Exchange Server administration resources and links

Author Scott Schnoll provides a plethora of Exchange Server links, including Exchange public newsgroups, community Web sites, blogs newsfeeds and technical resources.

You are reading tip #7 from "7 tips in 7 minutes: Exchange Server 2003 tips and tricks," excerpted from Chapter 10 of the book "Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Distilled," by Scott Schnoll, copyright 2004, published by Addison-Wesley Professional.
Now that you have had a taste of the fish I offered in previous section, I thought I would share with you some great fishing holes on the Internet. Certainly microsoft.com is packed with a wealth of information, some of which I will detail in the following subsections. But there is also a large and thriving worldwide Exchange community made up of mailing lists, Web site forums, newsfeeds, and blogs that contain and express a tremendous amount of experience and expertise on Exchange, including Exchange 2003. In fact, some of these resources are actually provided by the very people at Microsoft who wrote portions of Exchange!

Since Exchange is a Microsoft product, it's only fair that we start with Exchange-related resources that are available from Microsoft's Internet properties, including several Web sites with Exchange-specific content, public newsgroups, and technical chat rooms.

Microsoft Exchange product homepage

Obviously, the best place to start for Exchange-related content, information, tools, updates, and so on is the Exchange Server Product Home Page. Here you can find links to anything and everything about Exchange 2003 (as well as Exchange 2000 and Exchange 5.5). You can download or request on CD a trial version of Exchange 2003, and unless Microsoft sends service packs to you on official CDs, this is the only place to obtain service packs for Exchange.

If you are outside the United States, you may prefer to use one of the other Exchange Product home pages throughout the world; there are more than 30 of them, many of which are in local languages (e.g., Chinese, German, French, and so on). See the complete list.

Regardless of which site you choose, the content should be pretty much the same and just localized for the site being browsed. However, it's a good idea to keep tabs on the U.S. site because it is often updated first with the most recent content. In addition, the U.S. site is also a springboard to all other Exchange-related sites at Microsoft, including the Exchange Developer Center Web site, the Microsoft TechNet site for Exchange (which also includes the Exchange Technical Documentation Library), the Exchange Server 2003 Support Center, Exchange 2003 Events and Errors, the Exchange public newsgroups, and the Exchange Server Community.

Exchange Developer Center Web site

Even if you don't develop full-blown applications on Exchange, you still may be interested in the Exchange Developer Center Web site. This site, which is primarily intended for developers, is the best place to go for the latest version of the Exchange 2003 SDK and a great place to browse the SDK documentation online and check out sample code written in C#, C++, Visual Basic .NET, and VBScript.

In addition to the code samples, API documentation, and other content, this site also includes some development tools that get you started on building Exchange-based solutions, such as:

  • Exchange Application Deployment Wizard
  • Exchange Explorer
  • Exchange Store Event Sink Wizard for Visual Basic 6
  • Managed Exchange TreeView Control

Even if development isn't your forte, you may find the information on creating and using event sinks to be useful for your environment. An event sink is a piece of code (the sink) that executes (fires) when something (the event) happens. Exchange 2003 supports protocol event sinks and transport event sinks (for managing messages in the SMTP service) and store event sinks (for managing messages in the Exchange store). Protocol events occur at the SMTP command verb level between the client and the server, and protocol event sinks can be used to modify commands and responses to commands. Transport events occur as messages flow through the SMTP transport stack, and transport event sinks can be used to manipulate messages as they travel through SMTP. Event sinks are useful in all sorts of situations; they can be used to convert messages, scan for content, add disclaimers to outgoing messages, or reroute messages in a workflow environment. In addition, there is a Protocol Sink Template you can use to create an in-house antispam solution that accepts or rejects messages based on a spam confidence level. You can do with event sinks just about anything you would want to do with or to a message while in the SMTP transport stack or information store.

Microsoft TechNet Exchange Center

The TechNet Exchange Center is an excellent technical clearinghouse of resources and information related to Exchange 2003. Information on this site is conveniently broken down into the natural life-cycle categories for a product such as Exchange: evaluate, plan, deploy, support, and train.

While the TechNet Exchange Center is not new (it existed for Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000), what is new to the TechNet site is the Exchange Server 2003 Technical Documentation Library (TDL). The TDL is a catalog of Exchange-related technical documents that have been reviewed and approved by the Exchange product team. You'll want to check this site frequently because there are some upcoming technical documents yet to be published. As of this writing, the following documents are scheduled for future release around the following estimated dates:

  • Exchange 2003 Automation Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Backup, Restore, and Disaster Recovery Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Client Access Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Interoperability and Migration Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Message Security Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Performance and Scalability Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Reliability and Clustering Guide (March 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Security Guide (June 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Technical Overview (June 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Transport and Routing Guide (June 2004)
  • Exchange 2003 Troubleshooting Guide (June 2004)
  • Unsupported Exchange 2003 Deployments (June 2004)
  • Welcome to Microsoft Messaging (March 2004)

All documents that have an expiration date will have a checked book icon next to them in the TDL. On or before the document's expiration date, a newer replacement document will be posted (often, although not always, with the same name). You may hear these referred to as living documents because they will grow and evolve along with Exchange 2003. Access the TDL directly. If you ever want to provide feedback to Microsoft about an Exchange 2003 technical document, you can do so by sending an email to exchdocs@microsoft.com.

Exchange Server 2003 Support Center

The Exchange Server 2003 Support Center, also known as the PSS Exchange Center, contains four primary areas of content.

  1. The Highlights and Top Issues area changes to reflect the most frequently received support calls at Microsoft. If a lot of people are experiencing the same problem or if something needs clarification based on real-world experiences, chances are it will become a Highlight and Top Issue.
  2. Step-by-Step Instructions and How-to Articles provide detailed steps on how to configure various features, settings, and infrastructure components to provide the best experience for your environment.
  3. Support WebCasts are live, online presentations from PSS support engineers, Exchange product team members, and Exchange community participants. Even if you miss a WebCast, you can still view it because they are all recorded using Windows Streaming Media technology. If you don't have time to sit for the entire WebCast, you can also download both the PowerPoint slides and a transcript of the WebCast for offline viewing and reading.
  4. The Additional Resources and Related Sites area provides links to other Web sites that include Exchange or Exchange-related content (such as the Exchange sites previously listed), as well as the Microsoft Office Outlook 2003 Support Center.
If you encounter a problem with Exchange, before contacting Microsoft PSS for support (unless it is an extreme emergency and you don't have the time), I recommend browsing this site. You may actually find your problem and its resolution described here, saving your organization both time and money in the problem resolution process.

Microsoft Knowledge Base

The Exchange Support Center is one of many product support centers linked to Microsoft Help and Support Online. This is Microsoft's primary online product support site for customers in the United States. Non-U.S. customers typically use one of the international support Web sites list. Regardless of which locale you choose, all Microsoft Help and Support sites include a link to the Microsoft Knowledge Base.

The Microsoft Knowledge Base Online is a Web front-end to Microsoft's database of Knowledge Base articles (sometimes referred to as KBs) that contain information that Microsoft wants the general public to know about its products and technologies. KBs range in content from specific how-to articles to errata to clarifications of Microsoft policies and so forth. As you can tell by the several references to KBs throughout this book, the Microsoft Knowledge Base often supplements the knowledge about Exchange that has not yet made its way into other Exchange product documentation. This is one of the reasons that the Microsoft Knowledge Base is one of the first places I check when troubleshooting an issue with a Microsoft product. It is updated frequently and very easy to access. You can search the Microsoft Knowledge Base Online, and if you use Internet Explorer to access the Web, you can go directly to any article if you know the article number. For example, if you want to view article 818474, you would enter "MSKB 818474" into the Internet Explorer address bar, which would then open that article from the Web. To make this work, you need to add the following registry entries to the computer you use to browse the Web. First create this new KEY:

Location: HKCU\Software\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\SearchURL\mskb

Then add the following values under this key (all are REG_SZ):

Value: Default
Value Data: http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;%s

Value: (space) • note this is not the word space but a single space
Value Data: +

Value: +
Value Data: %2B

Value: %
Value Data: %25

Value: &
Value Data: %26

Figure 10–6 shows an example of how this looks in the registry editor.

Offline access to the Microsoft Knowledge Base is available via a monthly CD subscription called Microsoft TechNet. This is handy to have when online access is not available (which might even be the problem you need to fix). You can find pricing and information on Microsoft TechNet subscriptions.

Figure 10–6 Internet Explorer custom search URL entry for the Microsoft Knowledge Base

Exchange 2003 events and errors

Like many Windows Server System applications, Exchange 2003 logs a variety of events to the Application event log in Windows. Several of the events that can be logged by Exchange have been discussed throughout this book. Unfortunately, Exchange is capable of logging thousands of different events, making it impossible to become familiar with all of them. Depending on the event and the diagnostic logging level you have configured, some Exchange events will be self-explanatory while others will appear to require a crack team of decoders to decipher the event's meaning. For example, does the following event mean anything to you?

Event Type: Error
Event Source: MSExchangeIS
Event Category: Database
Event ID: 9031
Date: 10/11/2003
Time: 7:34:04 AM
User: N/A
Computer: EX2K3
Description: Database resource failure error <error code> occurred in function <function name> while accessing the database.

Fortunately, Microsoft has an Exchange 2003 Events and Errors Web site that you can use to search for information about events based on the Event Source and the Event ID. When you find a matching event, you can read an explanation of the event, along with any necessary or recommended actions and a list of related Knowledge Base articles. The search results will vary among events and not all events are available, but this is still a valuable resource for investigating new and unusual as well as familiar and common events. A search for the example event produced the results shown in Figure 10–7.

Exchange public newsgroups

Microsoft hosts a variety of newsgroups on a cluster of servers that are available to everyone free of charge around the clock every day of the year. By far, Microsoft's largest online community is the Microsoft public newsgroups. There are thousands of newsgroups covering a wide variety of Microsoft products and technologies, including several specifically for Microsoft Exchange Server.

The public newsgroups are accessible via an NNTP newsreader, such as Outlook Express (and many others), and via the Web with Internet Explorer 4.0 or later or Netscape 4.6 or later. In addition to the English-based newsgroups, there are Exchange newsgroups in several languages, including Arabic, German, Spanish, French, Korean, and others. Posts remain on the server for 90 days, after which they expire. You can find questions of all types posted by users with wide-ranging levels of experience. Newsgroup topics include installation, administration, clients, clustering, connectivity, design, development, and miscellaneous topics.

You can access the Web-based interface to the Exchange newsgroups by pointing your browser to http://support.microsoft.com/newsgroups/ ?pr=newsgexch2k. The newsreader can be used by pointing your NNTP client to msnews.microsoft.com. Microsoft does not provide official support for Exchange in the newsgroups. Instead, the company provides the newsgroups as a way to help people become part of the global community of Microsoft customers and product experts. The newsgroups do not have a Microsoft search interface; however, they are searchable through Google Groups, formerly DejaNews (you can still get there using http://www.deja.com). You can use the same trick mentioned earlier for the Microsoft Knowledge Base to make Google and Google Groups easy to search through the Internet Explorer address bar. Use the following registry entries to add Google and Deja keywords to Internet Explorer.

To add Google, create this new KEY:

Location: HKCU\Software\Microsoft\Internet Explorer\SearchURL\google

Then add the following values under this key (all are REG_SZ):

Value: Default
Value Data: http://www.google.com/search?q=%s

Value: (space) • note this is not the word space but a single space
Value Data: +

Value: +
Value Data: %2B

Value: =
Value Data: %3D

Value: &
Value Data: %26

Value: ?
Value Data: %3F

Value: #
Value Data: %23

To add Google Groups, create this new KEY:

Location: HKCUSoftware\Microsoft\InternetExplorer\SearchURL\deja

Then add the following values under this key (all are REG_SZ):

Value: Default
Value Data: http://groups.google.com/groups?q=%s

Value: (space) • note this is not the word space but a single space
Value Data: +

Value: +
Value Data: %2B

Value: %
Value Data: %25

Value: &
Value Data: %26

Microsoft MVP program

Community is very important both to and within Microsoft, and because of that you'll find many experienced Microsoft employees participating in the Exchange newsgroups and sharing their expertise freely. Some of them actually write portions of Exchange, and many support Exchange at Microsoft for a living. Other top participants include individuals in the Microsoft Most Valuable Professionals (MVP) program.

The MVP program is a worldwide award and recognition program that makes an annual award of MVP status to outstanding members of Microsoft's technical communities. The MVP program exists to recognize the top contributors to various product communities to help build, promote, and improve the community experience. The award recipients—referred to as Microsoft MVPs—are the most active experts in technical communities recognized by Microsoft for their past quality participation, their demonstrated practical expertise, and their passion for technology. While MVPs have diverse backgrounds and professions, they all have three things in common: a passion for technology, strong expertise and experience, and a willingness to freely share both.

When it comes to Exchange knowledge outside of Microsoft, few people in the world know as much about Exchange as the Exchange MVPs, a group to which I am very proud to belong. As you'll read later in this chapter, many MVPs (including many Exchange MVPs) also maintain their own Exchange-related communities, which I encourage you to visit. Check out the Microsoft website for more information about Microsoft MVPs and the MVP program.

Exchange Server communities

The central hub in the general worldwide Exchange community is the Exchange Server Community Web site (the Community). This site is a Web-based portal for living Exchange information. The Community is designed to facilitate the sharing of technical information, current hot topics, and important announcements. It provides information on upcoming events, WebCasts, and TechNet Chats, plus a quick roundup of the most active newsgroups and newsgroup threads.

The Community isn't just about the Microsoft portion of the whole Exchange community; it's a portal to several other communities—some hosted by Microsoft, others by third parties—which can be found both on the Community home page and http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/ community/relcommunities.asp. Some of these communities, as well as other communities that are not listed on these sites, are described in the following subsections. For ease of reference I have broken them down into the following categories: Web sites, blogs, and newsfeeds.

Exchange-related Web sites

When working with a product as widely used as Exchange, it is not surprising to find that some very good and useful information can be found in some interesting places. Microsoft definitely is not the only source of information on Exchange; in fact, in many cases you may prefer unbiased information about Exchange that can come only from a non-Microsoft source. Several third-party Web sites provide technical information and places to share real-world experiences with Exchange, and I want to share some of the best Web sites with you. Unfortunately I cannot list them all, so you'll want to browse the links on the sites I have listed because they likely link to sites I have not listed. I am listing them, with a very brief description of each site.

  • The Entourage Help Page: This site is devoted to Microsoft Entourage:mac, the Macintosh-based Exchange client. Entourage homepage.
  • Exchange Resource Center: This site is a clearinghouse of Exchange-related resources, such as books, articles, software, tools, and FAQs.
  • KBAlertz: This site was developed by Dave Wanta, a network administrator and developer. To stay abreast of Microsoft technologies, Dave spent a weekend writing a notification service that is tied to the Microsoft Knowledge Base Online. The service was designed to notify him when a new Knowledge Base article was released by Microsoft. Dave turned his service into KBALertz, which provides free email and RSS notification of new Knowledge Base articles as soon as Microsoft posts them.
  • The Mail Resource Center: The Mail Resource Center includes messaging-related news and information plus tools. Its Web Links section in particular is worth a visit—it has more than 400 links in 61 different categories.
  • Microsoft Exchange Server Resource Site: This site provides articles and tutorials for configuring Exchange features, details on third-party add-on products, message boards, and discussion lists.

  • OutlookExchange: This site features more than 30 columnists writing articles on a wide variety of topics related to both Exchange and Outlook.
  • SearchWin2000/TechTarget: SearchWin2000 is packed with tips, how-to's, discussions, WebCasts, and forums related to a wide variety of products and technologies, including Exchange. By the time you read this a new TechTarget site—http://www.SearchExchange.com—should also be available.
  • Simpler-Webb Exchange Resources: In addition to developing products for Exchange, the creators of this site have maintained FAQs pages for Exchange 2003, Exchange 2000, and Exchange 5.5.
  • Slipstick Systems Exchange and Outlook Solutions Center: Slipstick Systems was Sue Mosher's Web site. Sue is a prolific author, journalist, Microsoft MVP, and all-around Exchange and Outlook guru, and this site is filled with lots of great Exchange and Outlook information. It has recently changed ownership and is now run by another Outlook guru (and fellow MVP)—Diane Poremsky.

Exchange blogs

The term blog is short for Weblog. A blog is essentially a Web-based, diary-style journal. Blogs are updated at various intervals; some daily, others less frequently. These often-updated Web sites provide links to other interesting information on the Web, typically adding their comments and other information about the links. Blogs are a kind of personal community because the bloggers, those who write blogs, form pockets of communities with other bloggers and followers of their blogs.

You might be surprised to know that blogs are as old as the Web. In fact, Tim Berners-Lee, the father of the Web, also created the first blog in 1992. It wasn't called a Weblog, though; that term wasn't coined until December 1997. As for sites that specifically considered themselves blogs, in the beginning of 1999, there were only 23. But throughout the beginning months of 1999, blogs began growing in numbers.

In July 1999, the first free do-it-yourself blogging tool was launched by Pitas. Within months there were many more freely available blogging tools that made it easy for anyone to blog. No HTML, no Web site code, no heavy lifting at all; just enter your thoughts, opinions, and links as if you were sending an email to a friend and post it for your readers to consume. Blogs continue to grow in numbers and in popularity. A number of Exchange-related blogs are worth checking out—I've listed the ones I visit.

  • MS Exchange Blog: This blog is the combined efforts of Chris Meirick, Neil Hobson, and William Lefkovics, three Exchange MVPs who share tips, news, and links related to Exchange.
  • Kase's Blog: This blog is kept by KC Lemson, a program manager on the Exchange Server product team at Microsoft. KC provides tips on Outlook, Exchange, and software development, as well as messaging trivia and an insider's view on what it's like to work on the Exchange team at Microsoft.
  • David Lemson—Exchange Guy: This blog is kept by David Lemson, another program manager on the Exchange Server product team at Microsoft. Like KC, David also provides tips on Exchange. David posts some great information on the transport components in Exchange 2003 (and since he has worked in the core transport group on the Exchange team since 1998, you know I mean great!).
  • E2K Security: This blog is kept by Paul Robichaux, an author of 12 technical books and numerous Exchange-related articles, a noted Exchange guru and speaker, and an Exchange MVP. Paul's blog focuses primarily on Exchange security.
  • You Had Me at EHLO: This is a brand new blog from the folks on the Exchange team at Microsoft. It will feature a rotating cast of participants from all areas of Exchange, including development, PSS, user education, SDK, and so forth. I highly recommend frequent visits to this blog.

Exchange newsfeeds

A newsfeed is a Web site, newsgroup, or blog that is available via a feed mechanism (i.e., a mechanism that "feeds" the content to a newsfeed client). One of more popular types of newsfeeds is RSS, which stands for different things depending on whom you ask. RSS can mean Rich Site Summary, RDF Site Summary, and Really Simple Syndication. RSS was first developed by Netscape in 1999 as a way to implement channels in its Web browser. Channels didn't last long, and Netscape abandoned RSS development. Others such as UserLand persisted, and now RSS is one of the most successful Internet-based implementations of XML to date.

Today there are a variety of both RSS creation programs and news aggregators, which are RSS clients that often provide access to newsgroups in addition to newsfeeds. Because RSS is designed for content that is updated often or continuously, static Web sites typically don't use it. However, RSS is gaining in popularity, in part due to the benefits it provides folks who do update their sites regularly, including bloggers. In fact, you'll find that many blogs are available through RSS feeds, enabling you to view all of your news and information in a single client instead of separate Web pages.

If you search the Web, you can find several RSS newsreaders, some of which are free, some shareware, and others commercial applications. They generally all work the same way.

  1. You install the RSS client.
  2. You subscribe to RSS feeds.
  3. The RSS client checks your subscribed feeds periodically (e.g., hourly, daily, weekly, and so on).
  4. Updated content is displayed using headlines.
  5. You click the headline for the content you want to read.

RSS is a great way to have the news come to you for perusal and reading. If you have not yet experimented with RSS, I recommend that you do so; you should expect RSS feeds to continue to grow in popularity, and as mentioned previously, Exchange 2003 content is already available via RSS.

Summary

A plethora of Exchange-related resources on the Internet can help you plan, deploy, manage, and troubleshoot Exchange 2003. In this chapter, I discussed the settings that have been deprecated from Exchange 2000, as well as some new settings for Exchange 2003 you can use to control certain aspects of its behavior.

In the sections on tools and resources, you learned where to find the latest information on Exchange 2003 and how to use Microsoft's new Exchange TDL. In addition, you learned about the free Exchange tools you can use to manage your Exchange infrastructure. There are several tools that can be used in a variety of situations, and all of the tools are worth checking out.

In addition to the Exchange product home page, Microsoft also has Exchange content on their TechNet Web site geared toward IT professionals and developer-related information on the MSDN Web site. In addition, Microsoft provides free peer-to-peer newsgroups that are available 24/7 and used by Exchange administrators all over the world. In addition, many Microsoft MVPs and some Microsoft employees regularly monitor these newsgroups, freely sharing their expertise and answering questions where they can. Finally, several third-party Web sites, blogs, newsfeeds, and other resources are provided by many other Exchange experts, including Microsoft employees who wrote Exchange.


7 tips in 7 minutes: Exchange Server 2003 tips and tricks

 Home: Introduction
 Tip 1: Tuning Exchange Server 2003 overview
 Tip 2: Exchange 2000 vs. Exchange 2003 tuning parameters
 Tip 3: Exchange 2003 tuning parameters -- Outlook Web Access
 Tip 4: Exchange 2003 tuning parameters -- Microsoft Outlook
 Tip 5: Exchange 2003 tuning parameters -- Exchange Server
 Tip 6: Must-have Exchange Server 2003 tools
 Tip 7: Exchange Server administration resources and links

 Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Distilled This chapter excerpt from Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Distilled by Scott Schnoll, is printed with permission from Addison-Wesley Professional, copyright 2004.

Click here for the chapter download or purchase the book here.

This was first published in June 2007

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