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Exchange Server 2003 Tips and Tricks

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There's nothing like learning expert techniques from a subject master. In this sample book chapter, you'll get tips on tuning Exchange 2003, using its tools, and finding additional resources.
This chapter is from the book

Now that we have explored the new features in Exchange 2003 along with some of the new features in Outlook 2003 and Windows 2003, I wanted to share with you some of the knowledge and experience I gained as a result of working with Exchange 2003 for the last couple of years. To use a comparison, in this chapter I am going to not only give you a few fish but also teach you how to get more on your own.

I have divided this chapter into several sections. First I'll provide an overview of tuning Exchange 2003. Then I'll discuss some tuning parameters that have been deprecated from Exchange 2000. These are settings you may have added to Exchange 2000 that are no longer needed for Exchange 2003. In addition, I'll cover some new tuning parameters and other settings you can use in Exchange 2003 to control certain aspects of its behavior.

In the sections on tools and resources, I'll show you how to find the latest information on Exchange 2003 and how to use the new Exchange Technical Documentation Library. In addition, I'll cover the package of Exchange tools you can download for free and use to manage, configure, and administer your environment. I'll share with you some great third-party Web sites, forums, communities, and other resources provided by many other Exchange experts and used by countless numbers of Exchange administrators around the world. No one mind can hold it all, but don't let that stop you from trying.

One caveat first: Information in this chapter, including any URLs or other Internet Web site references provided, may change without notice. I have tried to include only those references that I believe will not change anytime in the near future. Unfortunately, because I have no control over these sites, I cannot prevent them from changing. However, if they do change (or if any of the links mentioned anywhere in this book change), there is a good chance that you will be able to find their new locations. First, it's possible that a moved link will automatically redirect you to the new site. Second, you may be able to search the parent site of some of the provided links to find the new home for the content. Third, your favorite search engine is your friend. For example, you may be able to “refind” any moved or changed content using Google, Yahoo, or one of the many other search engines on the Internet that cache indexed content. Finally, when all else fails, you might try traveling back through time to see the referenced link in its original form. Seriously! You can use the Internet to do this.

One of my favorite Web sites is the Internet Archive at http://www.archive.org. The Internet Archive is a public nonprofit corporation that was founded to build an “Internet library.” The library is intended to offer permanent access for researchers, historians, and scholars to historical collections that exist in digital format. But that's not why I like this site so much. I like it because of its Wayback Machine, a virtual time-travel machine that enables you to access and browse stored archives of Web pages and sites. The Wayback Machine was born in 1996, when the Internet Archive first began archiving the Web. Since then it has accumulated more than 100 terabytes worth of archived Web sites (about 30 billion!), which are available for access by the public for free. Here's how it works.

  1. Point your Web browser to http://web.archive.org. This is the Wayback Machine home page.

  2. In the Wayback Machine field, enter the URL of the Web site you want to access. You can use any valid Web address, including ones that no longer exist.

  3. Click the Take Me Back button to start your journey back through time. This will produce a table of search results organized by date.

  4. In this table, under the date columns are hypertext links of other dates. You simply click on one of the date links to open the URL you entered as it appeared on that date.

Pretty cool, huh? An asterisk next to a date indicates that the page was changed on that date. For example, if you see “10/15/1999 *” below “10/05/1999,” it means that on October 15, 1999, the URL was changed from how it looked on October 5, 1999. Most of the content from the Web sites should be available; however, many images (especially those from before 1999) will likely not be present. But otherwise, the Wayback Machine will show you the site as it appeared on the date whose link you click.

Tuning Exchange 2003

For the most part, Exchange 2003 is self-tuning. In Exchange 5.5 and earlier versions, Exchange shipped with a wizard-based tool called the Performance Optimizer. An administrator would launch this tool and answer a series of questions about the server's role, the number and type of users on the server, and what disks were available for use by Exchange. Behind the scenes, the Performance Optimizer would examine available resources and, based on all of this gathered information, it would make some adjustments to the Exchange configuration to tune Exchange properly for each server.

The Performance Optimizer could be used to move databases and transaction log files to different (presumably faster) disks, and it could also be used to limit the amount of memory that the information store (STORE.EXE) could consume. The Performance Optimizer was removed from Exchange starting with Exchange 2000, and it remains missing from Exchange 2003. It was removed because Exchange 2000 (and now Exchange 2003) was made to be self-tuning. If you need to move the databases and transaction logs, that functionality is now found in ESM; however, if you want to limit the amount of memory used by Exchange, you are out of luck—there is no longer any supported way to do this.

There are, however, plenty of opportunities to tune and/or control Exchange's behavior. Some of these settings have already been discussed in previous chapters. For example, in Chapter 2, I wrote about using some new BOOT.INI switches to tune memory allocation on your Exchange server. Chapter 4 covered how to tune ESE buffers, and in Chapter 9, I showed you how to use OWA spell-check throttling to prevent spell-check requests from overwhelming your Exchange server. In this chapter, I'll continue down that path with various settings and other practices you can employ to change and tune how Exchange behaves.

Generally speaking, the goal of performance tuning is to decrease server response time while supporting more users. Most of the tuning and performance boosts you can get from Exchange come from choosing appropriately sized hardware and from employing best practices for the design and deployment of Exchange. Because this was covered in Chapter 2, I won't repeat that information here. Instead, we'll focus on tuning other areas of Exchange. Because many readers are already using Exchange 2000, I'll start by reviewing Exchange 2000 tuning parameters that are no longer necessary in Exchange 2003.

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