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Among the many diagnostic tools Microsoft has released for Exchange, the Best Practices Analyzer (BPA) tool is one of few (like the Baseline Security Analyzer) that generates specific, actionable analysis of an Exchange server environment.
BPA runs on any computer with NET Framework 1.1 installed (Windows XP or better is recommended) and can be used to inspect existing Active Directory services and Exchange servers in your network. The program produces a report of all identifiable issues and suggests remedies.
Issues could include registry settings that need to be changed, stopped services that should be running, configurations that should be changed from their defaults, missing patches, obvious server health problems, and so on.
When you run BPA, it first updates itself with a list of the most recent set of best Exchange practices from Microsoft. You then select a scope for the scan (i.e., which servers to examine; the default is all Exchange servers that are visible to the scanner) and a network connection speed timeout.
The latter is important, because if you are performing the scan across a slow link, the program needs to adjust the timeout values for its probes accordingly. Otherwise, it may report problems that aren't there. When the scanning is in progress, a list of servers and the progress of each scan is displayed in a bar-chart format. (If a particular server isn't responding, or responding very slowly, that in itself indicates a problem!)
Note that if you manually specify an Active Directory server when you run the BPA, future sessions will have auto-detection of the AD server disabled. This may cause a problem if you are initially using the tool against only one AD server in an organization, and later want to scan everything. You can get around this by deleting this registry key: HKEY_CURRENT_USERSoftwareMicrosoftExchangeExBPADCSpecified.
Click here for more information about the Best Practices Analyzer Tool and to download it.
About the author: Serdar Yegulalp is the editor of the Windows 2000 Power Users Newsletter and a regular contributor to SearchExchange.com.
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Does this tool work with Exchange 5.5? I need some help maintaining/administering/fine-tuning my Exchange 5.5 server that runs on Windows 2000.
The Exchange Best Practices Analyzer tool supports mixed mode or native mode Exchange Server 2003, Exchange Server 2000 and Exchange Server 5.5 systems; Exchange Server 2003 is recommended. Pure Exchange Server 5.5 topologies -- in other words, environments with nothing but Exchange 5.5 -- are not supported.
Serdar Yegulalp, tip author
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This was first published in November 2004