Friday, 4 March 2011

The Last Post

Since, as from Monday, I'm now a consultant with Microsoft Consulting Services here in the UK, I won't be updating this particular blog any more (other than to perhaps point out where the new blog will be!).

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Offline Access to Exchange 2010 Docs on TechNet

There was a discussion on an Exchange mailing list recently about how getting access to the Exchange technical documentation online obviously assumes that you are connected at the time.  Naturally, Microsoft releases regular updates to the documentation and at the same time it also provides a separate CHM file that you can download.  For example, the latest version is here.

Aside from the official Exchange 2010 product documentation, Microsoft also produces technical articles that you can access from the TechNet site, as you can see here:

You can obviously print these articles to PDF or similar. There is also another option available to you to get offline access to this information. With a program called PackageThis, you can create CHM files of topics found on TechNet and/or MSDN. Here's how:

First, download PackageThis from here.

Note in the "Prerequisites" section the part about downloading the .chm SDK, which is required when creating CHM files. If you don't have this installed, use the link in the prerequisites section. The installation of this component is very simple and doesn't need documenting here.

Next, run PackageThis.exe. On the main screen, click Library and then TechNet Library. You should now see a screen similar to this one:
If you want to create small CHM files of your favourite section of the Exchange 2010 online documentation, you can expand the nodes and select what you want.  For example, we could select just the High Availability section:
However, what about all those wonderful technical articles that have been published?  Let's say we want to create a CHM file on the "Autodiscover and Exchange 2007" topic that is online.  We simply select the topic:

Next choose File / Export to CHM File :

Click OK and your CHM is created!

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Two New Exchange 2010 "Tested Solutions" Papers

Microsoft has released two new "tested solutions" whitepapers for Exchange 2010.  If you've not seen these before, they are whitepapers that, according to Microsoft, "provide examples of well-designed and cost-effective Exchange 2010 solutions deployed on hardware offered by some of our server, storage, and network partners".

Previously, Microsoft released papers for 500, 9000 and 16000 mailbox solutions on hardware such as Dell servers, F5 load balancers, etc.  There are now papers for 15000 and 20000 mailbox solutions:

Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions: 15000 Mailboxes in Two Sites Running Hyper-V on Unisys ES7000 Servers and Hitachi Adaptable Modular Storage 2000 Family 

Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions: 20000 Mailboxes in Two Sites Running Hyper-V on Dell R910 Servers, EMC CLARiiON Storage, and Brocade Network Solutions

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Rights Management Server and Exchange 2010 Integration - Part 4

The fourth part of my article series on Rights Management Server integration with Exchange 2010 has today been published here.  This part of the article series looks at configuration testing, using OWA with RMS and also RMS templates.  I've finished writing the series now - it's only 8 parts long so we're half-way through!

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Rights Management Server and Exchange 2010 Integration - Part 3

The third part of my article series on Rights Management Server integration with Exchange 2010 has today been published here.  Having installed RMS in part two, we now get around to completing all those additional fiddly configuration elements required in order to get things to work.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Book : Exchange Server 2010 Best Practices

I have just about finished ploughing my way through a review copy of the Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Best Practices book that O'Reilly kindly sent me, and although I still have a couple of chapters to read, I thought I'd write a brief note on what I think of it.

In all, I think this is an excellent book and there are many reasons for this.  First, the book was written for Exchange 2010 SP1, which is obviously a good thing as quite a lot has changed with this release as opposed to the RTM release.  I personally don't tend to get the first Exchange books available as they can sometimes be based on beta code, which of course can change before the product ships.  That's not to say that things don't change before SP1 ships, because they sometimes do.  Also, this book contains many sidebars that not only include "notes from the field" insights from experienced professionals, but also include inside track information from members of the product group.  These contain invaluable informaton.

The book is comprehensive in its approach, starting out with an introduction to Exchange 2010, followed by useful information on planning and delivering an Exchange 2010 implementation project.  It then moves onto the environment considerations, such as Active Directory, certificates, namespace planning, networking, and so on.

Part two of the book is focussed on designing Exchange 2010, and uses a chapter per Exchange 2010 role such as the CAS, Hub Transport, Mailbox and Edge Transport.  These chapters delve nice and deep into the topics and give you food for thought.  For example, do you want to understand (or refresh your memory) on Autodiscover and the AutodiscoverSiteScope parameter?  The CAS chapter is the place to be.  Additionally, there are detailed chapters on compliance, unified messaging, federation, high availability, backup/restore and hardware sizing.  Finally, other important topics are covered such as upgrading from legacy Exchange and troubleshooting.

I found this book to be very much in the style that I like and I must say I've picked up quite a few useful tips along the way.  The book is literally packed full of best practice information, hence the book contents do the title justice.  If you don't have a copy of this book, hang your head in shame!

Next up is Tony Redmond's book, Exchange 2010 Inside Out which should be another great read.  I've got all of Tony's Exchange books somewhere, including his original Exchange 4.0 book.

Friday, 21 January 2011

OAB Delta Changes

I've just been troubleshooting an issue involving the OAB on Exchange 2010.  Scenario : on a single Exchange 2010 SP1 UR2 server running the Mailbox, Client Access Server and Hub Transport roles, an administrator creates a new distribution group that is urgently required, updates the OAB in the Exchange Management Console and then informs the end-user to download the OAB from within Outlook.  The result?  The distribution group is still not showing in Outlook.  The end-user confirms that he can see the group in OWA.  Why is this?

Well, I have written a long 4-part article on the overall OAB process that you can access here.  The short answer is not to forget the process that copies the updated OAB files from the Mailbox role to the Client Access Server role ready for web-based distribution.  Even though the administrator has updated the OAB within the Exchange Management Console, Exchange still has to copy these files to the OAB virtual directory folder where the Outlook client will pick them up.  Of course, I'm assuming that the Outlook client is capable of web-based distribution here, rather than public folder distribution.

By default, this copy process runs every 480 minutes.  To see this, run this cmdlet:

Get-OabVirtualDirectory | fl poll*

This will show the PollInterval parameter for all OAB virtual directories and you should see 480 minutes as the default setting.  You can change this value of course, or you can run a one-off copy process via this cmdlet:

Update-FileDistributionService -Identity {server} -Type OAB

That will force the Microsoft Exchange File Distribution service to copy the updated OAB files generated by the Mailbox role to the OAB virtual directory location.  Then get the end-user to download the OAB again.

Thursday, 13 January 2011

UAG Delegation to Exchange Forms-Based Authentication

One of my work colleagues is Jason Jones, who's also a ForeFront MVP.  If you're interested in ForeFront Edge concepts, I strongly recommend that you check out Jason's blog Closer To The Edge.

Jason has advised myself and other team members this morning that although Unified Access Gateway (UAG) delegation to Exchange forms-based authentication technically worked pre-UAG SP1, it was not supported by the UAG product group.  In fact, the GUI has now been amended to prevent it as shown from the figure below.  Hat tip to Jason.

Rights Management Server and Exchange 2010 Integration - Part 2

The second part of my article series on Rights Management Server integration with Exchange 2010 has today been published here.  In this part, we get around to actually installing the RMS role onto a Windows 2008 R2 server, ready for use in subsequent parts of the article.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

Error Differences in Outlook and OWA

When you have a problem in Outlook, it can sometimes be a good troubleshooting step to see if the same thing happens in OWA.

Here's an interesting tale of how an error is presented differently in Outlook 2010 as opposed to OWA 2010, and how using OWA helped track down the issue.  I recently noticed that the Unified Messaging Play on Phone option in Outlook 2010 was producing an error when selected.  The error message was "Contact with the server has temporarily failed, please try again later".  This doesn't exactly help narrow down what the issue might be.

By chance, my colleague attempted the same operation in OWA 2010 - namely to click the Play on Phone button.  This time, though, he got a different error message.  It read "The number cannot be dialed because it does not comply with the policy of your organization".

That's more like it!  A descriptive error that led my colleague to examine the UM policy properties in the Exchange Management Console where he found that the option titled "allow calls to extensions" was not selected.  Why it wasn't selected is another story, though.

Exchange 2010 OWA Spelling Language Issue

One of my colleagues discovered this issue.  He moved lots of users from Exchange 2007 to Exchange 2010 SP1 and one of the users noticed that OWA 2010 was using the English (United States) dictionary rather than the UK dictionary.  Specifically, in OWA, the user went to Options / See All Options / Settings / Spelling.  Here, the "Use this dictionary to check spelling" option was set to English (United States).

The user confirmed that the workstation locales were set to UK.  Also, in OWA, the user confirmed on the Regional tab (Options / See All Options / Settings / Regional) that the language was set to English (United Kingdom).

My colleague has also confirmed that a different deployment has also experienced this issue - this particular deployment is running Exchange 2010 RTM, so clearly it's not unique to Exchange 2010 SP1.  It appears to be the result of moving the mailbox from legacy versions of Exchange.

The fix is quite simple.  Just set the mailboxes to use the correct language dictionary with this cmdlet:

Set-MailboxSpellingConfiguration -DictionaryLanguage EnglishUnitedKingdom

Friday, 7 January 2011

Operations Manager : Exchange 2010 Management Pack CHM Download

I just spotted this on the Microsoft downloads site.  It's the Operations Manager management pack procedures used to resolve Exchange 2010 issues, in CHM format.  In other words, the knowledge of the Exchange 2010 management pack in handy offline format.   That's got to be worth having on your laptop when troubleshooting issues onsite!

Grab it here.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Rights Management Server and Exchange 2010 Integration - Part 1

Part 1 of my article on RMS integration with Exchange 2010 has just been published over at - you can find it here.  This is quite a long multi-part article and so in the first part I lay the groundwork and outline what was in my test lab.  Nothing fancy in the lab, but it was nice to set this all up and work through the features.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Update Rollup Confusion

Before applying update rollups to an Exchange server, the administrator can sometimes review the relevant KB article associated with that update rollup.  This is, of course, a good thing and is entirely recommended.  However, if this is, say, the second time that the administrator is about to install an update rollup, there can sometimes be associated questions and confusion on the update process.  Let me explain why.

The KB article for Update Rollup 2 for Exchange 2010 SP1 is here.  Towards the end of this KB article lies the Prerequisites section that says the following:

The following list contains prerequisites for the Update Rollup 2 for Exchange Server 2010 SP1:

* Install Exchange Server 2010 SP1 on the computer before you apply this update rollup.
* Remove all interim updates for Exchange Server 2010 SP1 before you apply this update rollup.

It's normally the second bullet point that causes confusion.  It's quite common for an administrator to assume that they need to uninstall the previous update rollups before applying the latest update rollup.  For example, if the administrator has already applied Update Rollup 1 and is now about to install Update Rollup 2, they assume that they must uninstall Update Rollup 1 as that's what the second bullet point says, right?

Actually, if you read the text closely, it says interim updates which are very different to update rollups.  You only need to uninstall interim updates and not previous update rollups.  Interim updates are specific updates from Microsoft PSS that have been released to customers that have called in with a particular issue; these updates are therefore designed to fix this specific issue only.  You will therefore almost certainly know if you have had an interim update installed as you would have involved Microsoft in the issue resolution process.

Also, remember that update rollups are cumulative.  In other words, Exchange 2010 SP1 Update Rollup 2 contains all the fixes found in Exchange 2010 SP1 Update Rollup 1.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Exchange 2010 "Tested Solutions" Documents

I've just been catching up on the latest information posted to the Microsoft downloads site and I came across these three documents:

Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions: 500 Mailboxes in a Single Site Running Hyper-V on Dell Servers
Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions: 16000 Mailboxes in a Single Site Deployed on IBM and Brocade Hardware
Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions: 9000 Mailboxes in 2 Sites with Hyper-V on Dell M610 Servers & Storage with F5 Load Balancing

According to the downloads site : "In the Exchange 2010 Tested Solutions white papers, Microsoft provides examples of well-designed, cost-effective Exchange 2010 solutions deployed on hardware offered by some of our server, storage, and network partners"

These documents come in PDF format and they're not small as they range from between ~60 to ~100 pages each.  I have downloaded them and shall take a look - but maybe not over the upcoming holiday period!