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Exchange Server 2013 Management and Maintenance Practices (part 7) - Weekly Maintenance, Monthly Maintenance, Quarterly Maintenance

12/22/2014 8:03:26 PM
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Weekly Maintenance

Tasks that do not require daily administrative input, but that still require frequent attention, are categorized as weekly maintenance routines. Recommended weekly maintenance routines are described in the following sections.

Document Database File Sizes

In an environment without mailbox storage limitations, the size of the mailbox databases can quickly become overwhelmingly large. If the volume housing the databases is not large enough to accommodate the database growth beyond a certain capacity, services can stop, databases can get corrupted, performance can get sluggish, or the system can halt.

Even with mailbox size limitations implemented, administrators should be aware of and document the size of databases so that they can determine the estimated growth rate.

By documenting the size of all mailbox databases on a weekly basis, administrators can have a more thorough understanding of the system usage and capacity requirements in their environments.

Verify Online Maintenance Tasks

Exchange Server 2013 records information in the application log about scheduled online maintenance processes. Check this event log to verify that all the online maintenance tasks are being performed and that no problems are occurring.

Using the filtering capabilities of the Event Viewer (View, Filter), administrators can apply a filter to search for specific events, and can specify a date (and time) range to search for these events. For example, it is easy to filter the events to view all events with an ID of 1206 that have occurred in the past week.

Alternatively, in the right pane of the Event Viewer, click the Event column to sort events by their ID number; however, this view is more challenging to read because you must then verify the dates of the events as well.

The following Event IDs should be regularly reviewed:

Event ID 1206 and 1207—These IDs give information about the start and stop times for the cleanup of items past the retention date in Item Recovery.

Event ID 700 and 701—These IDs indicate the start and stop times of the online database defragmentation process. Administrators should ensure that the process does not conflict with Exchange Server database backups and make sure that the process completed without interruptions.

Event IDs 9531–9535—These IDs indicate the start and end times of the cleanup of deleted mailboxes that are past the retention date.

Analyze Resource Utilization

To keep any environment healthy, overall system and network performance should be regularly evaluated. An Exchange Server 2013 environment is no exception.

At a minimum, administrators should monitor system resources at least once a week. Primary areas to focus on include the four common contributors to bottlenecks: memory, processor, disk subsystem, and network subsystem.

Ideally, utilizing a monitoring utility such as Microsoft System Center 2012 OpsMgr to gather performance data at regular intervals is recommended because this data can be utilized to discover positive and negative trends in the environment.

Check Offline Address Book Generation

An Offline Address Book (OAB) is used by Outlook to provide offline access to directory information from the Global Address List (GAL) when users are working offline or in Cached Exchange mode. When a user starts Outlook in Cached Exchange mode for the first time, the user’s Exchange Server mailbox is synchronized to a local file (an .ost file) and the offline address list from the Exchange server is synchronized to a collection of files (.oab files) on the user’s computer.

An easy way to verify OAB generation and distribution is to look at the age of the OAB files on each Exchange server (in the C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\Client Access\OAB\).


Note

If you are experiencing problems with OAB generation, enable diagnostic logging and review the application log for any OAB generator category events.


Monthly Maintenance

Recommended monthly maintenance practices for Exchange Server 2013 do not require the frequency of daily or weekly tasks, but they are, nonetheless, important to maintaining the overall health of the environment. Some general monthly maintenance tasks can be quickly summarized; others are explained in more detail in the following sections.

General tasks include the following:

• Install approved and tested service packs and updates.

• Schedule and perform, as necessary, any major server configuration changes, including hardware upgrades.


Note

With Exchange Server 2013, a periodic reboot or performing system patches and updates does not mean Exchange will experience a mail system outage. With the proper setup of high availability in Exchange Server 2013 (such as database availability groups for replicated databases, or redundant Client Access server roles), an organization can failover services to other servers, perform maintenance, and bring the updated system back online without service downtime.


Run the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer

Administrators should run the Exchange Best Practices Analyzer (ExBPA) health, permissions, and connectivity checks in their environments after making any significant changes to systems or settings to determine if there are any configurations or settings that are not in line with Microsoft recommended best practices. This utility and its configuration files are updated often with new and improved settings, and available updates are installed every time the utility is run.

The results of these scans can be saved and compared from month to month to determine when particular issues might have occurred.

Test System Performance with Performance Monitor

Periodically run Performance Monitor over a normal workday to monitor CPU, disk performance, and key Exchange counters to determine whether the server and storage are performing to standards. Compare the periodic results over time to detect any trends.

Test Uninterruptible Power Supply

Uninterruptible power supply (UPS) equipment is commonly used to protect the server from sudden loss of power. Most UPS solutions include supporting management software to ensure that the server is gracefully shut down in the event of power failure, thus preserving the integrity of the system. Each manufacturer has a specific recommendation for testing, and the recommended procedures should be followed carefully. However, it should occur no less than once per month, and it is advantageous to schedule the test for the same time as any required server reboots.

Quarterly Maintenance

Although quarterly maintenance tasks are infrequent, some might require downtime and are more likely to cause serious problems with Exchange Server 2013 if not properly planned or implemented. Administrators should proceed cautiously with these tasks.

General quarterly maintenance tasks include the following:

• Check mailbox and shared folder stores to verify database size, system performance, and overall operability of the servers in the environment.

• Evaluate the current rate of growth on server hard drives to ensure there is adequate space available on all volumes. This evaluation is based on the information gathered during the weekly maintenance tasks.

Validate Information Store Backups

As previously mentioned, the backing up of an environment’s data is one of the most important steps an organization can take to ensure recoverability in the event of a disaster.

However, simply backing up the data, and assuming the ability to recover it is inadequate.

Backups should be regularly restored in a test environment or to a recovery database to ensure the recoverability of systems. By performing regular restores in a test environment, administrators are providing several services:

• Confirmation that the data is truly being backed up successfully

• Verification of the actual restore procedures

• Training for Exchange Server administrators, or practice for existing ones, in the steps needed to recover an Exchange Server environment

Organizations that do not implement regular testing of restore procedures often find that, in the time of actual need, restorations take significantly longer than necessary because of missing hardware, missing software, inadequate or inaccurate procedures, administrators unfamiliar with the process, or, worst of all, backup sources that had been reported good but are unable to be restored.


Tip

Backup and recovery procedures are one of the most critical documents in an Exchange Server organization. These procedures should be thoroughly tested and updated whenever changes to the process occur. And remember, it is not enough to store copies of this documentation electronically on network shares or (worse) within the messaging system. If these procedures can’t be quickly accessed when they are most needed, they are practically useless.


Periodic Testing

For sites with offsite disaster recovery infrastructure, it is an excellent practice to periodically conduct a full test of the Exchange disaster recovery procedure to ensure that you can quickly recover Exchange service at the disaster recovery site. Testing of both planned site switchover and unplanned site failover procedures is optimal.

 
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