Ask the Expert

A network connection problem or an offline server prevented delivery of the message

We have a single Exchange organization and three Active Directory (AD) sites connected through a Multiprotocol Label Switching (MPLS) cloud. Exchange Server 5.5 and Exchange Server 2003 are running in mixed mode. We are receiving the error, "A network connection problem or an offline server prevented delivery of the message," whenever someone sends email to one of our AD sites that is a child domain. How do we troubleshoot this problem?

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I have seen similar scenarios and non-delivery report (NDR) errors like this can be hard to pinpoint. I would suggest the following:

  • Confirm that you can ping from one Exchange server to another using fully qualified domain name (FQDN). If not, check the name resolution.
  • Use message tracking to determine where the messages are going.
  • Use the Exchange Best Practices Anaylzer (ExBPA) tool to analyze your environment for anomalies that could be causing this issue.
  • Turn on or increase diagnostic logging levels on Exchange Server's MSExchange Transport service. This should give you more detailed warnings and/or errors in your Exchange servers' application event logs. (Remember to turn diagnostics logging back off or you'll fill your event logs).

Do you have comments on this Ask the Expert Q&A? Let us know.

Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Tip: Must-have Exchange Server 2003 tools
  • Tip: Exchange Server diagnostics -- An intro to application and system logs
  • Expert Advice: How to enable Exchange message tracking
  • 11 tips in 11 minutes: Migrating from Exchange Server 5.5 to 2003
  • Learning Center: Exchange Server and Active Directory Toolbox
  • This was first published in February 2008

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