Ask the Expert

How to configure DNS records for Exchange Server on Windows SBS 2003

I have been tasked with installing Exchange Server from Microsoft's Action Pack kit onto Windows Small Business Server (SBS) 2003 Standard Edition. I am hosting my domain on GoDaddy.com and need to configure domain name server (DNS) settings to point to my POP3 and SMTP server, once I install it, to my domain.

If my domain is mydomain.com, what should my DNS settings look like on GoDaddy.com and on my DNS server internally?

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You should be aware that Windows SBS 2003 already includes Exchange Server 2003 (Standard Edition), so there should be no need to install it from a separate Action Pack purchase. Knowing that, and assuming that you will now proceed to use the Windows SBS and Exchange server setup, consider the following:

  • Do you really intend to use POP3 to download email from Exchange? Or will your Microsoft Outlook clients be connected directly to Exchange Server over a local area network (LAN)?
  • If so, you will want to create two DNS records:
    • HOST (A) record: Give it a name such as mail.yourdomain.com and point it to the IP address of your Exchange server. (Assuming that your Exchange is on a LAN with a private IP address, then the IP address that you will want to specify is the publicly accessible one that your firewall is using. It is also very helpful if your firewall has a static IP address. If not, then you should either change your Internet plan to provide a static IP address, or obtain software like DirectUpdate as a workaround).
    • Mail Exchange (MX) record: This tells the world where to find your email server. Point the MX record to the host record that you created in the previous step. Give the MX record a "priority" setting such as 10 or 20. (The lower the number, the more precedence this record takes over other MX records).

  • If you are running Windows SBS with Exchange Server on your LAN, and your Outlook clients use an Exchange-based profile instead of POP3, then you will not need to make any DNS changes in your Active Directory. SBS will handle all of that for you.

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

Related information from SearchExchange.com:

  • Tutorial: A primer on DNS and MX records
  • Crash Course: Exchange Server and DNS
  • Tip: Exchange Server deployment strategies for SMBs
  • Reference Center: Exchange Server and DNS tips and resources
  • This was first published in December 2007

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