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How to set up a Network Load Balancing Service front-end Exchange Server cluster

Tutorial: How to set up a front-end Exchange Server cluster -- part 4 of 7.

Preparing the DNS server

To set up a Network Load Balancing Service front-end Exchange Server cluster, you must first prepare your DNS server...

by creating a host record that links the cluster name to the cluster's shared IP address.

For example, suppose that you were building a cluster of two servers named and, but the cluster name was You would assign the DNS record the name rather than creating DNS records for the individual computers.

  1. Open the DNS console and navigate through the console tree to your server -> Forward Lookup Zones -> your domain.

  2. Right click on your domain and select the New Host (A) command from the shortcut menu.

  3. Enter the host name (in the case of my example, it would be Cluster) and enter the cluster's shared IP address.

  4. Click the Add Host button to create the record.

Setting up the Network Load Balancing Service on Windows 2003

Now that the necessary DNS entry is in place, it's time to set up the Network Load Balancing Service. I recommend installing the Exchange Server front-end components now, and testing each server using the server's non-shared IP address to verify that each front-end server is functional.

The instructions for implementing the Network Load Balancing Service differ a little bit between Windows 2000 Advanced Server and Windows Server 2003. For this tutorial, I will be using Windows 2003.

In Windows 2003, the NLBS component is installed by default, but it's not active. To configure the NLBS component:

  1. Open the server's Control Panel and select the Network Connections option.

  2. Right click on your server's network connection and select Properties.

  3. If you look at the list of installed components, you will notice that Network Load Balancing is included on the list. Select the Network Load Balancing component, click the checkbox that activates it, and click the Properties button to view.

  4. Go to the Cluster Parameters tab and fill in the cluster's shared IP address, subnet mask, and host name. This screen also allows you to change to multicast mode, but I recommend using unicast mode instead. You can also enable remote control if you like, but I think doing so is a security risk.

  5. Now turn your attention to the Host Parameters tab. Enter the server's unique individual IP address and subnet mask.

  6. Each cluster node must also have a different priority number. Set the first node to 1, the second node to 2, and so on. I also recommend setting the Default State option to Started and leaving the "Retain Suspended State After Computer Restarts" checkbox unchecked.

  7. Click OK twice.

  8. Repeat this procedure for all the cluster's nodes and you'll be in business.

One side note: After setting up the cluster nodes, you will probably want to verify the functionality of the private IP addresses and cluster IP addresses for each node. Those cluster nodes cannot ping each other's individual IP addresses though, so you will have to test each one from outside of the cluster.


 Home: Introduction
 A lesson in cluster node configuration and consistency
 Pros and cons of a Network Load Balancing Service front-end cluster
 Requirements for a Network Load Balancing Service front-end Exchange cluster
 How to set up a Network Load Balancing Service front-end Exchange cluster
 The pros and cons of a DNS-based front-end Exchange cluster
 How to set up a DNS-based front-end Exchange cluster
 Related links from

Brien M. Posey, MCSE
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at

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