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Exchange Server Cookbook by Devin L. Ganger, Missy Koslosky, Paul Robichaux

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Chapter 1. Getting Started

Cooking with Exchange

Exchange is a complex and powerful tool. Microsoft has gone to great lengths to hide much of the complexity by providing a set of graphical user interface (GUI) tools and wizards that automate many common tasks, but most administrators really want to understand how Exchange works and how to make it work well. This book is aimed squarely at the latter of those two desires: we’re not going to be discussing Exchange’s architecture or implementation in detail. Instead, the recipes in this book focus on laying bare some of the many features and capabilities that lie beneath the shiny GUI veneer of Exchange. This chapter will help prepare you for that exploration by presenting some basic concepts and identifying some tools and technologies that can help you with Exchange scripting.

At Least Three Ways to Do It

If you’ve used Perl, you’re probably familiar with its unofficial motto, There’s More Than One Way to Do It. As you may have learned from the Active Directory Cookbook and the Windows Server Cookbook (both from O’Reilly), Windows’s unofficial motto could be There Are at Least Three Ways to Do It. Many common tasks can be performed using a GUI) or wizard (such as the Active Directory Users and Computers [ADUC] snap-in or the LDP tool), from the command line (using utilities provided by Microsoft such as nltest and dsadiag), or by writing scripts that use some of the programming interfaces exposed by various parts of the operating system. Surprisingly, this motto usually (but, unfortunately, not always) holds true for Exchange tasks, too—there are usually two or more ways to accomplish a given task.

Since people have different preferences, we’ve tried to live the motto by presenting more than one method for performing each recipe. This isn’t always possible; some tasks can’t be scripted or run from the command line, while others can only be performed with a script. Wherever possible, though, we’ve included at least one command-line method, one GUI method, and one script for each recipe.

2000 Versus 2003, Times Two

Exchange 2000 and 2003 depend on Active Directory, which is implemented in both Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003. That presents a bit of difficulty, since there are several possible combinations of these products:

  • Exchange 2000 running on Windows 2000 is the baseline; this combination has been around for a few years and is stable and widely deployed.

  • Exchange Server 2003 running on Windows 2000 offers many of Exchange Server 2003’s cool new features (like the improved Outlook Web Access interface, better spam filtering, and so on) while still using the base AD services from Windows 2000.

  • Exchange Server 2003 running on Windows Server 2003 in a Windows Server 2003 forest provides the full range of new capabilities, including Remote Procedure Call (RPC)-over-HTTP tunneling, access to the Volume Shadow Copy Service (VSS) for making point-in-time “snapshot” backups, and so on.

Even though Exchange Server 2003 is newer and more capable than its predecessor, Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 2003 are similar in many important respects; the same is pretty much true for the two Windows variants. However, since Exchange Server 2003 running on Windows 2003 provides the most functionality, that’s the target for the recipes here. Most of the recipes will work with Exchange 2000 and/or Windows 2000, and some only work with those products. To make it perfectly clear which is which, we’ve noted version-specific recipes where they occur. (We haven’t tested any of these recipes with any version of Microsoft Small Business [SBS] server, but it’s fairly safe to assume that they should work on SBS as well. Please test thoroughly, though, as we’re not available to help you fix anything that may get broken.)

The Exchange GUI Interface

One complaint administrators had with Windows NT administration was that ordinary tasks required too many different tools. Microsoft attempted to fix this situation by introducing the Microsoft Management Console (MMC), which allows you to build your own customized administration consoles by loading combinations of modules called snap-ins. The bulk of an Exchange administrator’s tasks are usually done through the Exchange System Manager (ESM) management console snap-in (Exchange System Manager.msc). ESM enables administrators to perform hundreds of tasks, to view numerous settings, and to see a visual representation of their environment. User and group management requires the ADUC snap-in (dsa.msc); other Windows components, like the DNS and DHCP servers and the Windows Certificate Services tools, have their own dedicated snap-ins. Just to confuse things a little, the Exchange setup program also installs its own version of ADUC (users and computers.msc). We’ve never fully understood why Microsoft chose to do this. For example, if you install the adminpak.msi on a computer, the dsa.msc snap-in will still show the Exchange properties on objects, as long as the Exchange Admin tools are also installed.

ESM follows the basic MMC interface paradigm: a tree view on the left side that shows one or more nodes (some with child nodes, some without), plus a large pane on the right side that displays subordinate nodes or settings for whatever’s selected in the left pane. This doesn’t sound like too much to master; the real trick with ESM is learning which settings are in which property pages, because there certainly are a lot of both around. It’s also important to understand the versions of ESM and what they can do:

  • The Exchange 2000 ESM is what we think of as the “classic” version. It can be used to manage Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 servers, and to view (but not change) the properties of Exchange Server 2003 machines. However, you only get the functionality that was available when Exchange 2000 shipped. That means that mailbox moves are single-threaded; there’s no Mailbox Recovery Center, and the queue viewing and management tools are feature-poor.

  • The Exchange Server 2003 RTM version of ESM mostly looks like the Exchange 2000 version; the important differences are all under the hood. The biggest change for most administrators is that the Exchange Task Wizard’s mailbox moving code is multi-threaded, so you can move up to four mailboxes concurrently (and you can run multiple instances as well). This makes mailbox moves much, much faster under most circumstances, although you have to perform an Exchange Server 2003 forestprep in your Exchange organization to make this work. In addition, there are improvements in how monitoring and status information is displayed, a new, better-organized tool for viewing message tracking data, the Mailbox Recovery Center (described in more detail in Recipe 11.10), and a vastly improved interface for viewing and controlling message queues. Exchange Server 2003’s ESM also includes the Internet Mail Wizard for quickly setting up SMTP mail interchange with Internet hosts. These new features come with a tradeoff: you can’t configure Exchange 2000-only features like the Key Management Service (KMS), the Exchange Instant Messaging service, or the old-school MSMail, cc:Mail, and Schedule+ connectors.

  • Exchange Server 2003 SP1 adds a few new features to ESM, including the ability to set up RPC-over-HTTP connections with a simple property sheet instead of the morass of registry keys and fiddling required with the Release to Manufacturing (RTM) version. (Although for organizations with a single Exchange server, some feel it is simper to use the manual methods.)

You can use all three versions of ESM in the same Exchange organization, whether or not you actually have the corresponding version of Exchange installed. However, Microsoft doesn’t support installing the Exchange 2000 version of ESM on an Exchange Server 2003 server (not that you’d want to anyway). One thing it does support is installing and using ESM from other Windows 2000, Windows Server 2003, and Windows XP computers in the same forest (see Recipe 4.1). Note that you can only run ESM from a computer in the same forest as your Exchange servers. If you want to run it on a laptop, home computer, or other machine that’s not a member of a domain in your Exchange forest, you’ll probably need to use Terminal Services to remotely log on to a machine in the forest.

Exchange System Manager, in most cases, does not provide a useful way to make the same change to multiple objects at once, and there are some things it can’t do (such as change user properties) or doesn’t do well. If you need to change the area code for hundreds of users, it is much more efficient not to do this manually through the GUI.

Exchange’s Scripting Interfaces

In the Unix world, almost every mail administrator knows how to write scripts. This is a self-defense thing: a mail administrator who can’t script will end up spending lots of quality time with picky command-line utilities, doing the same thing over and over and over.

In the Exchange world, most administrators can get along perfectly fine without scripting. However, Microsoft has been steadily improving the scriptability (yes, that’s a real word) of both Windows and Exchange, to the point where you can do a surprisingly large number of tasks from script.

That raises the thorny question of which programming model and scripting language to use. A very wise computer science professor once taught one of the authors a useful analogy: programming languages are like the saws in a carpenter’s toolbox. Knowing which saw to use, and when, is very important, since picking a suboptimal tool can make the job take much longer than it needs to. For simplicity, we’ve chosen to use VBScript in this book: it’s already supported by the Windows Scripting Host (WSH), and there are lots of examples at Microsoft’s site, and elsewhere, that use it. However, if you prefer another language, don’t despair; it’s easy to convert the examples to other languages. Samples of these scripts in other languages aren’t provided, however the Perl development kit (http://www.activestate.com/Products/Perl_Dev_Kit/) includes tools to convert VBScript to Perl (and vice-versa). Now, let’s review the interfaces that we can use to write our scripts:

Collaboration Data Objects (CDO) 1.2.1

CDO is a wrapper around MAPI and is still shipped with Outlook 2003. However, CDO isn’t often used because its functionality has been superseded by other libraries, so we won’t refer to it further.

Collaboration Data Objects 2.0 (CDOSYS)

CDOSYS (cdosys.dll) is designed to let you build applications that create and send messages using the Windows 2000 (or later) SMTP service, or its Exchange equivalent. CDOSYS makes it easy to build properly formatted plain-text or HTML mail messages, so we’ll be using it in some of our recipes to allow scripts to generate and send messages quickly without having to implement their own transport mechanism. Every Windows 2000, Windows XP Professional, and Windows Server 2003 computer includes CDOSYS.

Collaboration Data Objects for Exchange (CDOEX)

CDOEX is designed specifically to allow access to items in the Exchange store. For example, CDOEX provides COM classes for Appointment, Message, CalendarMessage, and Folder objects (among others); the properties and interfaces exposed on these objects allow you to manipulate directly most data items kept in mailbox stores. Normally, you’ll use CDOEX only when you need to create or manipulate items that live in folders within mailboxes (or the folders themselves). CDOEX ships with Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 2003; if you want to use CDOEX-based programs or scripts, you’ll need to install ESM on the computer you run them from.

Collaboration Data Objects for Exchange Management (CDOEXM)

In Exchange 2000, Microsoft made the wise decision to split management tasks (such as creating new mailbox databases) from tasks involving items in the mail store. So, we got CDOEXM, which is the core set of classes for manipulating Exchange objects like servers, storage groups, and mailbox databases. CDOEXM provides functionality for creating, removing, mounting, dismounting, and setting properties on these objects, so we’ll call on it for those tasks. As with CDOEX, the CDOEXM library is only found on Exchange servers and computers where the Exchange System Manager has been installed.

Active Directory Services Interface (ADSI)

ADSI is designed to provide a set of interfaces for connecting to Active Directory domain controllers, reading data stored in the domain or configuration naming contexts, and modifying it—all with appropriate access controls. Exchange stores all of its configuration information in Active Directory, and all user account data lives there as well, so being able to access the directory will be critical to scripting most common tasks. ADSI scripting is covered in great detail in O’Reilly’s Active Directory, Second Edition, so if you’re interested in a deeper understanding of it (as opposed to the strictly functional approach we’ll take here) that’s a good place to start.

Windows Management Instrumentation (WMI)

WMI is the name given to a broad range of COM classes used to monitor and control various parts of Windows. WMI classes can expose performance data, provide read-only or read/write access to various properties of system objects, and allow those objects to be created or destroyed. Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 2003 both provide WMI classes for specific Exchange objects, but there are many more of them in Exchange Server 2003, including classes for links, queues, folder trees, logons, and mailboxes.

Active Data Objects (ADO)

ADO is a set of interfaces that expose structured data (normally, from a database like Access or SQL Server) to programs and scripts. In our case, ADO gives us a straightforward way to iterate through collections of users and groups, as well as other Active Directory objects. Normally, ADO code will be used in conjunction with WMI, ADSI, or the CDOEX and CDOEXM libraries.

Where to Get Tools

Over time, Microsoft has gotten more generous with its tools. With Exchange 5.5, there were only a few tools shipped on the product CD; most of the good stuff was available only to customers who’d purchased Premier-level support contracts, and many of those tools were officially unsupported. We made a conscious decision to steer away from those tools in this book; instead, we’ll stick with tools that are available from, and supported by, Microsoft as part of its Exchange and Windows platforms (with occasional exceptions for extraordinarily useful tools that aren’t officially supported). These tools come from a variety of places:

  • Microsoft finally has an Exchange-specific tools page at http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/tools/2003.asp. This is the best place to start, as it will always contain the latest supported build of released tools; for example, the exmerge tool is included on the product CD, but there’s a newer version available from this page. Don’t let the name fool you; this page contains tools that work with both Exchange 2000 and Exchange Server 2003. Microsoft periodically releases updates to these tools in packages called web releases (WRs), which are more or less like service packs for the add-on toolset. There’s also an option to download All Tools, which we highly recommend, as having the tools available locally may mean you won’t have to go searching for tools during a crisis.

  • A number of tools are available in the support\utils directory of the Exchange CD itself. If you have the Exchange Server 2003 CD, use it because many of the tools it contains are newer than the versions shipped with Exchange 2000.

  • The diagnostic tools used for Active Directory troubleshooting are found on the Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003 CDs, in the support\tools directory. Besides these diagnostic tools, the support tools archive includes a wealth of other useful tools.

  • The Windows resource kits (see http://www.microsoft.com/windows/reskits/) include both information and tools. For this book, the most useful tools are probably the Windows Server 2003 Resource Kit Tools and the Windows 2000 Resource Kit Tools, both of which are freely available from this page.

Finding More Information

Because there’s so much to learn about Exchange, this book alone can’t possibly teach you everything you might want to know. Accordingly, you might find some of the following references useful.

Key Microsoft Documents

Starting with Exchange Server 2003’s release, Microsoft has put much more effort into building administrator-friendly supplementary documentation. The product documentation included on the CD has always been decent, but now the Exchange user education (UE) team has been tasked with producing supplementary white papers that cover selected aspects of Exchange administration in much more detail. Throughout the book, we’ll refer to various white papers and how-to documents published by Exchange UE (and their Windows counterparts). The canonical source for these documents is Microsoft’s Exchange library (http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/library), although many of the most useful documents are posted in various places on Microsoft TechNet (http://www.microsoft.com/technet). To be more specific, some of the papers and documents you should be familiar with include:

Because these URLs are subject to change, we maintain a list of them at this book’s companion web site at http://www.exchangecookbook.com.

Command-Line Tools

Most of Microsoft’s command-line tools have reference help available, usually visible when you invoke the tool with the /? switch. In addition, searching for the tool’s name in Windows’ online help will often produce valuable additional information. To keep the focus tight for the recipes, we’re not going to document every mode of every switch of every command, so this help may be valuable.

Microsoft Knowledge Base

There’s good news and bad news. The good news is that Microsoft invests a great deal of effort in building their knowledge base (KB), and it contains a huge wealth of information on Exchange and Windows. The bad news is that actually finding the nugget of information you’re looking for can be very difficult, and the Microsoft support site’s lame search interface doesn’t make it any easier. Throughout the book, we’ll cite KB articles by number and title “MS KB 316279 (XGEN: Tools That Are Included with the Exchange 2000 Server CD-ROM)” is an example. If you’re searching for articles on a particular topic, the fastest way to find them is often to use Google and append site:support.microsoft.com onto your search terms.

Microsoft Developers’ Network (MSDN)

Documenting your development platform thoroughly is very important if you want to attract developers to it. Microsoft understands this pretty well; the MSDN web site is probably the best example of a broad platform documentation site currently in operation. For each of the platforms Microsoft supports (Exchange and Windows being the two most interesting for us), there are tons of samples showing how particular functions and objects in the platform SDK can be used. The Exchange Server 2003 SDK (linked from http://msdn.microsoft.com/library/default.asp?url=/library/en-us/e2k3/e2k3/e2k3_welcome_to_exchange.asp) is updated quarterly, and provides a wealth of information.

MSDN is the best source for complete documentation on CDOEX, CDOEXM, and WMI; in the “See Also” section for many of the recipes, you’ll find pointers to documentation from MSDN.

Web Sites, Newsgroups, and Mailing Lists

When first learning Exchange, the vibrant and active community of administrators who gave freely of their time to help newbies was of great help to all of us. That spirit is still alive and well in a number of places, bolstered by a significant online presence of Microsoft support engineers and volunteer Most Valuable Professionals (MVPs) who are selected by Microsoft on the basis of the quality and volume of online assistance they provide.

There are a number of very good places to learn more about, or get help with, Exchange:

  • The Microsoft.public.exchange.* Usenet hierarchy is populated by MVPs and Microsoft support engineers, although the amount of noise is sometimes high. Thanks to the power of Google Groups, this is often my first stop when I’m trying to figure out how to do something that’s new to me.

  • The Microsoft Exchange product group maintains a group blog, cleverly titled “You Had Me at EHLO,” at http://blogs.msdn.com/exchange. It’s a must-read.

  • The Exchange2000 and Exchange2003 mailing lists at Yahoo! Groups are valuable places to ask, and answer, questions about the respective versions of Exchange. Their signal-to-noise ratios are still pretty good, even though both lists are busy.

  • Andy Webb and his team at Simpler-Webb, Inc., maintain a set of FAQs for various versions of Exchange at http://www.swinc.com/resource/exchange.htm. These FAQs are by no means comprehensive, but they cover most of the big issues for Exchange 5.5, Exchange 2000, and Exchange Server 2003.

  • There are a number of web sites that cover Exchange more or less exclusively. Among them are the MSExchange group blog maintained by Chris Meirick, Neil Hobson, and William Lefkovics (http://www.msexchangeblog.org); the MSExchange.org web site, and the Exchange and Outlook Administrator site (http://www.exchangeadmin.com), companion to the magazine of the same name. The Windows IT Pro Magazine web site (http://www.windowsitpro.com) also carries a good deal of Exchange content.

Books and Magazines

If you’re looking for more depth on particular Exchange features, sometimes a good book is the best place to look:

  • Secure Messaging with Exchange Server 2003 (Robichaux; Microsoft Press, 2004; ISBN 0735619905) focuses entirely on securing Exchange Server 2003 and its various components, including Outlook Web Access, the information store, and Exchange ActiveSync. (A companion edition, Secure Messaging with Exchange Server 2000, is specific to Exchange 2000.) There is also a companion web site maintained by Paul, with sample chapters, at http://www.e2ksecurity.com.

  • Exchange Server 2003 24Seven (McBee; Sybex, 2004; ISBN 0782142508) is an excellent and comprehensive treatment of Exchange Server 2003 administration. Its predecessor, Exchange 2000 24Seven (McBee; Sybex, 2001; ISBN 0782127975), is equally good.

  • Exchange Server 2003 Distilled (Schnoll; Wiley, 2004; ISBN 032124592X) is a solid, no-nonsense reference book written by a member of the Exchange documentation team. It contains lots of tips, tricks, and tidbits that we haven’t seen covered elsewhere.

Besides these books, there are a number of magazines that cover Exchange, Windows, and scripting administration topics:

  • Windows IT Pro Magazine (http://www.windowsitpro.com) covers Exchange each month, along with general Windows and Active Directory coverage.

  • The Exchange and Outlook Administrator newsletter (http://www.exchangeadmin.com) is a monthly ad-free newsletter published by the Windows and .NET folks; it features nothing but articles on Exchange and Outlook, mostly focused on intermediate- to advanced-level administrative tasks.

  • The Windows Scripting Solutions newsletter (http://www.winnetmag.com/WindowsScripting/) focuses exclusively on Windows scripting, including WMI and ADSI. Much of the material applies to Exchange management as well.

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