Two new books cover the ins and outs of Exchange

I sometimes feel as though every time I look around, Microsoft has released a new version of Exchange. Exchange gives organizations world-class messaging that is reliable, scalable, and secure, but staying on top of its perpetual upgrades can be tough. If you're not an expert on Exchange Server 5.0 or want to get a jump on Exchange Server 5.5, which Microsoft released November 1997, check out these two new books.

Experienced Windows NT and Exchange users will appreciate the detailed explanations of the program's more difficult features in Tony Redmond's Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0: Planning, Design and Implementation. Because the book deals mostly with concepts, it will help 5.0 users not only better understand their current Exchange systems, but also make the transition to 5.5. (For more information, see Tony Redmond, "Microsoft's Exchange Server 5.5 Debuts," December 1997.) Another new book about Exchange, Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed, by Greg Todd et al., is more closely tied to 5.0 but is an exhaustive reference guide for Exchange beginners.

Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0: Planning, Design, and Implementation
Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0: Planning, Design, and Implementation leads readers through the practical details of planning, designing, and implementing Exchange in a large-scale distributed messaging environment. The book begins with an introduction to Exchange Server and a discussion of its clients. Then the book describes the steps required to install Exchange in an organization, including sizing the operating system, categorizing users, and selecting the right hardware configurations. It also covers ways to fine-tune NT and Exchange for optimal performance.

The book discusses in depth the major Exchange services and their configurations, clearing up most questions a new administrator might have. When I first learned Exchange, the concept of folder replication confused me. This book would have saved me many hours of frustration. Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0 also explains system security for Exchange, including details about security objects, electronic signatures, and encryption.

The last section of the book helps you create a pilot Exchange server. This chapter challenges you with the task of installing Exchange and helps you analyze your installation strategy. After you have completed the pilot project, you can expand the installation into a full-scale implementation of Exchange.

This book will not replace Exchange documentation, because the book's advanced concepts assume an understanding of the program's basics. But the book will teach you all of Exchange's ins and outs and show you some helpful installation strategies. Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0 is the closest thing I've seen to a best-practices guide for Exchange. This book doesn't contain a lot of numbered procedures, but it will definitely help you understand what you're doing and why.

Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed
Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed covers installation and management of Exchange, migration to Exchange, performance issues, Exchange Forms Designer, Remote Access Service (RAS), and third-party products. Highlights include a description of hardware considerations, a list of one-time configuration tasks, a case study of migration in a midsized company, detailed information about the various methods for designating mailbox recipients, and reviews of the NT Performance Monitor and other tools for maintaining a healthy server.

Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0:
Planning, Design, and Implementation
Author: Tony Redmond
Publisher: Digital Press, Boston, 1997
ISBN: 1-55558-189-7
Price: $44.95; 627 pages
Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed
Author: Greg Todd, et al.
Publisher: SAMS Publishing, Indianapolis, 1997
ISBN: 0-67231-034-1
Price: $59.99; 1011 pages

This book is massive, totaling 1011 pages. Because the different writing styles of its multiple authors sometimes make the text hard to follow, I don't recommend reading it from cover to cover; it is much more useful as a reference guide.

The first few chapters give an overview of Exchange, with information about planning your organization's implementation of Exchange and installing an Exchange server and clients. The rest of the book covers in great detail administration, maintenance, and troubleshooting issues, with screen shots to help you along. The book also explains NT Server tools. These chapters are most useful if you look up the information you need and follow the step-by-step instructions.

Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed holds your hand through procedure after procedure. This coddling is great for users who are new to NT and Exchange but unnecessary for experienced administrators. However, although I am a seasoned Exchange user, I found the book's tips sections useful. I only wish the authors had compiled the reference information and helpful hints in an appendix rather than spreading them throughout the book.

As a good, broad reference book for Exchange beginners, Microsoft Exchange Server 5 Unleashed works well. However, knowledgeable users looking for succinct explanations of advanced topics will find more useful information in Microsoft Exchange Server V5.0: Planning, Design, and Implementation.