Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog

Feb 23, 2012
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Prioritizing Exchange 2010 mailbox move requests

I gave Microsoft a hard time last week when news broke that Exchange 2010 SP2 RU1 contained a bug that prevented Client Access Servers (CAS) running SP2 RU1 in external-facing Active Directory sites proxying Outlook Web App (OWA) connections to CAS servers in internal sites that ran other baselevels of Exchange 2010. The problem was caused by a change in the format of the cookie used by the servers when they communicate with each other and is quickly addressed by making sure that SP2 RU1 is used on CAS servers everywhere. Even so, a lingering doubt remains that this is yet another problem that should not have crept through Microsoft’s testing process. After all, do the folks in Redmond assume that customers deploy new software everywhere at once? In any case, even if we don’t like being forced to upgrade server software to fix a problem that should not exist, there is a benefit to be gained from deploying Exchange 2010 SP2 RU1 to CAS servers: once done, you can now prioritize mailbox move requests for processing by the Mailbox Replication Service (MRS). As you probably know, MRS is the service that’s responsible for picking up mailbox move requests and processing them in the background until the new mailbox is fully-populated and ready to use. At that time, MRS switches the pointers to the mailbox in Active Directory and clients can connect to the new mailbox. See this EHLO article for more information on what happens behind the scenes when MRS processes mailbox move requests. I think that MRS is one of the success stories of Exchange 2010 and is certainly a huge contributor to Microsoft’s ability to be able to move customers to either on-premises Exchange 2010 or to Exchange Online in Office 365. Given the ever-swelling size of mailboxes and the promise that mailboxes will only get larger over time, the old method used up to and including Exchange 2007 of transferring mailbox contents in real time had long passed its best-before date. Users simply won’t wait fo...More
Feb 21, 2012
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OCAT: Microsoft's Outlook Configuration Analysis tool

Following up on my recent articles covering the MFCMAPI and EWSEditor tools, both of which help administrators gain an insight into mailbox contents, I note that Microsoft has released the Outlook Configuration Analyzer Tool (OCAT), another program to help administrators. In this case, OCAT is designed to scan a PC and gather details from Outlook profiles and registry entries to pick up any inconsistencies or potential issues that might cause problems when Outlook 2007 or 2010 clients connect to Exchange. OCAT looks very like the Exchange Best Practice Analyzer (ExBPA) that’s been around for several versions of Exchange and was written by two Microsoft support engineers to help address what they perceived as a gap in the support infrastructure – how to extract reliable information from a PC running Outlook that can then be used as the basis for troubleshooting problems. Although OCAT comes with “as-is” (no) support, you can send problem reports to the OCAT development team at OCATsupp@microsoft.com . A Twitter feed is available to broadcast news of OCAT updates. Obviously the OCAT team had to make some tough choices when they developed the tool, one of which was to exclude Outlook 2003 from the supported versions (an error message is generated if you attempt to run OCAT on a PC with Outlook 2003). This is a pity because Outlook 2003 is still in use in many large Exchange deployments. You’ll need to have .NET Framework 3.5 Service Pack 1 installed on a PC before OCAT can be installed. Windows XP SP3, Vista SP2, and Windows 7 are the supported client platforms. Once installed (a matter of just a few minutes), running OCAT is simple. First, make sure that Outlook is running and then start OCAT. At the home screen, opt to create a new scan, give it a name, and start. The time required for a scan depends on the complexity of the profile being analyzed (for example, how many accounts, mailboxes, and archive mailboxes are opened), the version of Outlook that’s install...More
Feb 17, 2012
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Exchange 2010 SP2 RU1: A CAS glitch? 1

When the first Roll-up Update (RU1) appeared for Exchange 2010 SP2 this week, some commentators were taken by the fact that Microsoft includes 58 individually documented fixes in the release. I wasn’t worried by what could be taken to be a large number of fixes for an update as I had successfully tested RU1 and it seemed very stable in my environment. Accordingly, I went ahead and wrote up an endorsement of RU1 and then left for a short vacation. How quickly things change. Ever since, my mailbox has been humming with the arrival of new messages to describe a somewhat esoteric problem that affects deployments that have Client Access Servers (CAS) in Internet-facing Active Directory sites that have to proxy incoming client traffic to CAS servers located in other, internal. Active Directory sites. The problem? Quite simply, Exchange refuses to proxy the traffic. Eeek! At least my original article contained the caveat: “Should you deploy Exchange 2010 SP2 RU1 now? I believe that you should, with the caveat that you should first test the new software by running it within an environment that replicates the essential characteristics of your production systems. That way you’ll find out whether the software works for you and make sure that you don’t encounter one of the edge cases that cause problems for just your users.”...More
Feb 16, 2012
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PST Capture: Congratulations and some caveats from Transvault's CTO

In addition to the welcome extended by many, the much-heralded and long-delayed arrival of Microsoft’s PST Capture tool was always likely to generate comment from the software vendors who already have offerings to help companies control the spread of dreaded PSTs. It therefore came as no surprise to see Dan Clark, the CTO of Transvault Software, post some notes about PSTs in general as well as the limitations he sees in PST Capture on the Transvault blog. I’m sure that the “congratulations” echoed by Dan in opening his piece reflects the satisfaction that the software vendors in this space feel now that Microsoft has implicitly affirmed that companies do have a problem dealing with PSTs. After all, once Microsoft publishes a solution, there must be a problem for it to solve....More
Feb 14, 2012
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Exchange Web Services Editor–a new gem to consider

The best thing about MAPI is the extensive feature set it enables for clients such as Outlook and, in its server-side variants, Exchange server. I guess you could argue that MAPI has been very persistent in that the name first appeared as “simple MAPI” in Microsoft Mail way back in the dim and distant early nineties. Of course, the functionality that you can build on the twelve functions supported by simple MAPI is barely sufficient to create and send messages and can’t come near the kind of feature set that’s found in Outlook 2010, but it was a start. Powerful as it is, MAPI has never attracted much developer enthusiasm and has been viewed as an API that should only be approached when absolutely necessary. The lack of good documentation is possibly one reason (the book “Inside MAPI” has been out of print for many years) and the upshot is that only heavy-duty engineering projects such as those to create MAPI providers that allow Outlook to access non-Microsoft servers have used MAPI. Over the last twenty years Microsoft has shipped many other messaging-related APIs, including esoteric offerings such as Collaborative Data Objects (CDO) Routing (released with Exchange 5.5) and WebDAV (which was going to be the “next great thing” when Exchange 2000 came along). However, MAPI remains the king of the hill, which is why tools such as MFCMAPI remain so important. If pressed, I imagine that Microsoft would acknowledge that their track record in releasing other APIs to work with Exchange has not been stellar. Things might well be changing with Exchange Web Services (EWS), which is now the recommended API for developers who want to access and work with the contents of the Exchange Store. Microsoft uses EWS for clients such as Outlook 2011 for Macintosh and Outlook Web App (OWA) and plans are in place to extend EWS further as new versions of Exchange appear, probably to close the functionality gap between EWS clients and the MAPI-based Outlook 2010. As far as I am aware,...More
Feb 9, 2012
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New version of MFCMAPI available

Microsoft, or rather the program’s author Stephen Griffin, has published an updated version of the venerable MFCMAPI utility on Codeplex. The new version is dated January 2012 and is available in both 32-bit and 64-bit variants. MFCMAPI depends on Outlook being installed on the workstation where it runs and you need to match the correct versions of Outlook and MFCMAPI before MFCMAPI can run. The current version (as shown by the version running on my 64-bit Windows 7 system is 15.0.0.1031. You can read about the latest fixes and updates on the MFCMAPI blog. Because of its unique ability to unveil the mysteries of mailbox contents, MFCMAPI is an essential component of a serious Exchange administration toolkit. The program’s name official name is the “Microsoft Exchange Server Messaging API Editor”, but this doesn’t do the program justice as its name should really be something like “Exchange Mailbox Internals Spy”. MFCMAPI goes back to the earliest days (2001) of the utility when it began as a training exercise for Stephen Griffin to learn how to program in the Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI). I believe that the MFC prefix indicates that he used the Microsoft Foundation Class Library as a framework. MFC is a library that encapsulates parts of the Windows API in C++ classes and so makes it easier for programmers to work with the Windows API (or so the theory goes). Over the past decade Stephen Griffin has done an incredible job of maintaining MFCMAPI to keep it up to date with the latest versions of Exchange, fix bugs, and add new features. This is truly a labor of love. In 2007, Microsoft placed MFCMAPI into Codeplex and you can download the program executable and source code from there. Although Stephen has been working hard to improve MFCMAPI’s user interface, don’t expect it to work like Outlook. The advantage delivered by MFCMAPI is that it exposes mailbox internals using MAPI, so you can expect to encounter MAPI structures and names. Fortun...More
Feb 7, 2012
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Top Six things to know about Exchange 2010 archive mailboxes

A couple of recent questions about the exact nature of archive mailboxes prompted consideration of the topic. It’s the nature of software deployment that the finer points of technology are left until the basics are covered and an increase in interest in archive mailboxes is possibly due to the number of Exchange 2010 deployments that have reached the point where they have completed the migration off a previous version and are now in a pure Exchange 2010 environment. Or it might just be that curious minds have started to think about archive mailboxes at a level past the perspective of “wow, I can stuff lots of stuff into an archive mailbox”. Here are the top six things to know about archive mailboxes. First, archive mailboxes are only available to Exchange on-premises customers if they hold enterprise CALs. At least, Microsoft’s licensing requirements are that everyone who uses an archive mailbox and the other retention features built into Exchange 2010 must have an enterprise CAL, which is accretive to the standard CAL that you must have to use the basic features of Exchange. Users who hold Office 365 Plan P and Plan E subscriptions automatically have access to online archives. Plan K (kiosk) subscribers will be able to add archive capability soon. Second, no one receives an archive mailbox by default. An administrator has to specifically assign an archive when the mailbox is created or enable the archive for mailboxes that already exist....More
Feb 2, 2012
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Learn about Microsoft Certified Master accreditation 1

Microsoft has scheduled a one-hour overview on Wednesday, February 15 at 9AM Pacific to brief interested parties in the training that leads to Microsoft Certified Master (MCM) accreditation in Exchange 2010. You can view details about the briefing and register on Microsoft’s web site. In November 2011, I wrote about the economics involved in committing yourself to the three-week intense training that leads to MCM accreditation. If you can raise the finance or justify the expense to your management, there’s no doubt that this training will lead to a sharp increase in your knowledge of Exchange 2010 and potentially, if you succeed in the demanding exams, to membership of an exclusive group who have a tight connection with the development group. Although there were some complaints about the stress that trainees were put under in early iterations of MCM training, more recent reaction seems to be very positive, albeit with the caveat that you very much have to prepare properly to be able to deal with the information fire hose, extended hours, homework, and exams. I understand that Microsoft has reviewed the material covered in MCM and now include more Office 365 content, especially in the area of interoperability. I think that this is wise because on-premises/cloud hybrid configurations are likely to become very common in the medium to large enterprise space over the next few years. It also reflects the engineering direction for Exchange with more work currently being done to support Office 365 than the on-premises variant. This overview should be very interesting if you’ve been thinking about going for MCM accreditation. The more knowledge you have, the better a decision you’ll make – and the better a case you’ll be able to construct to bring to management to secure those all-important budget dollars to fund three weeks in sunny (or snowy, but more likely rainy) Redmond....More
Jan 30, 2012
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RIM launches BlackBerry service for Office 365 users

Some good news for both Office 365 and the embattled RIM company arrived today with the formal launch of RIM’s BlackBerry Business Cloud Services for Microsoft Office 365 (that’s quite a mouthful). The service has been in beta since last October and its availability removes a hurdle that has existed in some companies that prevented them moving from on-premises Exchange to Office 365....More
Jan 26, 2012
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Some problems with the MVP program 4

I’ve written about the positive aspects of the Microsoft Most Valuable Professional (MVP) program in the recent past. It’s time to address the balance and point out where some improvement is necessary. I was disappointed but not surprised to read Rob Eisenberg’s long and detailed blog post describing his experience of having his MVP status not renewed followed by a groundswell of opinion that forced Microsoft to do the right thing and then Rob’s own decision to decline the belated award. The post is worth reading in its entirety because it highlights some of the problems that afflict the MVP program and make it less than effective for some Microsoft product groups. I hope that those associated with the MVP program, including every MVP lead, reads the post and vows to make things better, but I bet that they don’t. I should preface my remarks by saying that the experience of any individual MVP is highly influenced by two factors. First, the interest and attention of their MVP lead. Second, the willingness of a Microsoft product group to interact with MVPs. An MVP lead is a Microsoft employee whose job it is to take care of the MVP community. This might be at a global or country level. Each MVP is associated with a technology area or expertise and that is tied back in turn to a product group....More
Jan 24, 2012
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Brazil requires overtime for out-of-hours email

Reading the Financial Times report saying that Brazil has introduced a new law requiring companies to pay overtime to employees who make or receive work phone calls or email outside office hours got me thinking about how much I would have had to be paid to compensate for email and conference calls in this category that I’ve had over the years. It’s kind of in the class “if I had a cent for every email, I’d be a millionaire by now”. I therefore conclude that I could never now work in Brazil. Oh well, end of plans for carnival in Rio! I wonder whether this attempt at government regulation will be any more successful than France’s attempt to limit the number of hours that people worked after the introduction of the famous 35-hour working week in 2000. This law was greeted with joy by many workers and seemed pretty socially progressive at the time. However, it posed all manner of practical challenges in terms of operation, especially for international companies. How, for instance, should one deal with foreign workers who visited France and wanted to work longer than the seven hours allocated to each day, perhaps because of jet-lag? And how could one deal with the foreign influence of conference calls scheduled in places like Palo Alto that didn’t take account of the shortened working day? Things got so bad that labor inspectors monitored the arrival and departure of people in car parks to measure the hours spent at work and then attempted to fine companies when too many hours were clocked up. Of course, today’s working life meshes seamlessly with social interaction at so many levels in such a way that it is impossible to separate communications into clearly defined buckets, especially when those communications are directed to devices such as a BlackBerry. Is an incoming call from a fellow worker something to do with a work project or just an invitation to some after-work drinks? And could that social gathering be construed as work if someone chats about some aspect of...More
Jan 19, 2012
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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
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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