Prioritize Executive E-Mail Through Exchange 2003
While on tour in the spring of 2003, I delivered a hands-on lab in 25 cities where one exercise strongly drew out the relationship between business and technology. The premise was that the pervasive use of e-mail, now assumed in any size organization, requires technology professionals to rethink how and when high-availability is delivered.
The business case is simple. Executives’ time is worth more than that of hourly employees. That’s nothing new to you if you read the Wall Street Journal, watch the CNBC financial channel or visit Web sites such as CBS’s MarketWatch (www.marketwatch.com). While you may agree or disagree with executive compensation levels, the fact of the matter is executives earn up to several hundred times what hourly workers make. Translation: Take care of the high-value customer first before fussing with the rest of the folks.
Returning to techie land, this month I provide an example of how to keep e-mail flowing smoothly to executives in the context of focusing on high-value business “assets.” The bottom line is this: Assuming some type of failure in the Exchange-based e-mail organization, your challenge will be to first restore e-mail service to the executives and later to the “normal” employees. You will accomplish this by creating a second storage group in Exchange (titled “Executives,” for example) that will hold executive users (represented by the Active Directory user object for each executive). When the feathers hit the fan, you can restore the Executive storage group first to get them up and running as rapidly as possible.
First, you’ll create and mount the new Executive storage group in Exchange Server 2003. This is accomplished from the Exchange System Manager:
- Log on to the server running Exchange Server 2003 as the administrator.
- Click Start, All Programs, Microsoft Exchange, System Manager.
- Drill down to the server object under the Servers folder.
- Right-click the server object in the left pane and select New, Storage Group.
- Provide a name for the storage group, such as Executives, in the Name field and click OK. You will accept the default log and database locations for now. See Figure 1.
- Right-click the Executives storage group that is now displayed in the left pane and select New, Mailbox Store and click OK.
- Right-click the newly created mailbox store and select Mount Store.
Figure 1: Exchange System Manager
You have now created a new storage group for Executives and mounted the new mailbox store. Next, you will move the executive users to the new storage group to facilitate rapid recovery when needed.
- Log on to the server (acting as an Active Directory domain controller) as the administrator.
- Launch Active Directory Users and Computers from Start, All Programs, Administrative Tools.
- Drill down into the object holding your user objects. By default, this is the Users folder. However, you might have created an organizational unit (OU) in Active Directory that holds the users.
- Right-click an executive user and select Exchange Tasks.
- Click Next at the Welcome page of the Exchange Task Wizard.
- Select Move Mailbox on the Available Tasks page and click Next.
- Select the correct Exchange server under the Server field on the Move Mailbox page. Then select Executives mailbox store under the Mailbox Store field and click Next.
- Click Finish.
You would repeat the preceding steps for each executive user whom you’d like to move to the newly created Executives storage group. What you’ve now done is create and move executive users into their own storage group in the Exchange Server 2003 environment, allowing a rapid recovery at the storage group level (supported by the native Backup routing in Windows Server 2003 and third-party backup tools like Veritas Backup Exec).
Exchange: Standard Versus Enterprise Editions
In order to understand this executive e-mail support approach, you must know the difference between different Exchange editions.
Exchange 2003 Standard Edition is designed to meet the messaging and collaboration requirements of small and medium corporations and for specific messaging server roles or branch offices. Its capabilities include:
- One storage group.
- Two databases per storage group.
- 16-gigabyte (GB) database limit.
- Exchange clustering is not supported.
- X.400 connector is not included.
Exchange 2003 Enterprise Edition is designed for large enterprise corporations. With Exchange 2003 Enterprise Edition, you can create multiple storage groups and multiple databases. Exchange 2003 Enterprise Edition provides an unlimited message store that removes the constraints on how much data a single server can manage. Its capacities include:
- Four storage groups.
- Five databases per storage group.
- 16-terabyte database limit, limited only by hardware.
- Exchange clustering is supported.
- X.400 connector is included.
So, exactly what is the business context to the features listed? I suggest you consider the following arguments:
- Small businesses need not apply. Microsoft positions its Standard edition of Exchange Server 2003 for small businesses. (It is included in Windows Small Business Server 2003.) But, as you see, it has a one-storage-group limit, suggesting executives will be treated much the same as anyone else. No caste system here!
- Medium-sized and enterprise organizations receive better executive support. In addition to big corner offices and company cars, executives in medium and enterprise organizations will want to make sure their companies run the Enterprise edition of Exchange Server 2003 in order to have multiple storage groups and use the tips provided in this month’s column.
- Alternatives. Techies love to tinker, and no sooner than the ink has dried on these pages, crafty readers will be thinking of additional ways to provide highly available e-mail services. A couple of methods I can think of off the top of my head include using clustering (from Microsoft and ISVs like PowerQuest) and using the cold server-licensing model from Microsoft (creating a second server that’s ready to boot up when bad things happen). If you have additional alternatives that I’ve not thought of, visit my Web site and drop me a note. I’d be delighted to share your reader feedback in a future column.
One important tidbit to pass along is the distant concept of the new Exchange Server 2003-based Recovery Storage Group. The Recovery Storage Group feature is not intended for use in disaster recovery operations that involve multiple servers or multiple storage groups. So, I’ll simply pass you along to an excellent Microsoft TechNet article titled “824126: How to Use Recovery Storage Groups in Exchange Server 2003,” found at www.microsoft.com/technet.
This month, you were shown how medium and enterprise organizations can pamper executives and other VIPs when it comes to the all-critical (and alltoo-visible) e-mail function. This trick is to create a storage group for executives. And one final parting shot about why you should care: Executives typically control the technology budget in an organization. Enough said!
Harry Brelsford is a Bainbridge Island, Wash.-based consultant, author and trainer. His most recent book, “Windows Small Business Server 2003 Best Practices,” can be purchased from www.smbnation.com, where you can also learn more about technology workshops and conferences targeting the small and medium business space.