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Listing Top 10 Tools That Every Exchange Administrator Must Know About

by Joe Prior

posted in Computers and Technology

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Administrators are the ones that manage and handle not only the mailboxes residing on Microsoft Exchange Server. But, they also play a huge role in implementing timely and correct disaster recovery measures at times of catastrophes to prevent data loss. Therefore, tools are the need of the hour for a server administrator to tackle such issues within a short duration and without committing any faults. Communication is the primary component in an organization to keep it up and running. Thus, it is necessary to keep the platform providing communication services also up and running at all the times.
Thus, here is a list of the top 10 tools that every Exchange Server Administrator must know about and keep handy for an organized handling of server and its database. The following utilities are what an administrator has always wanted for the continuous monitoring and timely troubleshooting of issues with the database that later grows up to become the primary cause of catastrophic disasters.
1. Database Recovery Management
This application is applicable to Exchange Server version 2007 of SP1/2/3. The Database Recovery Management tool is meant to offer assistance on the reduction of the time consumed in recovery and streamlining the procedure in case of database related issues occur on the production servers operating MS Exchange. The tool is a part of the MS Exchange Performance Troubleshooting Analyzer tool, which is better known as ExTRA or. The tool can be found in Exchange Management Console of the server's 2007 version under the section named Toolbox.
The peculiarity of this tool is that it is integrated with a number of tasks that help resolve database concerning issues. This includes verifying the Exchange database along with its transaction log for any requirement of troubleshooting. Moreover, database repair is offered along with removal/creation of recovery storage group, copy/merge mailbox data, database mount/dismount, and more. However, the repair served by the tool is generally considered risk and not recommended especially in case of availability of backup. This is because the tool omits damaged pages of the database as part of its repair scheme, which terminates any/all possible scopes of recovery.
2. Performance Troubleshooting Analyzer Tool (ExPTA)
This application from and for Microsoft Exchange is meant to collect the configuration details, performance related counters, and rest of the server related information from Exchange. This is done as part of the tool's purpose of serving troubleshooting service based on performance monitoring which is possible through these details.
The tool does the analysis of entire Exchange and server subsystem in order to examine bottlenecks, if any. It then totals the collected information to put forward important findings of the detected bottlenecks and offer solutions that offer rectification for mending the server performance.
However, all this can only be made possible by fulfilling the predefined requirements of the tool. In order to use the tool you must have a Windows 2000 Pro/Server Family, XP or 2003 family. Apart from that, a mixed or native mode - Exchange 2003, 2000, or 5.5 messaging system is required along with.NET Framework version 1.1.
3. Dcdiag
Both, Microsoft Exchange Server as well as Windows Server does not have any application in support of the diagnosis of Active Directory and related issues. Active Directory is a vital part of the Exchange Server and offers a considerable amount of options along with flexibility. Therefore, to keep Exchange up and running smoothly, it is also important that your AD too be in a similar condition. Thus, its diagnostic service is as important as that of the Exchange, which is rendered by Dcdiag.
Even though Windows Server comes along with the Dcdiag tool for testing each Domain Controller but the utility is still installed as a Windows Support utility part. The Window Server version 2003 comes along with the utility, which can be installed by selecting suptools.msi, named file. The tool offers a wide range of options for the diagnosis process that are applicable with the help of options and command-line switches a list of which is provided within the tool itself.
4. EDB to PST Converter
An EDB to PST converter is a commercial application provided by a third party software-developing firm. The application is meant to convert the mailbox(s) of a disconnected/offline Exchange database to an Outlook data file each. Each mailbox is converted into a PST file, i.e. Outlook data file consisting of all email folders; address book, calendar, and other components. All Exchange Server versions are supported by the application including the latest 2016 and is operable on any given version of Microsoft Windows OS.
Other than the above-specified peculiarities, the application is also offers conversion of mailbox data into email repositories like MSG and EML along with PDF and HTML type file. Moreover, the troubleshooting aspect of the program also allows the recovery of deleted data and data from corrupt database with retention of metadata and other attributes associated. Being a commercial tool, this application is available as a freeware but only for demonstration purpose. Therefore, the licensed copy needs to be purchased in order to avail complete facilities.
5. Exchange Server 2010 Message Tracking
This is a feature of the Exchange Server 2010 version, which is meant for recording log files that transcript the traffic of messages exchanged between mailbox / servers within an organization. Message tracking is one of the features of three server roles of Exchange 2010 responsible for transmission of emails, i.e. Hub Transport, Mailbox Server, and Edge Transport. In order to track the message routing or delivery checking the logs would take hours when concerning single message. Moreover, troubleshooting an issue regarding server load or examining the pattern of over email traffic are also a few of the applicable conditions, which can be facilitated, with the help of tracking tool for Exchange. This feature is by default enabled in Exchange 2010 and it can further be configured in multiple ways that suit your server environment. It is also capable of reporting tasks apart from troubleshooting to make it easier for administrators to manage tracking activities.
6. Exchange 2010 Server Role Requirements Calculator
This is probably one of the most significant roles in any Exchange deployment reason being that it stores regularly accessed user data. Thus, it is critically important to design the mailbox role very carefully according to your requirements. The calculator is a great application to keep in your toolkit as an Exchange administrator as it helps keep up with the latest releases and patches.
20.9 is the latest version of the calculator that brought forward updates like added fixes regarding calculation formulas, rectified RAID disc calculation, lagged copies, disabled distribution tab for (Active) single DAG model.
7. Microsoft Exchange 2007 Anti-Spam Migration
MS Exchange utility for Anti-Spam migration is greatly helpful for administrators for migrating anti-spam settings from 2003 to 2007 Exchange environment. Settings migrated are readable from Active Directory's directory service and then further get converted into an equivalent script of MS Windows PowerShell. The script consists of tasks of Exchange 2007 server version. This conversion is almost equal to the actual one in case the direct 1 on 1 mapping is not available. This script can be later on run on the Hub or Edge Transport based server roles for the 2007 Exchange version.
The application can only be operated on a machine fulfilling the following requirements - Exchange 2007, Windows Server 2000/2003, and.NET Framework 1.1 or newer versions. Moreover, the account on which the application is run should be having read rights assigned to it for Active Directory configuration container. This is necessary along with read access to MSExchange.UCEContentFilter.xml file.
8. ExchangeServerHealth
This PowerShell based script is meant to perform a health check on a defined Exchange environment, which includes server along with DAG (Database Availability Groups) and generate a report in HTML format that can be sent to mailbox inbox.
The report contains a summary of problems detected along with tables color-coded along with test results containing detailed information for better spotting of problems. This script is useful and can be run on a daily basis as well for checking the server's health status. This script offers great help to users in keeping check on the server to be notified with any issues that may have cropped up overnight so that you have a chance to rectify it before being notified before the issue aggravates.
Always make sure that you get the script downloaded only from a trustworthy website like GitHub. In case of any trouble or bugs, kindly report the issue. You will receive an HTML file that consists of health check results and an email address (of an authorized person), in case you are planning to forward the report.
9. Mail Flow Troubleshooter
Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant comes with an Exchange Mail Flow Troubleshooter and as the name states; the utility is responsible for handling and streamlining the mail flow done using Exchange. You can detect issues causing obstruction in the mail flow on Exchange Server and rectify them.
The program is specifically developed with programming to discover causes behind the issues detected to take suitable actions for rectification. Some of the common trouble detectable by the utility includes;
  • Intentional external tool settings or bad DNS setup queue messages being backed up
  • Messages are not being received because of metabase corruption
  • Heavy group expansion distribution/inheritance of permission blocks backup of messages awaiting directory lookup

Such and other technical issues surfacing and causing defects in the flow of messages or their processing can be detected with the help of this utility. Therefore, one can manage end user queries even before they arrive from the server level itself.
10. PST Capture Tool
The current version of the tool is 2.0 and the utility is used for finding out Outlook Data file and importing it to into an on-premise or hosted Exchange Server. The utility helps users with the requirement of keeping their email repositories on Exchange environment to do so. Just the mere installation of this utility helps administrators know the storage location of PST files on the target machine and their owners as well. This way they can further import the files to desired Exchange environment Live or on-premise.
Import of the data file can be done directly into the main server mailbox or its corresponding archive too. Besides the defined service, data repository can be import to be made from 2010 / 2013 version will require you to do so on mailboxes of the same server versions or in-place archive. Microsoft.NET Framework of 4.5 or above versions is amongst the basic requirements along with PowerShell version 3.0 or above. Further Outlook of version 2010 (64 bit) is required on the host machine.
Observational Conclusion: It is necessary for a Server administrator to be available with accurate disaster recovery measures to tackle with the consequences. Therefore, the above listed applications must be kept handy in order to get rid of the server troubleshooting requirements in time and with accuracy.
About the Author: He is one of those techies who love to write highly technical articles related to Exchange server. He is a person with an expertise in technical field. Apart from this, he is spirited about reading and writing blogs related to technical arena. His aim is to let others read and implement his ideas. Website: http://www.edbtopst.org

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