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A Collection of Random Thoughts
Monday, September 27, 2004
Mailbox-level backups
I've been thinking about this lately, probably more so because of the Exchange Newsgroups and the continual plethora of posts there regarding this topic. I guess what I am wondering is, why do so many Exchange admins (novice or not) think there is so much value in backing up individual mailboxes? I can "almost" see some value in doing them way back with Exchange 5.5, but even then, there are mitigating factors. Even Exchange 5.5 had Deleted Items Retention that could be configured. If you think about it, how often does a mailbox need to be restored because "you" deleted it? Hopefully not often at all.

Exchange 2000 introduced the concept of Deleted Mailbox retention, and Exchange 2003 expanded even farther by introducing the Recovery Storage Group. SP1 for Exchange 2003 made it even one step easier to import mailboxes from the RSG back into the production server by integrating the Exmerge functionality into the UI with a wizard. With all these improvements, why do so many Administrators still feel like Mailbox-level backups are worthwhile? Is it just because they are buying into the Mantra of "Our backup product provides this functionality, so we should be using it"? Are there other reasons that Administrators feel like there is something to be gained by doing individual mailbox backups? I've always been a big fan of the "Ed Crowley Never Restore method" and I share many of the same thoughts a the author of the Don't use individual mailbox backup detailed rant against Brick-level backups, but apparently there must be some other reason why so many Admins continue to want to use them. There probably aren't too many people that subscribe to this yet, but I'd love to hear your comments.

BTW - it sure would be nice if you could use the Recovery Storage Group to mount a Public Folder Store and recover, but Deleted Items retention should still apply to Public Folders (and their contents), so this perhaps isn't as big of a concern.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
Windows Update Services (WUS)
Today, there was an open chat about WUS. It was pretty interesting. I'm excited about some of the new features that will be included in this new product which will replace Software Update Services (SUS).

Included in WUS will be the ability to update not only Windows clients/servers, but also deploy Exchange, Office and SQL updates. The final scope of what will be supported is still being worked out, but to me this is an impressive gesture on the part of Microsoft to try and address security issues. Of course, this doesn't really address the issues with Home PC's, but that's a different topic :-)

One of the features I like the most will be the ability to have different "Groups". With SUS, it was kind of a all-or-nothing shot. This was really bad for trying to "test" an update. With the addition of being able to specify which group to deploy to, testing should be much easier.

There will also be additional reporting available with WUS, including reporting if/when deploying an update fails, and the reason why (i.e. illegal copy of Windows). The public beta is slated for some time towards the end of this year, with the hopeful RTM being early 2005.
Microsoft released new tool
So Microsoft released their much-anticipated Exchange Best Practices Analyzer yesterday.
I've already run it against a test server (Exchange 2003), so I wanted to share my thoughts. First of all, I was impressed with how much information it gathered. It was able to detect that I was running Exchange on a VMWare instance :-o and that I was running Exchange on a Domain Controller :-o. Overall I was impressed with the interface and how easy it was to use. I kept thinking that - man, this will be a great tool to tell people to run and send me the export so that I can review it with them.

Most releases aren't without glitches, and when I first ran the tool yesterday, none of the links indicating how to learn more about the problem or how to fix it seemed to work. This problem was fixed very quickly though and all the links seem to work now. I was a bit surprised about one message that it came up with when I displayed the full issues list. It displayed a message indicating that Cache Age Limit has been set. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised that it displayed this, but at least it wasn't displayed as an error, but rather just as a non-standard configuration. However, the KB article that the more information page includes doesn't include Exchange 2003 yet (thought I'm sure that will be updated). That particular registry entry used to be VERY useful on Exchange 5.5 when dealing with permissions propagation, but I think usage died out quite a bit with Exchange 200x. It was nice to see that it noted (on the link) that this particular registry key could be used to offset the typical "up to 2 hours" it might take for mailbox limits to take effect.

It was also nice to see that the error about "no primary WINS server" really included some good information as to when WINS is and is not required.

Overall, I was very pleased with how the tool works. While I think many "seasoned" Exchange admins may already know and avoid most of the issues this may come up with, it will be super useful for a lot of people.

Monday, September 20, 2004
My first blog!
So I finally went and created a Blog. I'll try and blog new information on a fairly regular schedule.

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