Microsoft released Service Pack 3 (SP3) for Exchange Server 5.5 in mid-September, just before the millennium moratorium began for many companies at the start of October. The site at http://www.microsoft.com/ exchange/deployadmin/sp3.htm provides information about the service pack, including links to download SP3. The download doesn't include some components provided on CD-ROM, such as Outlook 2000. If you have Macintosh computers, you need to download the updated Outlook client for the Mac (which now supports Mac OS 8.6) from the Microsoft FTP site. Mailbox Manager isn't in the downloadable service pack, but it is in the SP3_55SS file in the download directory. SP3_55SS includes all the service pack's support files. Because the file is 20MB, you might want to order the SP3 CD-ROM from Microsoft.

Since Microsoft released SP2 in December 1998, it has released several hotfixes, including fixes for the Information Store (IS) and the Message Transfer Agent (MTA). SP3 lets you conveniently install all the post-SP2 hotfixes together. Parts 1 and 2 of the Microsoft article "XGEN: List of Bugs Fixed in Exchange Server 5.5 Service Pack 3" (http://support.microsoft.com/ support/kb/articles/q235/4/53.asp and http://support.microsoft.com/ support/kb/articles/q241/7/40.asp) provide a comprehensive list of problems that SP3 fixes.

In addition to the many bug fixes, Microsoft has included three new features in SP3.

  • Mailbox Manager. This utility is a much-improved version of the Mailbox Cleanup Agent that is part of the Microsoft BackOffice Resource Kit (BORK). You can run Mailbox Manager on any Exchange Server 5.0 or 5.5 server; the utility doesn't depend on SP3. Mailbox Manager lets you impose message-retention policies for greater control over user mailboxes. The Mailbox Cleanup Agent performed the same work but wasn't very attractive because it was an add-on that didn't come with the support that you get for components in the full Exchange kit. The article "Control Mailbox Size with Mailbox Manager," page 1, describes Mailbox Manager in detail.
  • Antivirus hook. Microsoft has finally provided an interface to let antivirus products hook into the IS to battle messages such as those that transported the Melissa or Worm.ExploreZip viruses. The hook allows access to the attachment table in the IS. However, you can't use the hook immediately because manufacturers need to build and release updates of their antivirus products to exploit the hook. Nevertheless, the antivirus hook is an advance that will speed up access to the attachments that carry viruses around.
  • MTA mixer. This feature lets an administrator tell the MTA how to remap messages as they flow through the organization. Most implementations will never use the MTA mixer, but some companies need to relay messages between X.400 and SMTP networks across an Exchange network.

SP3 also brings together a set of tools that improve on interconnectivity between Exchange and other messaging systems. These tools include connectors for Lotus Notes, IBM OfficeVision/VM, and SNADS and an interesting calendar connector to let Exchange, Novell GroupWise, Lotus Notes, and OfficeVision/VM query free and busy information. SP3 also lets migration utilities move data from Lotus cc:Mail archives and Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP4) mailboxes.

The following Microsoft articles provide updated information about SP3.

  • "XGEN: Readme.txt: Microsoft Exchange 5.5 U.S. Service Pack 3" (http://support.microsoft.com/ support/kb/articles/q241/7/57.asp)
  • "XGEN: Updates to the Exchange Server 5.5 SP3 Release Notes" (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/articles/q235/4/52.asp)
  • "XGEN: Updates to the Exchange Server 5.5 SP3 Mailbox Manager Release Notes" (http://support.microsoft.com/support/kb/ articles/q235/4/46.asp)

If SP3 included just bug fixes and you were happy with SP2, you might be tempted not to upgrade to SP3. However, SP3's new utilities make upgrading worth your while.