An introduction to the Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer tool

A beta version of Microsoft's Exchange Remote Connectivity Analyzer tool assists administrators with remote end-to-end validation and diagnostics. Use this free tool perform a variety of connectivity tests for everything from Outlook to Exchange Web Services.

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If you've ever set up an Exchange infrastructure, you would typically put all your servers in place and perform some simple MAPI connectivity tests before proceeding. You may even check Outlook Web Access to make sure that it's up and running. But you may notice a breakdown in connectivity when dealing with remote access.

You can set up your Client Access Server role without detecting any issues with a remote connection using ActiveSync or Outlook Anywhere, for example. However, after going live, a problem can appear once a client attempts to connect from outside the network.

The Exchange Team provides the beta version of the  Exchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer (ExRCA), a tool that troubleshoots Internet-facing services. The ExRCA is designed to assist with remote end-to-end validation and diagnostics.

If a problem is detected, the analyzer informs Exchange administrators where the failure originated. The tool also offers suggestions and troubleshooting tips. Once the issue has been resolved, the tool can retest the connection to ensure that no other issues are preventing the connection.

Microsoft's ExRCA tool
Figure 1: Microsoft's Exchange Server Remove Connectivity Analyzer (ExRCA) tool.

If you're having connectivity problems, ask the following questions:

  • Is there a firewall problem? If so, rules may have been configured incorrectly.
  • Is there a DNS issue on the Internet?
  • Is there a certificate issue?
  • Is there an ISA or proxy configuration glitch?

Investigating the list of possible causes can be quite time consuming. There is a variety of tests that you can run to troubleshoot a connectivity problem.

  • Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync Connectivity tests:

    • Exchange ActiveSync: This test simulates the steps that mobile devices use to connect to an Exchange Server via ActiveSync.
    • Exchange ActiveSync with AutoDiscover: This test attempts to synchronize a mailbox via ActiveSync after obtaining its settings from the Autodiscover Service.
  • Microsoft Exchange Web Services Connectivity tests:

    • ActiveSync Provider AutoDiscover: This test walks through the steps that ActiveSync devices use to obtain settings from the Autodiscover Service.
    • Outlook Provider AutoDiscover: This test walks through the steps that Outlook 2007 takes to obtain settings from the Autodiscover Service.
  • Microsoft Office Outlook Connectivity tests:

    • Outlook Anywhere with AutoDiscover: This test attempts to logon via Outlook Anywhere after obtaining its settings from the Autodiscover Service.
    • Outlook 2003 RPC/HTTP: This test walks Exchange administrators through the steps that Outlook 2003 uses to connect via RPC/HTTP.
  • Internet email tests:

    • Inbound SMTP email test: This test covers the steps that an Internet email server uses to send inbound SMTP email to your domain.

While the processes for all of these tests are similar, you may need to provide different information during the collection of information stage.

During the Inbound SMTP email test, for example, you're ask to provide an email address to test and then provide verification information on that address (Figure 2). It's recommended that you create a separate test email account for any tests that you plan to perform with the analyzer.

The inbound SMTP email test
Figure 2: The Inbound SMTP email test requires that you enter an email address to test.

You'll then receive notification if the connectivity test succeeded or failed. If the test returned a failure, select Additional Details (Figure 3) to further investigate the problem. You can find out where the failure occurred and have a good starting point for diagnosing the problem.

Inbound SMTP email test shows connectivity failure
Figure 3: The Inbound SMTP email tests shows that a connectivity has failed. Now what?

As you can see in the figure, a link will instruct you: Tell me more about this issue and how to resolve it. You can use this information to learn more about resolving other issues that might occur.

According to the Exchange Teams, more tests will become available in the future, including tests for OWA, IMAP, POP and others. The ExRCA is also on Twitter and Facebook, allowing you to follow changes to the tool as they are made. There is also a six-minute video that demonstrates the value of the ExRCA.

Do you have comments on this tip?  Let us know.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR 
J. Peter Bruzzese (Exchange MVP, Triple-MCSE, MCT, MCITP: Enterprise Messaging) has been working with Exchange for 10+ years.  He has recently released several Exchange video series for Train Signal and can be reached at peter@trainsignal.com.

This was first published in August 2009

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