If your job responsibilities include managing Microsoft Exchange servers, you're probably well aware that "managing" Exchange encompasses a slew of tasks spanning several distinct areas: the network infrastructure, Active Directory (AD), mail services, and mail database. Many Exchange administrators find they need the help of software tools to keep these areas working together smoothly and to gain the information they need to both anticipate potential problems, such as an email storage-capacity shortage, and troubleshoot problems when they occur. Microsoft provides an ample supply of free downloadable tools—such as Microsoft Exchange Best Practices Analyzer and Microsoft Exchange Server Mailbox Merge Wizard—which you can find at http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/downloads/2003/tools.mspx.) But if your organization has multiple Exchange servers or more than a few dozen email users, you might benefit from a more comprehensive Exchange management product.

A Spectrum of Solutions
This Buyer's Guide includes software products that perform Exchange server?management functions such as monitoring Exchange Server (e.g., message send failures, mailbox sizes, email traffic statistics, disk capacity); troubleshooting performance problems; and generating reports, such as performance statistics and trends. (The Buyer's Guide doesn't include managed or hosted service providers; personal folder store management products; products that primarily perform mail-storage functions, such as archiving, storage management, or mailbox management; or appliances.)

The products fall into several basic categories. The first category consists of all-inclusive Exchange management products that monitor a broad scope of Exchange health factors, such as utilization and activity of Exchange processes and many performance metrics. Such products typically provide a problem-escalation function (i.e., policies that define successive actions to take until a problem is resolved). The Exchange management component of these products is often a module that's part of a larger systems management product—for instance, Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Management Pack for Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) 2005.

The second category contains solutions that perform only a subset of the Exchange management functions that the comprehensive systems management products provide, at a considerably lower price. Included in this category are products such as BMC Software's BMC Performance Manager for Microsoft Exchange Servers and Nimsoft's NimBUS for Microsoft Exchange Monitoring. These products typically provide problem escalation.

Finally, there are point products that perform a few specific functions, such as PROMODAG Reports for Microsoft Exchange Server, which provides a huge assortment of reports on an Exchange server's utilization, and Quest Software's Quest MessageStats, which monitors and reports on hundreds of Exchange metrics related to email traffic, message size, and other aspects of an Exchange organization's operations.

A product that's almost its own category is Zenprise. This product monitors an Exchange organization by analyzing Exchange as well as its related components (e.g., AD, DNS server). The Zenprise software compares the findings with an extensive symptom database to detect email problems and recommends a solution based on information in a knowledge base containing content from Microsoft Knowledge Base articles, Exchange experts, and other sources. Zenprise also integrates with products such as MOM and CA's Unicenter.

Features to Consider
When choosing an Exchange management product, consider what types of tasks you need the software to perform. Do you want a product that only reports on problems or one that attempts to resolve them? How much troubleshooting ability should the product have? If you're concerned mainly with keeping tabs on the health and size of your Exchange databases, consider a point solution that specializes in these tasks. If you oversee a large Exchange organization that's part of a larger Windows network, you'll probably want to narrow your search to the all-inclusive Exchange management products that monitor a large variety of metrics, such as send/receive statistics, mailbox size and activity, and email traffic. If your needs are somewhere in the middle, you probably want a product that performs many of the same Exchange management functions as the top-tier solutions for a more moderate price.

Whatever type of product you choose, it should fulfill-the ultimate purpose of any Exchange management product: to minimize downtime of your email system. This Buyer's Guide should help get your search started.

See Buyer's Guide

Addition to Buyer's Guide: DYS Analytics Email CONTROL! for Exchange

DYS Analytics' Email CONTROL! for Exchange (ECX) was inadvertently omitted from the Exchange Management Software Buyer's Guide. Following is the information about ECX:

Company: DYS Analytics, 781-694-2200
Product: ECX
Price: Starts at $199 per managed user for up to 100 users; $1135 for up to 1000 users; prices include first-year updates and technical support
Exchange Versions Supported: Exchange Server 2007/2003/5.5, Exchange 2000 Server
Agent Required? No
Module or Standalone Product? Standalone
Security Features: Monitors who sends to what Internet domains; reports on subject lines for appropriate content; shows user mailboxes truly removed (SOX compliance)
Items Monitored: Send failures, mailbox/folder size, mailbox limits
Protocols Monitored: NA
Reporting: Email traffic analysis, performance trends, service level agreement (SLA)
Problem-Escalation Features? No
Alerts: Web page, email/pager alerts on email send/receive performance thresholds