Tony Redmond's Exchange Unwashed Blog

Feb 1, 2013
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Office 365 outages due to "routine maintenance" 1

I wonder whether the "routine maintenance" issue that affected Office 365 today, including Exchange Online, was a symptom of some of the preparatory work that Microsoft needs to do for the forthcoming migration to the Wave 15 set of products....More
Jan 31, 2013
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Office 365 for Everyone - how nice! 2

The interesting thing about the announcement of Office 365 for everyone, aka the chance to licence up to 5 PCs or Macs for $99/year (U.S. prices – those of us in the rest of the world can expect to see higher prices due to currency conversions and higher tax rates) was the lack of coverage for Office 365 for small businesses or enterprise. But then Steve Ballmer blogged that: “In fact, since we launched Office 365 for businesses only 18 months ago, 1 in 5 of our enterprise customers now has the service, up from 1 in 7 a year ago. Smaller businesses are also choosing Office 365 at a rapid pace, with a 150 percent increase in the number of small and medium-sized businesses using the service over the past 12 months. These businesses will get to enjoy the new Office 365 service for businesses beginning Feb. 27.” So perhaps we can read into this that Office 365 will be upgraded to use the Wave 15 product versions (Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013, Lync 2013) from February 27? And that maybe Microsoft might release the much-awaited Exchange 2010 SP3 at the same time to allow hybrid customers the opportunity to interact with an upgraded Office 365? We shall have to wait and see. In the interim, two interesting points arise from Ballmer’s quote. First, that 20% of enterprise customers now “has the service”. He doesn’t say “use” the service, so my interpretation is that 20% of Microsoft’s enterprise customers have registered an Office 365 tenant domain....More
Jan 29, 2013
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What happened to Iammec?

The Microsoft folks made a lot of the fun, enjoyment, and enthusiasm that existed at the Microsoft Exchange Conference (MEC) in Orlando last September. Much of the excitement was due to the return of MEC after a ten-year hiatus, some of it was due to the imminent release of Exchange 2013. Or maybe it was the just the opportunity to dash around Universal’s Islands of Adventure theme park running at 2% capacity, enjoying the sight of nerds going wild at the Harry Potter and other rides. For whatever reason, people enjoyed themselves at MEC. Microsoft vowed to keep the excitement going and the community informed through a brand-new web site, www.iammec.com. The site received a good reception when it launched but since then it’s proven to be rather a damp squib. I wonder why… Despite some recent glitches around TechNet content, the Exchange development group generally does a good job of communicating with its community through the EHLO blog, one of the most heavily trafficked blogs at Microsoft. It takes a lot of hard work to keep a blog refreshed, current, and interesting and the team responsible for EHLO excels at providing in-depth coverage of interesting topics. My suspicion is that so much effort goes into EHLO that little is left for Iammec. At least, that’s the impression that’s given. It could also be that some of the community purpose proposed for Iammec was already taken care of by the TechNet forums....More
Jan 24, 2013
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Mark Crispin, father of IMAP, RIP

Mark Crispin, father of the Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP) died on December 28, 2012. Due to the contribution Crispin made to email interoperability and access, his passing deserves the acknowledgement of the global email community. Although it’s now regarded to be an outdated protocol because it does not support the advanced features of modern email systems, IMAP still has a dedicated band of followers and is used by tens of millions of people daily to fetch email from Gmail, Exchange, Zimbra, and just about every other email server on the face of the planet. The major value of IMAP is its sheer ubiquity, with the golden rule being that if a client can’t access a server using another method, it probably can using IMAP. The world of email was very different when the first versions of IMAP were written at Stanford University in the mid-1980s. The vast majority of mailboxes were served by proprietary systems such as Digital’s ALL-IN-1 or IBM PROFS and the Internet was a loose collection of servers connected with dial-up telephone links. The Post Office Protocol (POP) existed then as it still lingers on today, but only allowed users to download messages from a server. This sufficed in many situations then – servers and clients alike were resource poor and it was deemed to be a good thing to remove items from server mailboxes to bring them down to clients for processing. Crispin conceived IMAP as a mail access protocol that advanced the state of the art by allowing access to more than an Inbox folder on the server, supported concurrent access to mailboxes, and offered much more functionality to manipulate messages than the POP protocol allowed. Originally developed in Lisp, a language much favoured by people working on Artificial Intelligence at the time, on a Digital TOPS-20 computer, the value of IMAP was realized in its fast evolution and adoption to the point where IMAP4 appeared in 1994. IMAP4 has been extended many times with additions by vendors (...More
Jan 21, 2013
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Looking for a book on Active Directory? 1

Active Directory has come a long way since its introduction with Windows 2000 in 1999. Of course, the Exchange community will tell you that AD is simply the old Exchange Directory Store (DS) as used in Exchange 4.0 through 5.5. There’s a lot of truth in this because the Exchange DS set down many of the fundamentals still seen in AD, such as the use of the Extensible Storage Engine (ESE) as its database engine....More
Jan 17, 2013
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Microsoft Dodges a Support Bullet with Exchange 2013 3

The more I think about the subject, the more I am convinced that Microsoft has dodged a support bullet by not making Exchange 2013 more deployable than it has been since its formal release last year. Of course, you can absolutely put Exchange 2013 into production today, but realistically speaking this just hasn’t happened. People are waiting for Microsoft to release Exchange 2010 SP3 and whatever update for Exchange 2007 is going to be necessary to co-exist alongside Exchange 2013 in an existing organization or they have decided to wait until Exchange 2013 SP1 appears. But getting back to the point in hand, the longer that I work with Exchange 2013, the more I think that this is software that was released before its time. The fit and finish of a truly well-rounded product is not there and too many flaws are evident to make anyone believe that Exchange 2013 is software ready for prime time. All software has bugs. New major releases of software products will have some areas that aren’t quite as well sorted as the parts that are present in previous releases. Exchange 2013 makes a big change in its management story as the old MMC-based console is replaced by the browser-based Exchange Administration Center (EAC). I genuinely like this approach. It makes sense to provide an interface to manage Exchange that can run on iPads, Android tablets, and Windows Surface devices as well as many smartphones. It makes sense to junk MMC and remove a dependency that has caused Exchange problems in the past. I get all that. But what’s causing some heartburn is the number of places where EAC is functionally deficient when compared to its predecessor or where it seems like the user interface was created by someone who has zero knowledge of what it’s like to manage Exchange for more than twenty or so mailboxes. Just look at the space allowed to populate the membership of a distribution group to see what I mean. This shouldn’t happen for the management tools of a product that’s been in p...More
Jan 15, 2013
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The meaning of FYDIBOHF23SPDLT

Have you ever wondered why different places in Exchange 2007, Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2013 still refer to a now-archaic structure called an administrative group that was used as the foundation for server management in Exchange 2000 and Exchange 2003? Even stranger, the administrative group features the strange string “FYDIBOHF23SPDLT” that’s exposed if you perform operations such as examining the legacyExchangeDN of a mailbox....More
Jan 10, 2013
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Exchange, EAS, and Outlook 2013 2

Those who pay attention to details (unlike me often) might have noticed that Outlook 2013 rejoices in its ability to connect to email servers using ActiveSync (EAS). And then they ask the question why can’t they connect Outlook 2013 to Exchange via EAS? After all, if EAS is good enough for Hotmail (aka Outlook.com), why isn’t it good enough for Exchange? After all, EAS worked in the preview version of Outlook 2013, so the block was introduced between the preview and final version....More
Jan 8, 2013
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Exchange 2010 SP1 reaches end of support

It might have escaped your attention or maybe you aren’t concerned, but Microsoft’s formal support for Exchange 2010 SP1 expires today. Ongoing support activities were proceeding until quite recently, with Exchange 2010 SP1 RU8 released on December 11, 2012. But now it’s time to move on and get servers upgraded to Exchange 2010 SP2, preferably applying the latest roll-up update (RU5) for that service pack, making sure that you test everything thoroughly first. Exchange 2010 SP1 completed the development process for Exchange 2010. I know that’s not the official story because Microsoft always holds that development is complete when they ship the RTM version for a product, but in reality this isn’t so as there’s invariably a rush to get software out the door to meet arbitrary dates and usually there are some gaps remaining that have to be close post-RTM, usually delivered in the first service pack. Exchange 2010 SP1 appeared with a completely rewritten version of Outlook Web App, for instance, and it included lots of new UI in the Exchange Management Console to help administrators cope with retention policies and tags. It also introduced some very interesting technology in the Store, including block-mode replication. Of course, we’re still waiting for news about Exchange 2010 SP3, a release announced by Microsoft in October 2012 with a delivery date in “early 2013”. This is an important release because SP3 is needed to allow Exchange 2010 to co-exist alongside the brand-new Exchange 2013. The word is that work is progressing and that SP3 will appear soon. I hope so as its lack is preventing any sort of activity around Exchange 2013. Another item that we’re still awaiting news of is what Microsoft intends to do to address the issue that they caused when the decision was made to move Exchange 2013 into prime position for TechNet searches. I don’t think anyone would quibble with the notion that it is a good idea to keep TechNet refreshed in such a way that the lates...More
Jan 3, 2013
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Downgrading an Exchange 2010 Server 2

Microsoft doesn't support the use of license keys to downgrade an Exchange server from enterprise to standard edition--but it seems like it should be possible....More
Jan 1, 2013
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Exchange searches limited to specific item types

It’s always good to get questions and comments after an article appears, if only to prove that someone’s reading the material out there on the InterWeb. I was happy to receive some comments after my “Search and Destroy” article that covers the basics of Exchange 2010’s ability to search for and (optionally) remove messages in user mailboxes. Hopefully you won’t have to remove messages too often because users don’t typically respond too well to this kind of administrative intervention. That is, of course, if they notice that anything has been deleted! But if you do, it’s good to have solid tools to interrogate mailboxes for offending content and then purge it from the server. I presume the content to be offending in some respect as otherwise it would seem strange to search Exchange for it. One question that came up is about the AQS syntax used by Exchange to frame search queries. Microsoft documents the AQS syntax in MSDN and a couple of examples to help start the ball rolling can be found in the help for the Search-Mailbox cmdlet. The examples are intended to get your creative juices going and it will probably take some trial and error before you settle on the best query for your purposes. But sometimes you run into a limitation that isn’t covered too well in product documentation. Reading about Search-Mailbox, we find that “The SearchQuery parameter specifies a search string or a query formatted using Advanced Query Syntax (AQS).”...More
Dec 27, 2012
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How to Fix an Unbalanced DAG

It is an undeniable fact of system administration that programs and data operate well, most neatly, just after they have been first deployed. Over time components have a nasty habit of degrading, of transforming themselves into non-optimum configurations, or simply not working as well as they might. And so it is with Database Availability Groups (DAGs), which brings us nicely to RedistributeActiveDatabases.ps1, a script that’s provided for your use with the Exchange 2010 kit. DAGs have proven to be the big success story for Exchange 2010 and are a major motivating factor in the decision that many companies have made to upgrade from previous releases. For the first time, Exchange includes native high availability features that scale past two nodes, a limitation that’s been in place ever since the introduction of the original “Wolfpack” clusters on Windows NT 4.0 with Exchange 5.5 in late 1997. DAGs scale to sixteen nodes, a limitation imposed by the underlying Windows Failover Clustering technology, and can accommodate hundreds of active databases if you run the enterprise edition of Exchange 2010. The standard edition supports DAGs too, but a server can only mount up to five databases at a time rather than the hundred supported by the enterprise edition. So good so far. To get back to the point in hand, DAGs operate spiffingly well when they are first deployed and the active databases all run on their preferred server....More
Dec 24, 2012
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New cmdlets allow server-side control over delegate-sent messages

I was very pleased to receive a reader comment from Daniel Sheehan to my post describing how to handle copies of messages sent by a delegate when using Office 365. Daniel pointed out that Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4 contains KB2632409, which describes a new cmdlet set that is designed to help address the problem, a development that had clean passed me by. Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4 introduces the Get/Set-MailboxSentItemsConfiguration cmdlets. The Get- cmdlet returns the current setup for a mailbox while the Set- cmdlet allows an administrator to determine how sent items are captured when sent by a delegate to a mailbox....More
Dec 20, 2012
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RIM Prepares for Exchange 2013, But How Long Will BES Last?

I was delighted to learn that RIM is preparing BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) to support Exchange 2013. The supported version is BES 5.0 SP4, with the caveat that support will first be available for “pure” Exchange 2013 environments (I think there will be relatively few of these deployments) and then for mixed-mode, meaning including Exchange 2010 and Exchange 2007. An updated version of the MAPI/CDO download will be required to allow BES to interact with Exchange 2013. That download is not yet available. The same announcement covered BlackBerry Mobile Fusion and BlackBerry Enterprise Server 10, which use ActiveSync instead of RIM’s own protocols. The fact that RIM uses ActiveSync for some of its products is testimony to just how far ActiveSync has evolved. A long time ago (at least in the last century), the first stirrings of ActiveSync were known as “AirSync”, a capability first shipped as part of Microsoft’s Mobile Information Server (MIS) product. MIS was sold in two versions, one to commercial customers and another to mobile phone operators, but was popular with neither target community. After the MIS project was wound down, Microsoft decided to incorporate AirSync into Exchange 2003 in an attempt to gain a competitive advantage over RIM, who were at that time the preeminent provider of mobile email services to Exchange customers. Alas, the initial ActiveSync implementation in Exchange 2003 was not successful....More
Dec 18, 2012
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Exchange 2010 SP2 RU5 V2, WSUS, and WMF 3.0: quite a potential for confusion really

Oh dear… Problems do seem to have a habit of reoccurring, especially when it comes to software. Or maybe it’s just that repeated problems seem more obvious when seen in software. Or just that those who work in IT are narky people who complain a lot (I definitely fall into this category). Last August, I wrote about the way that the Exchange team had included a security update into Exchange 2010 SP2 RU4. The issue was simple. Because the update was marked as having fixed a security issue, it became much more of a pressing matter to install RU4 quickly. And because RU4 was deployed quickly, people did not have the chance to analyze the contents of the update and then test it thoroughly as they normally would before putting the new software into production. AS it turned out, RU4 included a change to the way that the Managed Folder Assistant processed calendar items that could have caused some difficulties for deployments. Coming right up to date, a problem was quickly found in Exchange 2010 SP2 RU5 when it was released in November. Microsoft pulled RU5 back and the fixed version (now dubbed RU5 V2) was released along with Exchange 2010 SP1 RU8 and Exchange 2007 SP3 RU9 on December 11. The initial feeling of well-being was quickly dispelled when people realized that RU5 V2 includes a security fix, making it a more pressing update to deploy. I think it’s fair to say that the decision to include the security fix in RU5 V2 did not impress the Exchange community. At least, that’s what the comments on the EHLO blog indicates. To be fair to the Exchange Customer Experience (CXP) team who put out updates, their hand might have been forced on the issue by internal Microsoft guidelines that dictate how security fixes are released to customers. The jury is still out as to whether RU5 V2 is any better than its predecessor. The DAG bug seems to have gone away, which is good, but some have reported installing the update, which isn’t so good. And curiously, KB288870 has been remove...More
Dec 13, 2012
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Outlook and Office 365: Where do SendAs items go? 5

Exchange allows users to assign delegate access to other people to send messages on their behalf. In an on-premises deployment you can use the Exchange Management Console (EMC) or run the Add-AdPermission cmdlet in the Exchange Management Shell (EMS) to set up the necessary permission. For example, we could run the following command to allow Tony Redmond to send messages on behalf of Deirdre Redmond: Add-AdPermission –Identity "’Deirdre Redmond’ –User ‘Tony Redmond’ –ExtendedRights ‘Send As’ Of course, you might have guessed that Add-AdPermission adds Active Directory permissions to an account, which is what you’d expect as Exchange uses Active Directory permissions behind the scenes to ensure that users can do what they should. But Office 365 doesn’t use Active Directory permissions and therefore a different approach is necessary, which is why Microsoft provides the Add-RecipientPermission cmdlet instead. To delegate SendAs permission for a mailbox we need to run PowerShell, connect to Office 365, and run a slightly different command. Add-RecipientPermission –Identity '’Deirdre Redmond’ –AccessRights SendAs –Trustee ‘Tony Redmond’ So good so far… but then you might just have noticed that my PowerShell screen shot reveals that I also ran the Add-MailboxPermission cmdlet to assign full access to the mailbox (the Add-MailboxPermission cmdlet is available for both on-premises Exchange and Office 365). This is because having the delegated access to send messages on behalf of another user doesn’t provide any ability to access that user’s mailbox. Exchange quite rightly separates the two abilities so as to provide granular control over the access that someone might be assigned to a mailbox. However, in practical terms it’s often necessary for someone such as a administrative assistant to have full access to another person’s mailbox and as we’ll see, that ability also affects where “sent as” messages end up. If you make a mistake and need to remove full access,...More
Dec 11, 2012
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Will Exchange fix ActiveSync to make sure that iOS mail cannot screw up calendars

Even with Apple’s best attempts to fix its malfunctioning email client in iOS 6.0.1 so that meetings scheduled in Exchange calendars aren’t “hijacked” and cancelled, the word I hear coming out of Redmond is that the folks in Cupertino still can’t quite understand that ActiveSync clients should not update the organizer field for a meeting. Evidence of strong feelings from Microsoft employees who have been affected by the bug come from a number of meetings involving literally hundreds of people that have been cancelled, simply because one of the potential attendees received a meeting request and then decided not to go, not realizing that iOS6 would go ahead and cancel the entire event. This resulted in everyone on a very large attendance list being spammed with a cancellation notice, which then led to the meeting being removed from their devices, in turn generating a further flood of cancellation notices. Clearly this kind of behaviour does not create a good user experience. Of course, you might wonder why quite so many Microsoft employees roam the Redmond campus equipped with Apple devices rather than showing allegiance to the wonders of Windows Phone, but let’s say that they’re doing in-depth hands-on competitive analysis for now. What’s clear though is that the problems created by the iOS bugs have affected Microsoft and that this has now gotten the attention of some relatively senior individuals, who have made their feelings clear to the Exchange development group that enough is enough and that steps should be put in place to stop badly-written ActiveSync clients screwing up user calendars, which is essentially what iOS is doing. I’ve been looking for Microsoft to take a more assertive role in dealing with ActiveSync licensees for a while now, so I’m happy that “something will be done” to stop clients messing with data when they should not. The problem Microsoft faces is that the profusion of ActiveSync clients means that cannot realistically ask ActiveSync l...More
Dec 6, 2012
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4 Points to Ponder About Outlook Web App 2013 Offline Access 1

What should we make of the introduction of offline mode for Outlook Web App 2013? Will it be useful in practice or is it simply another example of a “me too” feature included to keep Exchange’s browser client competitive with Gmail Offline, the equivalent feature offered by Exchange’s major opponent, Gmail. Exchange could be regarded as being a little late to the offline party as Gmail has had offline capability since November 2011. Right now it’s a little early to say because few people are using OWA 2013 in anger. Things will only really begin to clarify when companies start to deploy Exchange 2013 next year, soon after the release of the interoperability bits necessary to allow Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010 to co-exist alongside the new kid on the block. For now we can only make an initial assessment based on testing and the information released by Microsoft such as the informative post on the EHLO blog. With that in mind, let’s consider some of the most important aspects of OWA offline. First, the capability is built on top of industry standards and isn’t something invented by Microsoft. As I noted in a post last April, the W3C “IndexedDB” API is key to OWA Offline. This industry effort has contributions from Microsoft alongside Mozilla and Google to set out methods for the storage that browsers can use to cache data offline, similar in a simpler respect to the way that Outlook caches replicas of mailbox data in its offline storage file (OST)....More
Dec 4, 2012
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Exchange 2013 reaches general availability 2

I’m sure by now that you’ll all have read the EHLO post announcing that Exchange 2013 has reached the point on its journey where it is now “generally available” (GA). In other words, the code is available for download on TechNet and should be easy to get hold of through other channels, such as local distributors. Reaching GA used to be an extremely important point in a product’s lifecycle. However, given that we live in a world where downloads are the usual way to get software, it’s less important now than it was when you had to wait for DVDs, or even worse, floppy disks, to be physically available. I still have the set of six disks used to distribute Word 6.0, kept perhaps to remind me that activities such as software procurement and testing are a lot easier now. Now that Exchange 2013 is “out in the wild”, I imagine that there will be an uptick in test activity as people install and play with the new software and figure out whether issues such as the reduction in the number of databases that a server can mount are important to you. Of course, it’s all testing at this stage unless you’re one of the rare beasts that have a greenfield deployment, in which case you don’t care that Exchange 2010 SP3 is not yet available to allow that version of Exchange to interoperate with its new sibling. Nor will you care that there’s no word on exactly what will be required to run Exchange 2013 alongside Exchange 2007. Microsoft says that all will be revealed in early 2013 so we shall just have to wait for the required bits to find their way to a download server near you around that time. But on the topic of greenfield deployments, it’s becoming harder to find such a situation. A number of reasons stand out as to why this should be. First, Exchange is the big player in the corporate email market and there cannot be too many large companies at this point who have not at least some experience of Exchange. Migrations from the likes of Lotus Notes and Novell GroupWise are less freq...More
Nov 29, 2012
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Visio stencils released but no news of Exchange 2010 SP2 RU5 or TechNet updates

On the good news front this week, Microsoft released the Visio stencils for Exchange 2013, SharePoint 2013 and Lync 2013. I’m somewhat amazed how many people use the “official” Exchange stencils with Visio to prepare documentation, but I can certainly understand how useful it is to have a full set of icons to use in diagrams and presentations, especially when you want to capture some of the look and feel of Microsoft’s documentation. In other not-so-good news, an updated version of Exchange 2010 SP2 RU5 has not appeared after its initial release on November 13 ran into choppy waters when some customers discovered a bug that affected Database Availability Groups after they applied the update. Whereas it’s great that the bug was found, the fact that it existed underlines the recommendation that you should never apply a roll-up update on a production server without testing it thoroughly first. Apart from acknowledging that a bug is present, there’s no word from Redmond as to what’s being done to fix the problem and get RU5 out the door again. I suspect that all heads are down trying to get Exchange 2010 SP3 released by the committed date of “early 2013” so that customers can begin the process of deploying Exchange 2013 into existing organizations. Then again, it might just be the case that the bug has proved to be trickier to fix and verify than first anticipated and that we’ll see RU5 appear in the near future. Time will tell. Microsoft is also very quiet on the topic of what they are going to do to heal the self-inflicted wound caused when they switched Exchange 2013 content into prime position on TechNet. The position taken is that they’ve heard the customer reaction and understand the difficulties that the switch has created for bloggers and others who reference TechNet, but haven’t yet said what course they will take. If I was a cynic, I’d say that the Exchange documentation team is sitting tight and waiting for the storm to pass. I hope that I’m wrong. Th...More
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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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