Exchange & Outlook UPDATE, Exchange Edition, March 7, 2003

SUBJECT LINE: Exchange & Outlook UPDATE, Exchange Edition, March 7, 2003

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Exchange and Outlook UPDATE, Exchange Edition--brought to you by Exchange & Outlook Administrator, a print newsletter from Windows & .NET Magazine that contains practical advice, how-to articles, tips, and techniques to help you do your job today. http://www.exchangeadmin.com

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March 7, 2003 -- In this issue:

1. COMMENTARY - The Volume Shadow Copy Service

2. ANNOUNCEMENTS - Join the HP & Microsoft Network Storage Solutions Road Show! - Start Your Spring Training with Windows & .NET Magazine Web Seminars!

3. RESOURCES - XGEN: How to Use LDP to Discover Mail-Enabled Users - Featured Thread: Stopping Email Forgery - Results of Last Month's Instant Poll: Exchange Server Version - New Instant Poll: Planning for Exchange 2003

4. HOT RELEASE (ADVERTISEMENT) - eSafe Proactive Content Security

5. NEW AND IMPROVED - Remove Duplicate Posts and Journal Entries - Submit Top Product Ideas

6. CONTACT US See this section for a list of ways to contact us.

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1.

COMMENTARY

(contributed by Paul Robichaux, News Editor, [email protected])

* THE VOLUME SHADOW COPY SERVICE

Every parent of a toddler knows how difficult it is to take a snapshot of something that keeps moving. This fact is also true for Exchange Server: As long as a mailbox or public folder store is mounted, the store can write new transactions at any time. Therefore, any attempt to capture a point-in-time copy of the database is liable to fail or only partially succeed. As I mentioned in last week's Commentary, "The Quest to Speed Restores," the upcoming Microsoft Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS)--which will be available in Exchange Server 2003 (formerly code-named Titanium) and Windows Server 2003--offers a solution to that problem.

Actually, traditional point-in time copy methods present two problems. The first problem is that data might change during the copy process. Consider a typical .edb file. At the start of the file is a database header (which you can view by using the eseutil /mh command). This header indicates whether the file was dismounted cleanly and when it was last backed up. When you dismount a database, the header is the last thing the store updates before it closes the .edb file. When you mount the database, Exchange reviews the header. If the header signature doesn't match the file's contents, the database won't mount. Now, imagine that you're making a copy of the .edb file. You copy the first 100MB, but a transaction arrives that includes a change to a page you've already backed up. If you go back and attempt to copy every page that changes after you copy it, your copy might never finish; if you don't try to recopy the page, the point-in-time copy will probably be inconsistent with the header, and the copy won't mount in the future.

The second problem is subtler. Microsoft has long recommended putting .edb and log files on separate volumes; depending on your server configuration and load, putting .stm files on yet another volume might be appropriate. When you follow this recommendation, however, any point-in-time copy solution that copies one volume at a time can cause consistency problems. Suppose that you copy the transaction logs first. Any new transaction that arrives while you're copying the .stm files won't make it into the copy.

You can alleviate both problems by dismounting the storage group (SG) before making a point-in-time copy. However, doing so largely negates the value of copying as a quick backup mechanism (at least if you want to perform backups during hours when users are active).

Enter VSS. VSS calls applications (such as backup utilities) that need data copies from other applications "requestors." When a requestor needs a data copy from an application, the requestor places a request to VSS, which reviews the request for validity. If the request is valid and the specified application has the requested data, the request goes to the application-specific "writer," which prepares the requested data. Each writer integrates with a particular application and has intimate knowledge of how the application works. The Exchange team, for example, is providing the Exchange 2003 writer to ensure that the writer will know how to properly prepare an Exchange SG or database.

After the writer signals that it has prepared the data, VSS freezes I/O writes to the selected volumes, queuing them for later processing, then calls a "provider" to make the actual copies. The provider, which is usually associated with a particular piece of hardware (e.g., a XIOtech MAGNITUDE disk array), copies the prepared data to the target location. The provider then signals VSS, which releases I/O to the selected volumes and processes any queued writes that arrived during the provider's work.

Windows 2003 and Exchange 2003 are still in beta, so it's too early to tell which vendors will embrace VSS. In the meantime, consider whether your organization might benefit from the speed of VSS-driven backups and restores. Bear in mind that VSS requires Exchange 2003 running on Windows 2003, disk hardware on which to keep your point-in-time copies, and a supported VSS provider (plus whatever hardware the provider might require). To read more about VSS, look in Windows 2003 online Help (looking up the vssadmin command-line utility is a good place to start your search) or go to the following URL: http://www.microsoft.com/technet/treeview/default.asp?url=/technet/prodtechnol/windowsserver2003/proddocs/datacenter/ntbackup_backup_snapshot.asp

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2.

ANNOUNCEMENTS

(brought to you by Windows & .NET Magazine and its partners)

* JOIN THE HP & MICROSOFT NETWORK STORAGE SOLUTIONS ROAD SHOW! Now is the time to start thinking of storage as a strategic weapon in your IT arsenal. Come to our 10-city Network Storage Solutions Road Show, and learn how existing and future storage solutions can save your company money--and make your job easier! There is no fee for this event, but space is limited. Register today! http://www.winnetmag.com/roadshows/nas

* START YOUR SPRING TRAINING WITH WINDOWS & .NET MAGAZINE WEB SEMINARS! March is a great time to strengthen your knowledge of security and Active Directory. Register today for one of our Web seminars, and find out what our experts know that could be saving you hours of time and your company bundles of money. Sign up now! http://www.winnetmag.com/seminars

3.

RESOURCES

* XGEN: HOW TO USE LDP TO DISCOVER MAIL-ENABLED USERS Each week, Microsoft posts several Exchange Server how-to articles to its Knowledge Base. This week, learn how to determine whether a user is on an Exchange 2000 Server system. http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=279220

* FEATURED THREAD: STOPPING EMAIL FORGERY Forum reader bnk39 has discovered several users sending email messages from forged addresses and wants to know how to disable the software they're using to do so. To offer your advice or join the discussion, go to the following URL: http://www.winnetmag.com/forums/rd.cfm?cid=40&tid=55489

* RESULTS OF LAST MONTH'S INSTANT POLL: EXCHANGE SERVER VERSION The voting has closed in the Exchange & Outlook Administrator Web site's nonscientific Exchange Instant Poll for the question "What version of Exchange Server do you currently run?" Here are the results from the 1537 votes: - 39% Exchange Server 5.5 on Windows NT - 17% Exchange Server 5.5 on Windows 2000 - 18% Exchange 2000 Server, Standard Edition on Win2K - 22% Exchange 2000 Server, Enterprise Edition on Win2K - 4% Exchange Server 5.5 and Exchange 2000 Server (mixed-mode) on Win2K

* NEW INSTANT POLL: PLANNING FOR EXCHANGE 2003 The next Exchange Instant Poll question is, "What are your plans for Exchange Server 2003 (aka Titanium)?" Go to the Exchange & Outlook Administrator home page and submit your vote for a) We plan to deploy it as soon as it's available, b) We'll migrate within 6 months, c) We'll migrate within 1 year, d) We'll migrate within 2-3 years, or e) We have no plans to switch to Exchange 2003. http://www.exchangeadmin.com

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HOT RELEASE (ADVERTISEMENT)

* eSAFE PROACTIVE CONTENT SECURITY Unlike most antivirus products, eSafe identifies and stops new and unknown viruses, worms, spam, and security exploits - reducing network downtime and damage caused by waiting for a signature update to be created and distributed. http://www.eSafe.com/Mail

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NEW AND IMPROVED

(contributed by Carolyn Mader, [email protected])

* REMOVE DUPLICATE POSTS AND JOURNAL ENTRIES Sperry Software released two Outlook add-on solutions: Duplicate Posts Eliminator and Duplicate Journals Eliminator. Duplicate Posts Eliminator lets you remove duplicate posts from Exchange Server public folders or other shared folders; the software examines subject, author, and posting time to determine which posts are identical. Duplicate Journals Eliminator lets you remove duplicate journal entries that result from PDA synchronization. You can set rules to identify duplicate entries and choose to either delete such entries or move them to a different folder. Both add-ons run on Outlook 2002 or Outlook 2000 and cost $15.95 each (discounts are available). Contact Sperry Software at 904-343-7408. http://www.sperrysoftware.com

* SUBMIT TOP PRODUCT IDEAS Have you used a product that changed your IT experience by saving you time or easing your daily burden? Do you know of a terrific product that others should know about? Tell us! We want to write about the product in a future Windows & .NET Magazine What's Hot column. Send your product suggestions to [email protected]

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CONTACT US

Here's how to reach us with your comments and questions:

* ABOUT THE COMMENTARY -- [email protected]

* ABOUT THE NEWSLETTER IN GENERAL -- [email protected] (please mention the newsletter name in the subject line)

* TECHNICAL QUESTIONS -- http://www.winnetmag.com/forums

* PRODUCT NEWS -- [email protected]

* QUESTIONS ABOUT YOUR EXCHANGE & OUTLOOK UPDATE SUBSCRIPTION? Customer Support -- [email protected]

* WANT TO SPONSOR EXCHANGE & OUTLOOK UPDATE? -- [email protected]

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