How to Configure Counters and Alerts

Let's look at how you configure a monitor so that it displays realtime information and generates alerts when the system breaches thresholds. Screen A shows a Performance Monitor application, in Chart View, configured to monitor a company's three Asian Exchange servers, in Hong Kong, Singapore, and Tokyo.

As you see in Screen A, the Hong Kong (on the left) and Tokyo (on the right) servers have two partitions and the Singapore server (the one in the middle) has three. This setup reflects the company's presence in the area. The Singapore server houses a large population, and so the company splits Exchange Server transaction logs, the Exchange Server database, and the Mail Transfer Agent (MTA) work area over different partitions for maximum performance. For more information about optimal disk configuration, see the TechNet article "Best Practices for Exchange Database Management."

Chart View
Color coding distinguishes the servers in these Performance Monitor displays. For example, anything purple relates to the Singapore server. Unfortunately, the newsletter isn't printed in color, so Screen A shows these colors as gradations of one color.

Screen A shows a Performance Monitor display of multiple instances of the Free Megabytes counter from the LogicalDisk object. To add these counters,

  1. Open Start, Programs, Administrative Tools (Common), and choose Performance Monitor.
  2. Open Edit, Add to Chart, as Screen B shows.
  3. Select or enter the name of the computer you want to monitor.
  4. Select the LogicalDisk object and the Free Megabytes counter. If you're using a color scheme, be sure the color is correct.
  5. Select each instance and ensure that the color is correct. Click Add. Repeat this sequence for each server, choosing the appropriate partitions and appropriate colors.
  6. Set the measurement interval. From the Performance Monitor menu bar, choose Options, Chart. The server in this example is remote; therefore, as Screen C shows, the update interval is 1800 seconds (30 minutes) to avoid swamping the WAN with monitoring traffic.
  7. Also on the Chart Options display, choose whether you want to view the graph in histogram or graph mode. Graph mode lets you see how the disk space is being used over time. You can switch between the two views without losing your Performance Monitor data.
  8. On the Chart Options page, select a suitable maximum value for the vertical axis. Performance Monitor can record values higher than the maximum, but it will display higher values as going off the top of the graph.

Alert View
After you've configured the Chart View, you can configure the Alert View. Open Performance Monitor, View, Alert, Edit, and select Add to Alert to bring up the screen that Screen D shows. Although this screen is similar to the Add to Chart screen, here you must specify a threshold and the action to take when the counter reaches that threshold.

In this example, I have set varying thresholds. Recall that this company splits Exchange Server across two or three partitions. The threshold on the partitions housing the Exchange Server database files is 1000MB; the log file and MTA workspace partitions have thresholds of 400MB. Because the Hong Kong server contains log and MTA workspace partitions, I set the alert threshold to trigger the server's C drive if the Free Megabytes counter goes below 400MB.

When the trigger fires, Performance Monitor runs a batch file (alert.bat). This batch file has two main tasks: It sends a network alert, or an NT alert, to the administrators' consoles and sends an email to the administrators' mailboxes.

The batch file sends the network alert with a NET SEND command and the email with MAPISEND. MAPISEND is a useful command-line utility that can generate and send email using MAPI to any recipient that Exchange can address. MAPISEND is in the Microsoft BackOffice Resource Kit (BORK—2nd Edition), which you can download from Microsoft's Web site (

Screen E shows the contents of alert.bat. Alert.bat references a text file (diskalert.txt), which is the body of the email message to the administrators. With the appropriate software on the Exchange server, you can easily extend MAPISEND to send out a fax or a pager message.

To get to the Alert Options screen, which Screen F shows, go to Performance Monitor, View and select Alert. Then, from Options, choose Alert. I usually have the realtime performance monitors and alerts running in the same Performance Monitor application. If you check Switch to Alert View, the screen automatically changes to Alert View and displays the alert when the monitor generates it. This feature is handy if you prefer to run the monitor in Chart Mode.

Another useful feature is the Send network message check box. Like the batch file method, this feature sends network alerts. If you check this box, be sure to have the messenger service running and set to automatic. To configure the messenger service to start automatically, go to Control Panel, Services, Messenger, and choose Startup.

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