Dell believes that this would be a good thing too! Follow Tony @12Knocksinna...More
Jun 28, 2012
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Managing customizations for Exchange 1

Tales of the disasters that result because of misconfigured email settings are pretty common, but perhaps don’t quite have the dramatic and strange effect of the sendmail.cf snafu as related in “The 500 mile email”, an amusing story about how an upgrade to a newer version had the regrettable side-effect of causing email failures. Of course, the story revolves around a Sendmail configuration file rather than having anything to do with Exchange. But that’s no reason for Exchange administrators to smirk or otherwise fell superior because there are many places within Exchange where an upgrade can wreak havoc because it overwrites a file that you had previously customized to meet the needs of your organization. For instance, Paul Robichaux describes the methods used to customize Outlook Web App (OWA) in Exchange 2010, including the common requirement to apply a company’s logo or color scheme to OWA pages. This kind of customization is very common and OWA customization is documented by Microsoft, yet making changes to OWA comes with a public health warning because it is all too easy to find that your work is overwritten by a change made by Microsoft in a service pack or roll-up update....More
Jun 26, 2012
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Demands of cloud mean on-premises deployment strategy must evolve

My post exploring the thought that Exchange 2010 SP2 RU3 was a roll-up update (RU) with some of the characteristics of a full-blown service pack (because it includes some interesting functionality enhancements in addition to the normal collection of bug fixes) provoked some further thinking about the influence that cloud-based systems have on their on-premises counterparts. One response I received from a member of the Exchange development team pointed me to the post by Rajesh Jha (corporate Vice President for Exchange) on the EHLO blog that describes Microsoft’s development cadence for Exchange Online, the version that runs as part of Office 365. I already reviewed that post last October and concluded that companies that switch to a cloud platform have to revise their expectation about the rate of change of software and factor this into their deployment plans. Then I read an article that examined how Microsoft can keep Windows 8 “fresh” after it is released by Hal Berenson, who was a Distinguished Engineer and General Manager at Microsoft before he retired. Not only was the article interesting because of the insight it provided into the evolution of the desktop version of Windows over the years, it provoked further thought about the increasing pace of software development and concluded that, with Windows 8, Microsoft has to balance the need to refresh its O/S to keep it competitive while also providing a stable platform that can be easily deployed and supported...More
Jun 21, 2012
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Is Office 365 suitable for small companies? 1

An interesting “The Register” article on June 15 titled “Office 365: This cloud isn’t going to put any admins out of a job” contained some assertions that I thought were valid and worth repeating and some that seemed odd, but such is the nature of commentaries. The article started off with: “As a salable product, I find Office 365 extremely curious; it's workable enough if you have a decade or two's experience beating Exchange into submission ... but a little too complex for anyone else. “ I probably fall into the category of those with a decade or so of Exchange experience, which is why I find Office 365 more approachable than the author. The article then goes on to discuss basic email and compares Exchange Online to sendmail, concluding that the restrictions imposed by Microsoft are “severe”. There’s some validity to question the limits that Microsoft has chosen, but I think it’s also fair to say that most hosted services impose some restrictions on users (otherwise a rogue user might consume a large percentage of available system resources) and that Microsoft increased the original limits in January 2012 as a result of user feedback. Office 365 is still a relatively new service that’s growing rapidly and a reasonable case can be made that Microsoft needs to err on the side of caution until they develop more sophisticated methods for throttling user demands....More
Jun 19, 2012
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Mimecast issues "shape of email" report

What are we to make of the findings outlined in the recent Mimecast report “The Shape of Email”? The headline discovery is that only one in three messages received is “essential for work”. Given that we live in a world where companies feel the need to reach out and communicate with potential consumers through email on an almost daily basis (if you are unwise enough to provide these companies with your work email address), it’s not altogether surprising that a torrent of “non-work” email flows into mailboxes. And this doesn’t even take account of traditional spam bearing offers of cheap Rolexes, highly effective pharmaceuticals, and chances to relieve cash balances in Nigeria....More
Jun 14, 2012
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Upgrading to Windows 8 Release Preview affects Outlook's safe senders list 1

The desire to install Windows 8 Release Preview on my PC turned up yet another factoid that I didn’t know about Exchange Online. I’m a big believer of actually using software to discover whether it’s any good and had therefore resolved to put Windows 8 RP on my work laptop, even if (as I discovered) the installation procedure couldn’t keep any settings or applications whatsoever because I had the Windows 8 Consumer Preview installed. A reinstallation of Windows isn’t a bad thing as it can resolve all manner of lurking inconsistencies that have accumulated since the operating system was originally installed. The biggest pain is installing all the applications afterwards – building a list of everything you use from Office to Skype to different drivers, finding or downloading the kits, and locating the license keys. It all takes time. In any case, the good news is that the Windows 8 installation procedure is pretty good at laying its code down on a PC, even a three-year old laptop like my HP EliteBook 8530w. Installing all the applications went reasonably smoothly and all devices were connected up without too much trauma. The only subsequent problem that I’ve run into was an annoying habit of Skype to seize the attention of one of the CPU cores. On a two-core laptop that means Skype takes 50% available CPU, which isn’t a good thing. Lots of other people have found the same problem and the recommendation to install an older version of Skype (5.1.0.112 is the one I use) solves...More
Jun 12, 2012
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The Story of Send

Thanks to the charming people at Google, I now realize where I have been going wrong for the past 30 years. Ever since 1982, I’ve been concerned with user agents, clients, message transfer agents, SMTP, IMAP, POP, X.400, X.500, and all the other bits and pieces that fit together (sometimes with difficulty) to build a fully-fledged email system. But now that I’ve read “The Story of Send,” it seems that I should have been looking into how to route email around Dracula, lakes, and piping before delivering it to the tender mercies of hardhat-wearing shorts-clad engineers who work in a balmy 80 degrees. It’s all so clear now....More
Jun 9, 2012
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Exchange sessions at TechEd 2012 - Nothing much new, MEC is where the action will be

What are we to make of the published list of Exchange-related sessions (see below) for TechEd North America next week? At the risk of offending some, here are my conclusions. First, the session line-up is relatively weak in terms of Exchange content. In other words, there aren’t really that many sessions given the size of TechEd. This isn’t altogether surprising because of the number of technologies that Microsoft has to cover during TechEd AND the salient fact that we can look forward to the introduction of the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in three months, when the Exchange community gets the chance to gather at the Gaylord Conference Center for three days of in-depth content (September 24-26). Second, the Exchange development group has just three speakers (highlighted in the list). If you are at TechEd and haven’t see Jeff Mealiffe talk about virtualization or Scott Schnoll discuss the finer points of Database Availability Groups, then you should definitely attend these sessions as the speakers are well-versed in their topics. Bharat Suneja posts many interesting articles to the EHLO blog and I’m sure he will do a fine job of explaining how archiving works with Office 365. Third, with just two sessions, there isn’t much MVP-provided content for Exchange. I view this as a bad thing because MVPs tend to deliver content that is highly influenced by real-world experience. Last, there’s no mention whatsoever of Exchange 2013 (or Exchange 15 if you prefer that name)....More
Jun 7, 2012
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Exchange Roll-Up Updates Are Becoming More Like Mini Service Packs

The Exchange Customer Experience (CXP) team really came up with the goods when they shipped Exchange 2010 SP2 RU3. Among the usual collection of bug fixes and updates (42 in total in this roll-up update), two important changes stand out that deserve further commentary. The first is the improvement made for Outlook clients that go through a cross-site transition as a result of a mailbox move or a datacenter failover. Microsoft realized that these scenarios weren’t handled particularly gracefully soon after they shipped Exchange 2010 and planned to include more elegant code in Exchange 2010 SP1. However, the code proved to be less elegant and more buggy than expected and Microsoft removed it from SP1 shortly before they finalized the contents of the service pack. SP1 shipped in August 2010. It might seem strange that we should have to wait for nearly two more years before the problems in the cross-site code could be worked through and validated. It’s also abnormal for Microsoft to include major new pieces of functionality in a roll-up update as service packs are the normal vehicle for updates that change the way that the product works. However, in this case, development priorities conspired to slow the finalization of the code and so the decision came about to include it in SP2 RU3 so as to make the code available to customers faster than if Microsoft had to wait to include it in Exchange 2010 SP3 (which hasn’t yet been formally announced)....More
Jun 5, 2012
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Dell decides not to acquire Quest 4

Quest is a well-known software company in the Windows space where it sells a large number of products, chiefly those that help with the management of Active Directory and Exchange. The company has been for sale for a while now and Bloomberg had reported on May 25 that Dell was focusing in on a purchase for a price north of $2 billion. However, a June 1 report said that Dell had broken off acquisition talks and wouldn’t be proceeding with the purchase. I never thought that a Dell acquisition would be a good outcome for Quest....More
May 31, 2012
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The cloud is great, but what about Plan B?

One of the dangers of speaking at conferences is that sooner or later someone will challenge you to prove a statement made on stage. I've been strong about recommending that companies who are considering moving their Exchange deployment from on-premises into the cloud that they must have a Plan B, just in case things don’t work out so well. You know, the best laid plans of mice and men scenario… In any case, the inevitable email popped into my inbox to ask “so what shape should Plan B take?” In other words, if I go to the cloud and then decide to revert to on-premises Exchange, how can the changeover be done? It’s a good question and it’s one that no great experience exists in terms of good answers. We can see some foundations in place but until a company goes through the great withdrawal and publicly reports exactly what went right and what didn’t, we won’t really know what the right answer might be. So here goes with my current thinking on the topic....More
What's Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog?

On-premises and cloud-based Microsoft Exchange Server and all the associated technology that runs alongside Microsoft's enterprise messaging server.

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Tony Redmond

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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