Our reviewer examines a preventative-maintenance tool that automates the discovery and repair of Exchange Information Store problems.

John Green

May 26, 2008

6 Min Read
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Lucid8's GOexchange is an automated preventative-maintenance solution for Microsoft Exchange Information Stores. This product examines Exchange databases for logical inconsistencies, repairs problems, defragments data, and rebuilds indexes to promote an efficient, error-free Exchange infrastructure.

GOexchange includes three primary components. The GOexchange Server agent runs on Exchange servers that host a Store and executes the GOexchange maintenance tasks scheduled for each server. The Backup Integration agent runs on supported backup servers, enabling the integration of backup tasks with message store maintenance jobs. Currently, the Backup Integration agent supports backup solutions from Microsoft, Computer Associates, CommVault, Veritas, and UltraBac Software. GOexchange also supports Lucid8’s DigiVault Continuous Data Protection (CDP) solution for Exchange. The Microsoft Management Console-based GOexchange Client is GOexchange's management interface and can be installed on any Windows workstation or server. GOexchange supports Exchange 5.5 and later. This product also supports both active/active and active/passive Windows clusters on systems running Windows 2000 and later; however, cluster support isn’t available for Exchange 2007 yet.

GOexchange includes four levels of operator rights. Read-only rights let the user view, but not delete, maintenance reports. Perform Maintenance rights let the user create, manage, and run maintenance jobs. Suspend rights let the user stop and resume maintenance jobs. Supervisor rights let the user add and delete other users, as well as manage GOexchange server licenses. During installation, GOexchange creates an Active Directory (AD) user with global rights over GOexchange to insure that you never unintentionally lose access rights to your GOexchange implementation.

Installing GOexchange was quick and easy. When installing GOexchange, you can select which components you want to install on a system. I installed all three of GOexchange's primary components on my test Exchange Server 2007 SP1 system, including the Backup Integration agent for Windows Server 2003’s NTBackup. I also installed a fourth component, the Support Tools, which are troubleshooting tools that are used at the direction of GOexchange support staff. The installation procedure let me configure GOexchange administrative users. I was also able to designate an SMTP server for GOexchange to use to send email alerts when Exchange isn't available, and it required me to enter a validation token from its test email message to confirm that the email alert system was working. In addition, I was able to assign mapped network drives as temporary work spaces for GOexchange. After installing GOexchange's components on your Exchange servers, you have the option to install the GOexchange Client on other workstations and the Backup Integration agent on other backup servers.

Setting up the pre- and post-processing backup jobs took more effort than any other aspect of configuring GOexchange. Typically, configuring backups for GOexchange requires you to use the backup program’s GUI to create a specification file that details the files to be backed up—your Store and related log files. However, in the case of NTBackup, you then create a .bat file to run NTBackup using the specification file. I created separate .bat files for the pre- and post-processing backups to specify different disk-based backup datasets.

Automating GOexchange is a two-step process. First, create a named job, then create a named schedule to run the job. Two wizards, the New Job Specification wizard and the New Schedule wizard, take you through both processes. With Exchange Server 2007, GOexchange supports four types of jobs (shown in Figure 1): Preventative Maintenance, Store Error Correction, Offline Diagnostic Report, and Exchange Backup. An MTA Error Correction job is also available if you're using GOexchange with earlier versions of Exchange. The Preventative Maintenance job runs the full set of diagnostic and corrective services that GOexchange provides, and the other job types execute a subset of those functions. As Figure 1 shows, GOexchange also lets you select which Store a particular job will work with. Because GOexchange takes the Store it's working with offline during processing, you can minimize the time a particular Store is offline by creating separate jobs for each Store. Next, you'll want to define job-event notifications. GOexchange lets you notify users, supervisors, and operators of seven predefined events via email or pager, with the option to include specific job-related information in the email message, such as the estimated completion time or the number of errors encountered. Another job option, Secure Clean, erases all the data in reclaimed database space to Department of Defense (DOD) standards. Associating the predefined pre- and post-processing backup tasks with the GOexchange job you're creating completes the job. Although jobs can be run on demand, GOexchange’s automatic scheduling features enable jobs to run within your organizational constraints. Also, GOexchange estimate the time a job will take to complete and postpone the job if it won’t finish within the time frame you set. You can use the job restart option to reschedule the job immediately if GOexchange calculates that it can be completed within the designated time frame.

When I tested GOexchange, everything worked as expected. GOexchange played it safe and didn’t run its preventative maintenance scripts when my pre-processing backup job failed. It produced a PDF-style report at the end of each job that listed the processing steps it performed, the number of Store errors it encountered and fixed at each step, and the amount of disk space it was able to reclaim during the defragmentation of the Store. GOexchange then emailed me copies of the reports and maintained a history of the reports on the GOexchange Client until I deleted them.

I was impressed with how easy GOexchange was to use. This product makes performing routine maintenance on your Store painless. If your organization relies on Exchange, you should implement GOexchange to maximize its performance and reliability—and minimize the time you spend dealing with unanticipated Exchange problems.

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