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Exchange Server 2013 Management and Maintenance Practices (part 1) - Maintenance Tools for Exchange Server 2013

12/22/2014 7:57:40 PM
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Organizations have become increasingly reliant on email as a primary method of communication and, as such, the messaging system in most environments has come to be considered a mission-critical application. Any messaging downtime results in frustrated calls to the help desk. For most organizations, gone are the days where the email system can be taken offline during business hours for configuration changes.

To ensure the dependability and reliability of any application, proper maintenance and upkeep is vital, and Exchange Server 2013 is no exception. By implementing and performing proper management and maintenance procedures, administrators can minimize downtime and keep the system well tuned. However, for organizations that have been performing structured and effective maintenance and management practices with previous versions of Exchange, the process is the same with Exchange Server 2013. The key is that many organizations have no structured process in maintenance and management, and it seems like patching and updating is only done on the operating system or on Exchange only when a problem occurs and a patch or update is required.

Exchange Server 2010 (and extended in Exchange Server 2013) has advanced the health of the messaging system through the introduction of continuous online defragmentation, compaction, and contiguity maintenance. This has eliminated the need for routine offline database maintenance, which dramatically reduces the need for planned downtime.

Proper Care and Feeding of Exchange Server 2013

This section is not about how to perform common, albeit necessary, management tasks such as using the interface to add a database. Instead, it focuses on concepts such as identifying and working with the server’s functional roles in the network environment, auditing network activity and usage, and monitoring the health and performance of your messaging system.

With each new iteration of Exchange Server, Microsoft has greatly improved the tools and utilities used to manage the environment. Exchange Server 2013 is no exception. Exchange Server 2013 management can be done locally or remotely. The administration can even be done through firewalls. There are primary management interfaces, the Exchange Administration Center (EAC) and the Exchange Management Shell (EMS).

Managing by Server Roles and Responsibilities

Key in Exchange Server 2013 is the concept of role-based deployment, allowing administrators to deploy specific server roles to meet the requirements of their environments. Exchange Server 2013 provides three distinct server roles: Edge Transport, Client Access, and Mailbox.

The Edge Transport Server Role

The Edge Transport server role is responsible for all email entering or leaving the Exchange Server organization. To provide redundancy and load balancing, multiple Edge Transport servers can be configured for an organization.

The Edge Transport role is designed to be installed on a standalone server that resides in the perimeter network. As such, it is the only Exchange server designed to not be a member of the Active Directory (AD) domain. Synchronization with Active Directory is provided through the use of Active Directory Application Mode (ADAM) and a component called EdgeSync.

Edge Transport servers can provide antispam and antivirus protection, as well as the enforcement of Edge Transport rules based on Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP) and Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions (MIME) addresses, particular words in the subject or message body, and a Spam Confidence Level (SCL) rating. In addition, Edge Transport servers can provide address rewriting—an administrator can modify the SMTP address on incoming and outgoing messages.

It is possible for an organization to avoid the use of an Edge Transport server completely and simply configure a Hub Transport server to communicate directly with the Internet. However, this scenario is not recommended because it exposes your Hub Transport server to potential attack. The Edge Transport server has a reduced attack surface to protect against these external threats.

The Client Access Server Role

The Client Access Server (CAS) role is similar to the front-end server in Exchange Server 2000/2003. New to Exchange Server 2010 and 2013 is that all clients communicate through the CAS. This is different than in Exchange Server 2007, where Outlook clients using Messaging Application Programming Interface (MAPI) would access the mailbox servers directly. The CAS server mediates all client traffic, providing a single point of communication that can be monitored to ensure consistent compliance and security across all types of clients.

The Mailbox Server Role

The Mailbox role will be the most familiar to administrators with previous Exchange Server experience. As the name implies, the Mailbox role is responsible for housing mailbox databases, which, in turn, contain user mailboxes. The Mailbox server role also houses public folder databases if they are implemented in the environment.

The Mailbox server role integrates with the directory in the Active Directory service much more effectively than previous versions of Exchange Server allowed, making deployment and day-to-day operational tasks much easier to complete. The Mailbox server role also provides users with improved calendaring functionality, resource management, and Offline Address Book downloads.

For those familiar with Exchange Server 2007 and 2010, the Hub Transport role no longer exists as a separate role, but instead is embedded into the Mailbox server role as a Hub Transport service. The Hub Transport service is responsible for managing internal mail flow in an Exchange Server organization and is installed on a member server in the AD domain.

The Hub Transport service handles all mail flow within the organization, as well as applying transport rules, journaling policies, and delivery of messages to recipient mailboxes. In addition, Hub Transport agents can be deployed to enforce corporate messaging policies, such as message retention and the implementation of email disclaimers.

The Hub Transport service accepts inbound mail from the Edge Transport server(s) and routes them to user mailboxes. Outbound mail is relayed from the Hub Transport service to the Edge Transport server and out to the Internet.

The Unified Messaging server role is also now rolled in as a service in the Mailbox server role. The Unified Messaging service is responsible for the integration of Office Communication Server Voice over IP (VoIP) technology into the Exchange Server messaging system. When implementing Unified Messaging with Exchange Server 2013, users can have access to voice, fax, and email messages all in the same mailbox, and these messages can be accessed through multiple client interfaces.

Managing by User Roles

Exchange Server 2013 provides Role Based Access Control (RBAC) to the Exchange Server platform. This permissions model applies to the Mailbox and Client Access Server roles. RBAC has replaced the permission model used in Exchange Server 2007 and prior. RBAC is not used on the Edge Transport server role because the Edge Transport security is not integrated with the other roles and is based on the local Administrators group.

The role-based model enables administrators to easily assign staff to one of the predefined roles or to create a custom role that meets the organization’s unique requirements. The RBAC permissions model is used by the Exchange Management Shell (EMS), and the Exchange Administration Center (EAC) (formerly known as the Exchange Control Panel and sometimes still referenced as the ECP).

There are 12 predefined administrative roles:

• Compliance Management

• Delegated Setup

• Organization Management

• Discovery Management

• Help Desk

• View Only Organization Management

• Recipient Management

• Hygiene Management

• Public Folder Management

• Server Management

• UM Management

• Records Management

There is a single initial user role called the Default Role Assignment Policy role. This default role includes default role assignments, including the following:

• MyContactInformation

• MyDistributionGroupMembership

• MyBaseOptions

• MyTextMessaging

• MyVoicemail

• MyTeamMailboxes

• MyDistributionGroups

The administrative and user predefined roles cannot be changed. However, new roles can be created to define precise or broad roles and assignments based on the tasks that need to be performed in a given organization. This is done through the RBAC User Editor.

Maintenance Tools for Exchange Server 2013

Several tools are available to administer and manage an Exchange Server 2013 environment. There are functions within the Exchange Administration Center, an automation and scripting shell, and several tools native to the Windows Server 2008/2012 operating systems.

What Happened to the Exchange Management Console?

For the past decade, Exchange has been administered through the Exchange Management Console or EMC. However, with Exchange Server 2013, the EMC is gone in favor of the web-based Exchange Administration Center. So the Exchange System Manager (ESM) of Exchange Server 2003 is gone, and the Exchange Management Console (EMC) is gone. A new era in Exchange administration and management has begun under the new EAC.

The New Exchange Administration Center

The Exchange Administration Center is the main administrative tool for Exchange Server 2013. From the Exchange Administration Center, an administrator can add users, add servers, add email routing, modify Exchange configuration settings, set up antispam rules, set up server transport rules, and so on. Effectively, everything that an Exchange administrator used to be able to do in the Exchange Management Console or Exchange System Manager is now done in the Exchange Administration Center, shown in Figure 1.


Figure 1. Exchange Server 2013 Exchange Administration Center.

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