Mail Trouble

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In the 1964 classic “The Caine Mutiny,” Naval officers and crew struggle to maintain an old rusty tub of a destroyer, the U.S.S. Caine, and survive a compulsive, quixotic commander, Capt. Queeg, played by Humphrey Bogart in one of his greatest roles. What does this have to do with e-mail administration? Most employees think e-mail is their company’s lifeblood, and any service interruption is seen as a willful impediment. Your hardware may not be a bucket of rusty processors, but I am willing to bet that your e-mail system is not documented in terms of message flow and up-to-date configuration. Hopefully, no one’s manager is the Queeg type, but there is always a Phred user who calls because he hasn’t received e-mail in the past few hours.

Few tools will do documentation for us, especially if that e-mail server has been upgraded and reconfigured a few times. Nor is there an easy way to forestall Phred from calling, but there are some utilities that do diagnostics, limited repair and bulk-loading, making our lives easier. Microsoft freely distributes software that will record many Exchange settings and make recommendations. See www.microsoft.com/exchange/downloads/2003/ExBPA/default.asp for more information, as well as links to newsgroup utility discussions, updates and tips.

Another set of Exchange tips covers server configuration, given its memory and CPU limitations. This is described in Microsoft Knowledge Base item 328882. (See support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=kb;en-us;328882.) When using Exchange stores, if appropriate, using the /3GB switch and reducing the Jet database will increase performance given the appropriate hardware.

As Phred makes clear, most calls deal with the user’s desktop. If you are deploying Outlook with Exchange, Imanami (www.imanami.com) has OProfile, which automatically generates an Outlook profile for each user per the administrator’s wishes. If scanpst.exe is not to your liking, you can try OnTrack’s EasyRecovery E-mailRepair (www.ontrack.com, see Figure 1), which repairs .dbx, .pst and .ost files (Outlook Express, Outlook, offline files) that cannot be opened. This is an absurdly simple utility to use—just click on a button. My favorite is the ability to repair .pst files exceeding 2 GB. Microsoft’s fix for this may cause data loss. Another option is to fix the file by hand. See www.slipstick.com/problems/repair2gbpst.htm, a good general site for more Microsoft e-mail information.

Figure 1: OnTrack EasyRecovery

Aside from anti-spam, filtering and anti-virus software, most e-mail utilities deal with administrative tasks: bulk loading of users, account manipulations and so on. For GroupWise, a great utility that creates messages from a tab-delimited file and prepares merged, customizable text is Parkes’ MassMail (www.caledonia.net/cat-gw.html). Other utilities available at that site include a log file reader and a utility that changes shared folder owners while reinstating shared participants. Bulk loading of users may be done via several methods–LDAP or Nsure Identity Manager customization work well, for example–but tools are simpler. NetVision makes Synchronicity to load users and synchronizes changes and passwords as well.

The ultimate set of GroupWise utilities—more than 100—is found at Novell’s Cool Solutions site, www.novell.com/coolsolutions/tools/byproduct.html#groupwise. These utilities enable customization of the GroupWise desktop to migration from older versions to cleanup and resource management.

By using these types of e-mail utilities, documenting message flow and configuration, and doing a little preventive maintenance, you should be able to run a smooth mail operation. If you keep Phred content, then his boss is happy. If Phred’s boss is happy, then there’s no need for anyone to resort to Lt. Keefer’s (Fred MacMurray’s) tactics of slyly engineering a coup as in “The Caine Mutiny.”

When Douglas Mechaber isn’t writing or dissecting certification exams, he works at a government health facility. Write to him with your favorite e-mail utility at dmechaber@certmag.com.

 

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