Last week, most people in the United States celebrated Thanksgiving, a holiday with the ostensible purpose of giving us a time to reflect on all the things we're thankful for. I always enjoy asking my kids what they're thankful for, because the answers tend to swing wildly from day to day. My oldest, for example, sometimes says he's thankful for our family but at other times says he's thankful for video games. (Note to self: Move the Xbox 360 into my office immediately!)

Exchange administrators have lots of things to be thankful for, of course. Because there was no UPDATE published last week, I thought it would be fun to list a few things to be thankful for in this week's column. So, in no particular order, here they are:

  • I'm thankful for free troubleshooting tools. I'm thankful that Microsoft has invested in tools such as the Microsoft Exchange Best Practices Analyzer and the Microsoft Exchange Server User Monitor and made them available to users for free. I'm even more thankful that Exchange Server 2007 includes these tools' functions natively.
  • I'm thankful for spam-filtering solutions. For some of the testing we do at 3Sharp, we subscribe to a feed of pure spam gathered by a large number of honeypots. The average daily volume of messages to that feed from April through August was about 35,000 messages per day. In October and November, it's been about 120,000 messages per day. During recent months, you've probably noticed a bit of an upsurge in your own spam counts—now imagine what it would be like without filtering!
  • I'm thankful for Lotus Domino, Zimbra, Scalix, and other Exchange competitors. This might seem an odd thing to be thankful for. Over the years, though, I've learned that every product team at Microsoft thrives on competition. If you look at products where the market is stable and has a small number of competitors—such as, say, Microsoft Money or Microsoft Flight Simulator—you'll see a largely stagnant product cycle. In markets where there's strong competition—such as communications and collaboration services—the product teams get fired up and work hard to beat their competitors. That's good for all of us.
  • I'm thankful for the work that computer security researchers all over the world have done to identify, investigate, and fix security flaws in the systems we use every day. We still have a long way to go on the security front, but overall, things are significantly better than they were four or five years ago.
  • I'm thankful for the huge expansion in the availability of cheap, reliable mobile and remote access solutions. Tools such as Windows' built-in remote desktop protocol, RRAS, and (relatively) inexpensive cellular data connections have made it possible for many messaging administrators to work when and where they want and to fix things when necessary without a long commute to the office. (Of course, the flip side of these tools is that sometimes you might be tempted to work when you shouldn't, such as when you're on vacation!)

There are many other things to be thankful for, of course; I don't mean to suggest that work-related things are the only ones to consider during this holiday season. I'm definitely thankful to you, the reader, for subscribing to the UPDATE newsletter and for sharing your comments and feedback with me. I wish you a continued spirit of thanksgiving throughout the year to come.