Exchange Tip: Exchange 2003 Quick Tweaks


You've just finished your brand-new Exchange Server 2003 installation. What should you do next? Exchange 2003 is pretty much self-tuning, but you can improve or optimize your environment.

  1. Install Exchange 2003 Service Pack 1 (SP1—http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/downloads/2003/sp1. mspx) and the latest patches or SP2 (http://www.microsoft.com/exch ange/downloads/2003/sp2/overview. mspx). Both packs add improvements and bug fixes. Two of the most important improvements in SP1 are bit-flip auto-correction (http://support.micro soft.com/?kbid=867626) and an easier setup of remote procedure call (RPC) over HTTP or HTTP Secure (HTTPS).
  2. Configure backups. I keep finding people who have no backup of their Exchange infrastructure. Make sure you have at least one weekly full online backup and daily incremental backups. I like Windows Backup, since it has never failed me. I usually advise my customers to use NTBackup in order to back up Exchange to disk, and later use a third-party solution to move those files to tape. You should definitely check out the Microsoft article "How to Back Up and Restore an Exchange Computer by Using the Windows Backup Program"(http:// support.microsoft.com/?kbid=258243).
  3. Move the databases and logs to the definitive location. If you planned your Exchange deployment correctly, you should have configured separate disk volumes for the different Exchange components. At least you should have your database files on a RAID 0+1 array (RAID 5 is acceptable for smaller deployments) and the database log files on a RAID 1 array. If you haven't done that, it's never too late. Read "Optimizing Storage for Exchange Server 2003" (http://www.microsoft.com/technet/prodtechnol/exchange/2003/library/optimizestorage.mspx).
  4. Install Exchange antivirus software. Nowadays most viruses spread themselves by using email, so you really need some antivirus at your server. Don't use file-level scanners (see "Overview of Exchange Server 2003 and antivirus software" at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid= 823166), and use a specific software designed for Exchange (see http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/partners/antivirus.asp).
  5. Start planning your antispam strategy (if haven't already done so). In today's messaging reality, it's impossible not to have some kind of spamfighting tool. You can use Microsoft Exchange Intelligent Message Filter (IMF—http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/downloads/2003/imf/default.mspx) or a third-party tool (http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/partners/emailcontent.asp).
  6. Create system policies for your stores and servers, even if you have just one of each. These policies will become useful once you start expanding your environment. Some of the settings you might want to configure are Retention Policy and Mailbox Limits.
  7. Install Microsoft Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA— http://www.exbpa.com) on a separate computer (preferably) and run it against your Exchange server. This tool will give you valuable suggestions, such as memory optimization and performance tuning.
  8. Install (and use) monitoring software. It doesn't have to be Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM); you can use something simpler, such as Woodstone Servers Alive (http://www.woodstone.nu/salive) or Quest Software's Big Brother (http://www.bb4.org).
  9. Implement your Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record so that you can use Sender ID technology (http:// www.microsoft.com/senderid). There are two useful wizards available online that will help you with that task; you can find them at http://spf.pobox.com/wizard.html and http://www.anti-spamtools.org/senderidemailpolicytool/default.aspx.
  10. Start reading some Exchange blogs. You Had Me At EHLO (http://blogs.technet.com/exchange) is indispensable. There some other sites dedicated to Exchange that are worth reading, such as http://www.msd2d.com and http://www.msexchange.org. —Rui J.M. Silva, ParaRede

Exchange 2003 SP2 Provides Lots of Treats


Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) made its debut in late October. Look for upcoming articles about the pack's new mobility features, Sender ID framework, migration tips, and more. —Lisa Pere

Outlook News: A New Look for Outlook 12


At the Professional Developers Conference (PDC) in Los Angeles last September, Microsoft provided a sneak peek at the next version of Outlook, known as Outlook 12 (part of the Office 12 release). Greater integration with Microsoft SharePoint Portal Server sites, a consolidated Outlook Object Model, and three significant UI changes were some of the Outlook features highlighted in keynotes and other sessions.

Microsoft calls the new Office 12 UI "results-oriented" and said that it's based on extensive usability research. Julie Larson-Green, group program manager for the Office User Experience, explained that this research included thousands of hours of usability studies, surveys, and feedback from Microsoft's voluntary Customer Experience Improvement Program (CEIP—see "Casting a Quiet Vote through Office 2003," April 2004, InstantDoc ID 42515 for details about the program), which let researchers see which commands participants used and in what order. The result, according to Larson-Green, is a UI that contains no pull-down menus but instead organizes commands into a strip at the top of the screen. "There's nowhere else to go to look for commands," says Larson-Green. "There's nothing hiding in a stack of task panes somewhere. There's nothing hiding in a bunch of other toolbars.... All the commands still exist in the applications, just organized in a new way."

The new UI is oriented toward document-authoring tasks and will be present in Microsoft "Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Access and the authoring part of Outlook—your calendar, your mail notes, and your contacts—not the shell of Outlook," according to Larson-Green. A fantastic source of information about the new UI is Jensen Harris's blog. Harris was instrumental in Microsoft Office Outlook 2003's UI redesign and has been working for the past 2 years on the Office 12 interface. He has been reviewing in great detail how Office has outgrown its original pull-down menu interface, what goals the new UI is designed to meet, and how the new UI will work in common scenarios—for example, how it will scale when a user has an application open in a small window. Just as fascinating is the insight he's given into Microsoft's ongoing usability research, which involves not just one-way mirror observations but real-world users both inside and outside Microsoft. I can't wait to hear more about the small business owner who will be switching from Office 2000 to Office 12 and providing the UI team with daily reports about his experiences over the next 2 months. (Jensen says one of Microsoft's design research leads calls this the "Truman Show" test.)

Although the main Outlook 12 window won't use the new Office UI, it will have two new UI features that are specific to Outlook. One is a to-do bar, visible on the right side of the screen when you're viewing a mail folder. This bar shows a couple of upcoming appointments and a list of tasks, organized by day. During the PDC opening keynote, Chris Capossela, corporate vice president of the Information Worker Product Management Group, demonstrated how a user can right-click a mail message, choose to assign it to next week, and have it appear automatically in the to-do bar list of tasks as due next week.

The second new UI feature in the main Outlook window is the ability to preview attachments inline, without having to open them. This is a feature Outlook users have wanted for years. Capossela showed how Outlook 12 can preview even an attached PowerPoint presentation. Other new Outlook features include support for Really Simple Syndication (RSS) feeds, indexed search that highlights search-term matches both in the item list and in the reading pane, the ability to subscribe to a SharePoint document folder and take the documents offline with Outlook, and the ability to email InfoPath forms.

For developers, Outlook 12 will offer a consolidated object model. In his PDC presentation, Microsoft Program Manager Randy Byrne said that this Outlook Object Model will address key-security, performance, and form-design issues; add more than 70 new objects; and enhance existing objects. He also said that the new version of Outlook will be able to handle such common scenarios as creating rules programmatically, adding a command to a right-click context menu, displaying the address book so that a user can select recipients, and preventing the user from deleting items or folders.

Microsoft says that Office 12 will ship in the second half of 2006, after a limited beta release. (Office VP Steven Sinofsky said that all PDC attendees would receive Beta 1 "in a few months.") If you want to see the new Outlook UI in action, watch Bill Gates's PDC keynote at http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=17e1b:10344 (starting at minute 59:00) or the interview with Julie Larson-Green at http://list.windowsitpro.com/t?ctl=17 e1f:10344 (starting at minute 28:45). —Sue Mosher