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Monitor and report on Exchange Server activities

MessageWise's InLook monitors and reports on a crucial component of your enterprise—your Microsoft Exchange Server messaging system. The software can monitor multiple mail servers in one domain or multiple domains, or across WAN circuits geographically separated from your central enterprise. InLook's Touchless remote procedure call (RPC) infrastructure analysis lets you carry out routine and scheduled queries without requiring you to load agents or services onto your mail servers and without affecting your servers' performance. Additionally, by reporting the number of mail users, total utilization, and how the users access the mail server, InLook can provide crucial license validation and planning for mail systems of any size.

InLook's core component is the InLook Gatherer, which examines the mail servers in your enterprise, gathers statistics that you specify, stores configuration and metrics data in InLook's proprietary database, and publishes reports via a Web interface. InLook also offers a client agent that lets you manage the software remotely.

You load InLook onto a server or workstation running the Microsoft Exchange Administrator program (i.e., the Gatherer machine must be a part of the domain in which the Exchange server resides). The Gatherer requires 32MB of RAM, but it really uses much less than that. InLook initially requires about 10MB of hard disk space, but the database grows as reports accumulate. Running the database on a 1GB partition would suffice for all but the most demanding enterprises.

After I installed Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) 4.01 with Service Pack 1 (SP1), I had the entire system installed and running in less than 20 minutes. (InLook doesn't provide IE 4.01, but the Web browser is readily available on the Internet.) I configured the product in one simple window, which Screen 1 shows.

InLook automatically began examining my servers. The first reports included such information as the mail server's user count, Exchange Server version numbers, and the Internet Mail Connector (IMC) configuration. (Exchange Server 5.0 uses the Internet Mail Service—IMS.) I adjusted InLook's reporting to ignore information related to such items as x.400 and Microsoft Mail, which I didn't use in my test. I needed to choose the information I requested carefully, because the database can grow quickly.

When I examined the resulting configuration reports, I discovered security problems with the IMC (i.e., a security setting for domain-to-domain mail server authentication didn't exist) and the public Information Store (IS). I found that some of my users had long ago exceeded their storage allocation and that the mail server wasn't enforcing space restrictions. Inlook also provided helpful information about Exchange Server's configuration; for example, my test report stated that one mail server required a service pack 5 installation.

InLook's minimum polling period is 1 hour. Although that time frame isn't a big drawback, I'd like to be able to watch the servers within a much shorter polling period (e.g., 10 minutes). Some mail problems I wanted to troubleshoot are sporadic, and a shorter polling cycle would have been helpful.

InLook has the rough edges of a first-version product. However, even though some of the software's screens are incomplete or confusing (e.g., a screen's data fields often shade over when the field is full), InLook is usable. MessageWise could have improved the details of an otherwise satisfying tool.

InLook is a solid product that performs well. Despite the cosmetic problems, I was pleased with the product's ease of use and reasonable price. InLook can fill an important gap in your Exchange Server administration.

Contact: MessageWise * 613-521-4377
Price: Starts at $995
System Requirements: Windows NT 4.0 with Service Pack 3 or later, Microsoft Exchange Server 4.0 or later, 32MB of RAM, 100MB of hard disk space, Microsoft Internet Explorer 4.01 with Service Pack 1
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