Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog

Jan 19, 2012

Free online Exchange 2010 training

Paul Cunningham, a well-known member of the Exchange community from sunny Brisbane, Australia, has extended a most interesting offer to anyone who’s interested in learning about Exchange 2010. Basically, Paul wants to run an Exchange 2010 bootcamp over the Internet. The course will be free to attend and all of the content will be delivered online. For now, Paul is in the process of gathering information about training requirements so that he can understand what content needs to be developed and delivered, so if you’re interested you can go to his web site and sign up. Be sure to let Paul know of any hot points that you’d like him to cover so that these topics are included in the mix. As a certified Microsoft trainer, Paul has a certain competence in training. He’s also written two migration guides to help people move from Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010. And although I have never heard Paul speak or have been exposed to the content that he plans to deliver, the quality of the material on his web site is more than acceptable. Given the world-beating price point, this offer is something that deserves investigation if you’re attempting to get up to speed with Exchange 2010. Developing good technical training content is bloody difficult....More
Jan 17, 2012

Migrating PST data to Office 365 2

I know people who have tens of gigabytes of information squirrelled away in Personal Storage Files (PSTs). They have accumulated this information over the years and the data has often ended up in PSTs because they’ve been forced to move items out of online mailboxes to comply with mailbox quotas. Remember, it’s not so long ago since disk was expensive and the average mailbox quota assigned to new users in corporate Exchange deployments ranged from 100MB to 200MB. Small mailbox quotas and the resulting small (and easily maintained) databases delight administrators but are a real pain to users as they then have to play the drag-and-drop game to shuffle items out to PSTs in order that Exchange can deliver new messages into the mailbox. Of course, some users positively delight in filing items into PSTs to build up a set of files over the years. These folk tend to be very organized and end up with a PST per project or a PST per year or some other such accumulation of PSTs that clutter up their PC and become yet another set of data that has to be migrated once the time arrives for the user to move to a new PC. In any case, whether you are a filer who boasts a proud collection of beautifully organized PSTs or an average person who has been forced to move items in a higgledy-piggledy fashion into a PST dumping ground, the time might come when you need to make a decision about where that data should be stored in the long term. Let’s face it, PSTs have a chequered history when it comes to corruption (less so now with the latest UUENCODE format than with the older ANSI files) and some of us are not very good at backing up PC files, so there’s always the potential that some disaster will come along that results in data loss. There’s a certain attraction in being able to put the data somewhere safe – or at least somewhere a lot safer than a PST can ever be. And so the thought came to me that I should do something about my PSTs. I hate having any PSTs around because I regard...More
Jan 13, 2012

The future of Exchange administration

David Cross is the Microsoft’s Director of Program Management in the Windows division. Recently, he wrote in the Server and Cloud Platform Blog on the topic of  “Windows Server 8: Server Applications and the Minimal Server Interface”. I found the text fascinating because it provides both a glimpse of the future as well as some indications of how far Exchange 2010 is ahead of the game when it comes to remote management of server applications. The key points that resonated with me are encapsulated in one segment of the post: “In Windows Server 8, the recommended application model is to run on Server Core using PowerShell for local management tasks and then deliver a rich GUI administration tool capable of running remotely on a Windows client. Server applications using this model would: 1. Be capable of running in the Minimal Server Interface configuration to take advantage of the reduced resource utilization and servicing footprint. 2. Detect presence of available components and adapt the application behavior accordingly 3. Fail gracefully when required dependencies are not available 4. Support command line installation which does not require UI interaction 5. Support centralized or remote administration, where appropriate” During his keynote at Windows Connections in Las Vegas last November, Jeffrey Snover, the lead architect for Windows Server, described how Windows Server 8 includes some 2,300 PowerShell cmdlets to enable automation of all the normal administrative operations that people have logged onto servers to perform in previous versions. He pointed out that we’ve essentially been following the same administrative model with Windows since the release of Windows NT 3.1 in 1993 and that it’s time to change, if only because the growing number of servers cannot be managed if people have to logon to each and every one to perform administrative tasks through a GUI. Of course, Microsoft is hugely interested in automated operations because they need Win...More
Jan 12, 2012

Who Are the Exchange MVPs? 1

My recent post about the sharing activities of some Exchange MVPs caused a flurry of comments. Most focused on the positive nature of the contributions such as writing code and explaining how technology works but a couple asked a pretty interesting question: “How do I know who are the current Exchange MVPs”? You can gain an insight into the personalities who are currently recognized by Microsoft through the MVP public site, which lists all the MVPs according by their technology area. Microsoft deals with a vast array of technologies and MVPs are recognized in areas as diverse as Business Management (the Dynamics suite) to Client Operating Systems to Data Center Management, Development Tools, and Entertainment (yes, you can be an Xbox MVP – in fact, there are 43 individuals listed under this category). Not all of the categories are 100% dedicated to Microsoft platforms as 10 MVPs are recognized under “Macintosh”. Exchange is listed under Communications and Collaboration and the site lists 99 MVPs in this category. In fact, this number undercounts Exchange MVPs a little because the actual number of awardees is 106. However, the site only lists people who have agreed to make their MVP profile public and seven individuals have decided to remain private (secret MVPs) for one reason or another. Exchange is by no means the largest MVP community. SQL lists 277 MVPs, ASP.NET/IIS has 263, and SharePoint has 235....More
Jan 10, 2012

Microsoft boosts Office 365 Plan K capabilities

Many reports have emerged recently to say that Microsoft will soon offer more capabilities to users of its Office 365 Plan K, which is the lowest-cost priced plan sold to “kiosk” (hence K) users who are happy to restrict themselves to the Outlook Web App (OWA) client. Of course, some of these folk might not be too happy to be restricted as they’d much prefer to use Plan P or Plan E but their companies won’t pay the extra. In any case, the new capabilities are pretty straightforward and are all associated with Exchange Online....More
Jan 5, 2012

The Sharing of Exchange MVPs

One of the nice things about working with Exchange is that there’s lots of code floating around the Internet that can be browsed, contemplated, and then perhaps reused in your deployment. Such is the case for Set-Exchange2010Features.ps1, a PowerShell script that’s maintained by fellow MVP Pat Richard. This wonderful script is designed to help you install Exchange 2010 and all its requisite bits and pieces onto a Windows 2008 R2 server. Its value is that it installs everything the same way every time the script is used, so you end up with a server that’s configured properly to a known standard. Best of all, because it’s a script, the human has far less work to do and what’s not to like about that!...More
Jan 3, 2012

Predicting the World of Exchange in 2012 5

It’s normal at this time for commentators to turn their mind to what might happen in the new year. I don’t have a crystal ball but am reasonably opinionated, so here goes with my list of what I think will be the most important developments in the Exchange world for 2012....More
Dec 29, 2011

Reporting Exchange Server 2010 Client Access Licenses 1

Exchange Server requires customers to purchase two types of licenses, server and client. There seems to be some doubt about how these licenses work. Let me see if I can cast some light onto the topic. Exchange servers start off in an unlicensed state after software is installed on a computer. This allows servers to be used in test or trial deployments. When you put servers in production, you have to purchase a license for every server that you have in the organization and enter the 25-character license key through the Exchange Management Console (EMC) or Exchange Management Shell (EMS) using the Set-ExchangeServer cmdlet....More
Dec 27, 2011

Learning how to master PowerShell with Exchange as your tutor

A recent survey in the Exchange and Outlook Update revealed that 16% of the respondents said that PowerShell remained a complete mystery to them no matter how hard they tried to master the topic. Hmmm… that’s not a good situation for any Exchange administrator to find themselves in because PowerShell, whether you personally think it is a good idea or not, is at the heart of all on-premises Exchange administration tools – EMC, EMS, ECP, and Setup. And the same is true if you take care of Exchange Online in Office 365. Exchange 2010 includes three different ways for administrators to learn PowerShell from the commands that it executes to perform different tasks. You can pick up some excellent tips about the syntax and usage of commands through these sources. Even better, you can cut and paste the code to form the basis of scripts that you then use to automate common administrative processes. First up there’s the code that EMC displays after it runs one of its many wizards. The screen below shows the code used to move a mailbox from one database to another with the New-MoveRequest cmdlet. You can see the invitation to press CTRL+C to copy the code. This facility is also available in the Exchange 2007 version of EMC. Next, there’s the neat feature that Microsoft added to EMC in Exchange 2010. If you access the property pages of an object such as a mailbox and make a change, a little PowerShell symbol in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen lights up. If you press the symbol, another window appears to show you the code that EMC will execute if you subsequently press the OK or “Apply” buttons. In other words, this is the code that is used to make the change that you’ve just requested. In the screen below the Set-Mailbox cmdlet will be run to update some attributes of a user mailbox. Again, you can highlight the code and use CTRL+C to copy it for further use. Last, Microsoft also added PowerShell logging to the Exchange 2010 EMC. This means that every singl...More
Dec 19, 2011

Finding confidential user information with Exchange Search

The nature of advanced training is that the people who attend often pose some pretty thought-provoking and interesting questions. Paul Robichaux and I recently ran an Exchange 2010 Maestro event where we had some intense discussions about various aspects of Exchange deployment at the end-of-event wrap-up. And then the question was asked: “Can I use Exchange 2010’s search capabilities to find passwords that people have stored in their mailboxes"?” Of course, the answer is “absolutely!” Exchange 2010 (and indeed, the search capabilities that Office 365 administrators can use for their tenant domain) doesn’t apply restrictions to the kind of searches that administrators execute on the basis that Exchange assumes that people who hold the necessary privileges that are required to execute searches against user mailboxes know what they are doing. And, possibly more importantly, have been granted that ability by a company in the full knowledge that some confidential information will probably come to light during a search. After all, isn’t that what searching is all about? Exchange protects users against casual searching – the kind of thing that some officials who have access to confidential information do when they look up the tax records or other information held by governments and public authorities – by requiring administrators to be members of the Discovery Management role management group before they can create and execute mailbox searches....More
Dec 15, 2011

Office 365 Advisor: what plan's for me?

Microsoft has released a new advisor (a web-based wizard) to help companies figure out whether there’s a right Office 365 for them and if so, what is the recommended plan. The cynic in me says that there will always be an Office 365 for everyone, just like Santa Claus comes to every child who has behaved themselves during the preceding year. Leaving cynicism aside, let’s applaud Microsoft for providing some help while wondering at the same time whether they could have just simplified the array of plans and options that they offer for Office 365....More
Dec 13, 2011

Exchange 2010 SP2: don't forget the rest of the ecosystem 1

Now that Exchange 2010 SP2 is available in the wild I’m sure that you’re considering the issue of how and when to deploy the new update. Life would be easy if we only had to update Exchange servers with the bits that Microsoft has provided because running the Setup program to update a server is a relatively straightforward process. But few Exchange servers run in a vacuum and almost every production server that I have ever seen has some dependencies or associations with other software that has to be taken into consideration....More
Dec 9, 2011

Litigation hold updates in Exchange 2010 SP2 1

Browsing the contents of the TechNet article “What’s new in Exchange 2010 SP2”, I was interested to note something that received zero attention (as far as I can tell) from customers during the SP2 development cycle. Buried right at the end of the article we find: In Exchange 2010 SP2, you can’t disable or remove a mailbox that has been placed on litigation hold. To bypass this restriction, you must either remove litigation hold from the mailbox, or use the new IgnoreLegalHold switch parameter when removing or disabling the mailbox. The IgnoreLegalHold parameter has been added to the following cmdlets: Disable-Mailbox Remove-Mailbox Disable-RemoteMailbox Remove-RemoteMailbox Disable-MailUser Remove-MailUser Litigation hold is what you might call an emerging science in that it first appeared as a new feature of Exchange 2010 alongside “Dumpster 2.0”, a complete revamp of the way that the Information Store handles items deleted by users. Because it’s a reasonably new feature, you’d expect that Microsoft would have some tweaking to do based on customer feedback and that’s exactly what seems to have occurred here. The whole point of litigation hold is that you want to preserve information in order to be able to respond to legal discovery actions. Clearly this can’t happen if an administrator is able to accidentally delete a mailbox that is on litigation hold, so Exchange 2010 SP2 stops this happening by requiring an administrator to explicitly request to override the litigation hold on a mailbox or mail user when they remove or disable the object. Of course, Exchange 2010 supports audit tracking for administrator actions so you can always find out exactly who deleted an object, providing that auditing is enabled and the person who deletes the object then doesn’t go and delete the audit item! Interestingly, I don’t see the Remove-StoreMailbox cmdlet listed in the set of updated cmdlets that support the IgnoreLegalHold switch. Remove-StoreMailbox a...More
Dec 7, 2011

DAGs and clusters

The recent EHLO blog post to inform Exchange administrators about a recommended hotfix for Windows Server 2008 R2 came as a reminder that the DAG, the headline feature of Exchange 2010, is layered on top of Windows Failover Clustering (WFC) and is therefore prone to any problem in Windows 2008 R2 and/or WFC. The dependency on WFC is the reason why you need to run Exchange 2010 on Windows 2008 R2 enterprise edition if you want to deploy a DAG. Exchange 2010 standard edition can be used for a DAG, but only if you want to host five online (mounted) databases or less per node. The enterprise edition of Exchange 2010 is better suited for large DAGs because it allows a node to support up to one hundred online databases. WFC is also the reason why DAGs are limited to sixteen nodes. In most cases this is not a problem as sixteen Exchange 2010 mailbox servers deployed in a DAG are capable of providing a highly reliable service to multiple tens of thousands of users, even if a number of servers are down for maintenance or another reason and their load has to be transferred to the remaining nodes. It would be nice if DAGs supported more than sixteen nodes but that isn’t going to happen until WFC increases the limit....More
Dec 5, 2011

Exchange 2010 SP2 makes its debut 2

It’s taken a while coming but Microsoft has just released Service Pack 2 (SP2) for Exchange 2010. You can download the new bits from the Microsoft Download Center. It might seem that Microsoft has taken its time in releasing SP2. That feeling is true, but the delay is for good reason. As promised by General Manager Kevin Allison during his keynote at last month’s Exchange Connections conference, enormous care and attention has been dedicated by Microsoft to make sure that SP2 is high quality and doesn’t suffer from any of the issues that afflicted two of the roll-up update (RU) releases for SP1 that appeared earlier this year. In addition, one of the key new features in SP2 is the hybrid configuration wizard (HCW), which is designed to automate the setup of hybrid connectivity between an on-premises Exchange 2010 organization and Exchange Online running in Office 365. Up to now, administrators have had to tweak Exchange settings manually to configure this connectivity and the intention is that HCW will do all the heavy lifting and take care of as many steps as possible. However, hybrid configurations are not always simple and Microsoft has done a lot of work to chase down edge cases that exhibit particular characteristics so that the HCW can handle these situations. This effort has required time to understand and solve the problems that occur in certain environments and so has slowed down the release of SP2....More
Dec 1, 2011

The futility of attempting to recall a message

A recent tweet by Brian Winstead exclaimed “Didn't mean to send that. Don’t worry, With Outlook 2010, you can recall a message after it’s sent” and pointed to the Office web page that explained all. Of course, Exchange clients have been able to recall messages for a long time – I believe it was one of the features of the Outlook 97 release – but in any case attempting to recall a message has long been an exercise in sheer futility. Here’s why. It’s logical that time is critical when it comes to preventing a recipient having the opportunity to read a message that we wish they don’t see. After all, the longer a message resides in the recipient’s Inbox, the more opportunity he or she has to read the blessed thing and expose the reason why we wanted to recall the message in the first place. The first barrier to recalling a message is Outlook’s user interface. People don’t generally recall a lot of messages (if they do, perhaps they have another problem) so it’s unlikely that the average user will immediately know what option to take (or where it is located) to recall a message....More
Nov 28, 2011

Expiring Office 365 Passwords 2

When I wrote about the differences between Office 365 Plans P and E and the choice that small businesses make when they decide which plan to use, I omitted to discuss the question of password policies. For users of Plan P (for professionals and small businesses), the policy is simple: your password never expires. However, for users of Plan E (for enterprises), passwords automatically expire after 90 days. This is the standard policy applied across all Office 365 tenant domains that use Plan E. Expiring user passwords (except mine) after 90 days sounds like an excellent idea as it will force users to consider the small matter of security and cause them to figure out what their new password should be. And when they’ve done that, they can paste another Post-It note pasted with care and dedication under their keyboard as a service to all those who need to know their password. The small problem in all of this is that most users don’t know what to do when their password expires. Even worse, rich clients like Outlook 2010, Outlook 2011, and ActiveSync mobile devices stop authenticating correctly and might not provide their users with sufficient information for them to realize that the root of their problem is an expired password. By comparison, Outlook Web App users will understand exactly what’s happened and be able to take immediate action....More
Nov 22, 2011

The economics of becoming a Microsoft Certified Master (MCM–Exchange) 2

David Bjurman-Birr, who looks after the Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) program for the Exchange development group, recently posted a document that’s intended to help aspiring MCM candidates to make a case about the benefits that candidates will get by going through the three-week intensive training program that the Exchange group runs in Redmond. The issue is the cost of the program. At $18,500 it’s not something that an individual can easily incur for themselves so it’s usually necessary to seek the support of a candidate’s company by asking their management to pay for the program plus the associated costs. David’s document estimates the costs as follows: Airfare: $ 500 Transportation: (round trip taxi from airport) $ 80 Corporate apartment (w/roommates): (21 nights at $50) $ 1,050 Meals: (21 days at $50) $ 1,050 Rotation Fee (includes exams): $ 18,500 Total: $ 21,180 You can decide whether these costs are in line with what you’d expect. Clearly the airfare will differ depending on where you travel from and the lodging costs will vary depending on whether you decide to stay in a local hovel or the best hotel that Redmond, WA can offer. You can drive meal costs down by eating at McDonalds and other fine restaurants or perhaps by keeping aside some of the snacks and other food that’s usually available on Microsoft’s campus, or even by cooking for yourself. But one way or another, you’re not going to be able to do anything about the $18,500 that Microsoft charges for the training. There’s no denying that the fee is high. A high-end training course delivered in the US runs to around $900/day if it’s delivered by tutors such as MVPs. The fifteen days of the three-week rotation therefore work out at $13,500 – but that’s if you assume that training is Monday through Friday as is normally done. But the MCM rotation requires candidates to work extraordinary hours, including weekends (for more details, read the report on a recent rotation by MVP Jeff Guillet), so...More
Nov 17, 2011

Exchange 2010 Transaction Logs: To Be Cerished, Not Ignored 4

The news reported by the redoubtable Ross Smith IV in the Exchange team blog last week that “the number one reason why our Premier customers open Exchange 2010 critical situations is because Mailbox databases dismount due to running out of disk space on the transaction log LUN…” caused me to ponder whether this is an example of Microsoft being a victim of their own success. Let me explain why. Microsoft has been on a crusade to improve the I/O profile of Exchange ever since the storage required for major Exchange 2003 deployments proved to be both expensive to procure and difficult to deploy. Essentially, in those days the Storage Area Network (SAN) was king because Exchange was a bit of a pig in terms of the I/Os that it consumed. The engineering team did a lot of tweaking to the database to improve matters in Exchange 2007 and succeeded in reducing the required I/Os by a factor of some 70%, providing of course your storage was configured in the same way as Microsoft’s and your users generated the same kind of robotic transactions that test suites do. Even if you were different, the changes were good and reduced Exchange’s I/O profile to a point where SANs started to become less of a critical success factor and more of a nice-to-have for deployments....More
Nov 15, 2011

Google improves support for Google Apps users and claims 80% customer satisfaction rating: What about Office 365?

Yippee! Today Google announced that they will provide phone support for business users of their Google Apps application suite. The announcement went on to explain that the usual level of support up to now was via email with 24x7 phone support limited to critical issues. Of course, any problem with something like email or documents rapidly becomes a critical issue to a user who can’t get to their data (or thinks that they can’t), but that’s another day’s work. I read this as Google catching up with Office 365. After all, Google was hardly likely to let their Microsoft rivals boast better support and in fact Google Apps now offers better support for small businesses who might otherwise use Office 365 Plan P, which can only log support calls with Microsoft and can’t call the support line direct. Plan E customers have immediate access to 24x7 phone support, so they receive equivalent support to that now available to all Google Apps customers (see this post for more details on Office 365 plans). Let’s hope that Microsoft now responds by matching Google’s support. The interesting thing that I took away from the announcement was the paragraph saying: “A support metric that we’re especially passionate about is customer satisfaction. We measure customer satisfaction by asking for feedback on a seven point scale at the time we close a support case. As measured on this scale, 80% of our business customers and 90% of our large business customers indicate that they’re more than satisfied with their support experience. While we’re proud of these ratings, we want to do even better. Our goal is to achieve an overall satisfaction rating of 95%.” I love the way that Google shares both their current customer satisfaction rating and their target. While no detail is provided as to how the satisfaction rating is determined or whether it is “adjusted” in any way before publication (to take account for extreme cases, for instance), it’s liberating to see a major cloud provider putting...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.


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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