Spring is just around the corner, and if you enjoy spring-cleaning, you might want to consider cleaning up your Microsoft Exchange Server deployments. (Even if you don't enjoy spring-cleaning, you need to schedule this maintenance task at least once a year.) This week, I discuss four key areas of your Exchange Server deployment that benefit from a thorough inspection and cleaning: the Exchange Store, routing and connectivity, security, and management and administration.
Exchange StoreIn my opinion, no other Exchange Server component affects system reliability and service levels more than the Exchange Store. Focus your cleaning and maintenance efforts on areas such as disaster recovery and Exchange Store management. Make sure your disaster-recovery plans cover all aspects of server, database, mailbox, and individual message recovery. Good disaster recovery requires manageable Exchange Stores on your server, so be sure to set storage limits or implement sound archival practices or software solutions. Base your Exchange Store management practices on business-based service level agreements (SLAs) that deal with system availability, recovery guarantees, and storage allocations. Use well-derived SLAs and manage your Exchange Store according to the promises you made to your customers regarding the use of your Exchange services. Changes to your Exchange Store management practices can affect disaster recovery, so if you implement new management practices, be sure to test your disaster-recovery plans by running practice drills and backup-verification tests.
Routing and Connectivity
Many organizations deploy routing and connectivity topologies when they first implement Exchange Server, then never look at them again. However, as an organization grows and technology changes, routing and connectivity methodologies need regular attention. First and foremost is your connection to the outside world. Do you have a secure and robust method for handling inbound and outbound SMTP traffic? Many organizations initially let an ISP handle their SMTP mail queuing but quickly outgrow this solution and need to manage SMTP traffic inhouse. Also, look at how messages traverse your Exchange Server infrastructure. If you have a multisite deployment, look at how it delivers messages. Do you need to add routing groups or bridgehead servers? Are you having problems with routing loops? Again, review the SLAs that pertain to message delivery times, then adjust your routing and connectivity topologies to better meet these requirements.
SecurityExchange Server security is a hot topic in this age of glamorized hackers. Don't let your Exchange Server deployment show up in someone's report as an example of an insecure server. You must continually (not just at spring-cleaning) evaluate your Exchange Server security. Don't let your Exchange server act as an open relay to the outside word, and make sure you've implemented robust virus-scanning and content-blocking solutions for both inbound and outbound email. Set up a reliable protection frontier and keep up-to-date with the most recent signatures, content-blocking schemes, and security bulletins. Finally, be certain that your Exchange servers have the necessary patches and correct security settings.
Management and AdministrationMany Exchange Server administrators are so busy with everyday tasks that they sacrifice proactive management and administration practices. To keep an upper hand on what's happening with your Exchange Server deployments, examine your administrative procedures during your spring-cleaning. Design management capabilities that alert you to problems so that you can resolve them before your users experience them. Look at tools such as NETIQ's AppManager or Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) to help minimize the amount of administrative work you must perform. Again, base your review of management and administration practices on SLAs that you've negotiated with your customers.
Spring is a good time to clean up at home and a good time to examine your Exchange Server deployments. But don't let spring be the only time you review your best practices for Exchange Store management, routing and connectivity planning, security, and management and administration.