In the United States, we celebrate Thanksgiving Day each year on the fourth Thursday of November. This holiday is supposed to commemorate the Pilgrims' gratitude to God for bringing them safely to such a bounteous land, but the original meaning of Thanksgiving has largely been subsumed by the consumption of turkey and the sad fact that, more often than not, the Detroit Lions lose their Thanksgiving Day game each year. In the spirit of this wonderful holiday (and before memories of the holiday turkey have completely faded), I thought I'd list some things that we as Exchange administrators have to be thankful for.
1. We have transaction logs. The idea behind transaction logs is simple: Whenever something in the database changes, Exchange writes a record of the change to the log file so that you can recreate the change if you need to. Given a correct set of log files, you can resurrect a damaged database by playing the transactions back. Compared with the way most UNIX mail servers work, transaction logging gives Exchange great recoverability.
2. We get to use Outlook. Before readers fill my mailbox with angry missives, let me say that I know a lot of people dislike Outlook for various reasons (some legitimate, many not). To those folks, I say, "Have you used the Novell GroupWise or Lotus Notes clients lately?" Despite its faults, Outlook is the most flexible and powerful email client around, and Outlook 11 promises to simultaneously improve the interface and back-end communications with Exchange.
3. We don't HAVE to use Outlook. If you don't like Outlook, fine: don't use it. Because Exchange supports IMAP, POP, and Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA), we're not stuck with just one client. The freedom to mix and match clients makes my work much easier: I can get my email on my Windows desktop or laptop using Outlook, on the Mac OS X system in the kitchen using OWA, and on my Smartphone through IMAP.
4. We can script. We can use tried-and-true VBScript or, with a little care, workhorse languages such as Perl and Python. Throw some Windows Script Host (WSH), Active Directory Service Interfaces (ADSI), and the Collaboration Data Objects for Exchange Management (CDOEXM) library into the mix, and we can write a script for practically anything. Want to create a new storage group? Create users en masse? Move mailboxes? No problem. Automating repetitive tasks is why computers were developed in the first place, and we needn't hesitate to direct that power toward administrative tasks.
5. The Microsoft Secure Windows Initiative (SWI). Few people outside Redmond have heard of this effort, which is too bad. The SWI team has been leading the internal charge to make Microsoft's products more secure, and the team's efforts are paying off with increased stability and security in each successive Windows and Exchange service pack.
6. SMTP. Do you miss the Exchange Server 5.5 Message Transfer Agent (MTA)? I sure don't. If you're still dealing with the Gateway Address Routing Table (GWART) and all those .log files in your MTADATA directory, when you upgrade to Exchange 2000 Server you'll be pleasantly surprised at how hassle-free the Exchange 2000 transport core is.
7. The burgeoning Exchange 2000 third-party market. At MEC this year, I was delighted to see that so many vendors I'd never heard of were selling new products for Exchange. That situation signals a vibrant marketplace and more incentive for administrators to deploy Exchange as part of their messaging infrastructure.
As if these things weren't enough, we have one more thing to be thankful for. The NFL playoffs will start soon, and we won't be seeing the Lions again until next summer.