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Some New Year's Resolutions

Like many people, I'm in the habit of making resolutions at the start of each new year. I'm also like most other people in that many of my past resolutions have fallen by the wayside. This year, I thought I'd suggest some resolutions for Exchange administrators, Microsoft, and everyone else instead of making my own, because giving unwanted advice is usually more fun than receiving it. I've mixed in a few fearless predictions, too, so you can write to me this time next year and tell me that I'm an idiot or a genius, depending on how I score.

For Exchange Administrators

  1. Start boning up on Microsoft SQL Server. It has no relevance to Exchange 2000 Server or Titanium, but we all know that the future holds much tighter integration between Exchange and the SQL Server storage engine. My fearless prediction is that Microsoft developers will deliver a release of Exchange that you'll be able to administer without becoming a DBA, but that knowing how SQL Server's guts work will help you when you're deciding how to deploy that new version of Exchange.
  2. LOSE WEIGHT NOW and MAKE MONEY FAST. Well, OK, not really—but do resolve to evaluate and deploy an antispam solution if you haven't already done so. The easiest and cheapest step is to teach your users not to use those appealing unsubscribe instructions in spam messages—those instructions are bogus and just ensure that spam keeps rolling in. Other, more advanced solutions include filtering services, such as MessageLabs' SkyScan; security appliances, such as CipherTrust's IronMail; and server-based products, such as Nemx Software's Power Tools for Exchange and GFI's MailEssentials.
  3. Eat your vegetables. While you're at it, stop smoking, get plenty of exercise, wear your seatbelt, look both ways when you cross the street, keep your servers up-to-date on security patches, and tell your family you love them.

For Microsoft

  1. Don't forget your old friends. Sure, Exchange Server 5.5 is getting a bit long in the tooth, but a lot of sites still use it. In your eagerness to encourage people to migrate to Titanium, make sure you load up TechNet, the Knowledge Base, and the Exchange home page with plenty of migration guidance for Exchange 5.5 sites seeking to make the leap to Titanium.
  2. Look over your shoulder. Who hates Microsoft more than anyone? Is it a) Sun Microsystems CEO Scott McNealy, b) Linux vendors, or c) Oracle CEO Larry Ellison? The answer is "it doesn't matter"—each of them has a messaging product and would love to see his product overtake Exchange. After spending a few weeks with Oracle's huge, clunky, difficult-to-administer "collaboration suite" and various Linux-based systems, I can fearlessly predict that none of these systems will replace Exchange everywhere. But in some markets (particularly sites that are running something other than Exchange 2000—including sites running Exchange 5.5), the temptation to leave Exchange will be stoked by these vendors' seductive promises of better total cost of ownership (TCO), easier management, and stronger security. Make sure you get the word about Exchange's strengths out to the right audience.
  3. Keep the faith. I was really disappointed when you axed the local Information Store (IS) from the Microsoft Office XP beta, but I understand why you did it: Shipping a solid product on time sometimes means cutting out desirable features. For Titanium and Office 11, giving us the good stuff on schedule (whatever that schedule actually is) might mean dropping things that aren't stable enough to ship. So be it. Better to have something solid soon than something "perfect" later.

For Everyone Else

  1. Storage vendors: Make sure your storage solutions work properly with the Virtual Disk Service (VDS) and the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) in Windows .NET Server (Win.NET Server) 2003. Why? Because Titanium can use VSS to create point-in-time snapshots of Exchange databases—something that Exchange administrators have been clamoring for for years. Fearless prediction: Vendors that don't embrace VSS and VDS posthaste will see their Windows sales slump, and quickly.
  2. Spammers: Go away! This might be the year that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), or (gasp) the US Congress does something to limit the flow of spam. No such measures will prevent offshore spammers from plying their wares, but evolving technical solutions should at least help keep the arms race between the forces of good and evil on relatively even footing.

This list wouldn't be complete without throwing in one of my own resolutions: This year, I'm finally going to stop procrastinating. In fact, I'm going to send this column in for editing ... just as soon as I watch the second half of the Cotton Bowl. Drop me a line and let me know what you've resolved to do differently in 2003.

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