Office 365 for Exchange Professionals: The book is built!


office-365-for-exchange-pros-cover-full-option-1

I’ve been asked what exactly is in Office 365 for Exchange Professionals, the eBook designed to help Exchange on-premises administrators understand how to transition workload to the cloud. Well, as the eBook has been built to be ready for distribution at Microsoft Ignite, I can tell you what is in the first version. The chapters are:

Chapter 1: An Overview of Office 365

Chapter 2: Making the decision to move to Office 365

Chapter 3: Migrating to Office 365

Chapter 4: Managing hybrid connections

Chapter 5: Managing Exchange Online

Chapter 6: Managing Exchange Online mailboxes

Chapter 7: Managing Groups

Chapter 8: Managing public folders

Chapter 9: Managing addressing

Chapter 10: Managing hybrid recipients

Chapter 11: Managing Mail Flow

Chapter 12: Managing Clients

Chapter 13: Retaining Office 365 Information

Chapter 14: Office 365 eDiscovery

Chapter 15: Information Rights Management

Chapter 16: Data Loss Prevention

Chapter 17: Office 365 Auditing

Chapter 18: Doing more with Office 365

Appendix A: Directory Synchronization

At 626 pages, we ended up with a much larger book than anticipated.  Some sponsors will have copies for distribution at Microsoft Ignite, so if you attend the conference in Chicago next month, you can maybe pick up a copy. I’ll let you know the sponsors and the arrangements that they make for distribution later on in the month.

If you’re at Ignite, make sure to come by my “Bumps and Blips on the Road to Cloud Nirvana: From On-Premises Microsoft Exchange to Office 365” session (BRK2164) on Thursday at 1:30PM. You never know what might happen there.

But if you’re not going to Ignite, you can head over to the book’s sales site and buy a downloadable copy. We will make copies available on May 4.

The first version is only the start of this eBook. Because Office 365 changes so quickly, we plan to make updated versions available on a regular basis. Because we have been heads-down to get the first version out the door, we have not figured out how to price updates, but we will get to that over the next week or so.

In the meantime, now that the first version is done, I think we’ll all have a little rest…

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Exchange/Office 365 MVP sessions at Ignite


Many people have asked me to recommend some sessions to go to at Microsoft Ignite (a good planning tool to build your own schedule is available online). With nearly 800 sessions to select from over five days, there’s enough going on to suit every one of the 15,000 or so people who will be there. I’ll publish my own schedule closer to the event so you know the sessions that I plan to attend, but to start the ball rolling, here are a set of sessions given by MVPs working in the Exchange and Office 365 space. MVPs are supposed to be independent experts, so there should be a reasonable amount of focused, practical, and above all independent advice given in each session.

Scheduling is still ongoing and some change can be expected as Microsoft juggles with the rooms so that the most popular speakers are matched with the biggest rooms. Microsoft is tracking the numbers of people who select each session and add them to their Ignite calendars, so they have a pretty good idea of what should happen. Speakers can see this data too, so I know that at the time of writing 425 people have signed up to attend my “Bumps and Blips” session. It’s also true that some inconsistencies need to be ironed out of the schedule, such as the fact that Paul Robichaux is currently scheduled to speak in two places at 5PM on Thursday. That should be worth seeing.

The session descriptions shown here are not mine – I took the text from the session catalog! Make of it what you will… The two workshops at the end of the list are scheduled for the Sunday before Ignite starts.

MVPs Unplugged: Real-World Microsoft Exchange Server Designs and Deployments

Jeff Guillet, Nicolas Blank, Paul Robichaux and Siegfried Jagott

Monday, 3:15PM

Join this session to engage in a dynamic question and answer session with some of the best Exchange MVPs in the business. We make time for both the moderated questions and your own questions that you can ask during the session. Topics are driven by the audience!

Planning and Deploying Call via Work for Enterprise PBX Users

Brian Ricks

Tuesday, 9AM

Want to know how to take best advantage of your aging PBX system while moving to Skype for Business? Come learn about Call via Work, the new capability that allows everyone in an enterprise to have a great voice experience even with their old PBX phone. We not only review the capabilities of the feature but also the configuration and topology requirements so you can quickly get started planning and deploying.

Ten Ways to Secure Your Office 365 Tenants

Brian Reid

Tuesday, 10:45AM

Do you want to ensure that your data in Office 365 is protected? Then come to this session where we look at ten things to help you further secure the access to the data over and above the security already in Office 365. We demonstrate and discuss features such as data loss prevention (DLP), message encryption , rights management protection (RMS), multi-factor authentication (MFA), client security such as patching and MDM, sharing content internally and externally, network encryption (SSL), AD FS restrictions, and anti-spam settings. But there is more, and we plan to cover that too!

Experts Unplugged: Exchange Top Issues

Jeff Guillet

Wednesday, 9AM

The unplugged panel is your chance to hear directly from product experts in an unscripted, conversational format. The panel includes a mix of perspectives—from engineering to support to real-world deployment experts—so you get answers that range from visionary to practical. Bring your tough questions and hear them answered live on stage, as top experts discuss the issues that matter to you.

Exchange Hybrid: Make Office 365 Work for You

Michael Van Horenbeeck

Wednesday, 1:30PM

Exchange hybrid deployments are one of the most common Office 365 configurations. In this session, we dig into the architecture of hybrid deployments, review the deployment options, discuss the capabilities of the hybrid configuration wizard, and review the co-existence user experiences.

Microsoft Exchange Server 2013 Public Folder Migration

Siegfried Jagott

Wednesday, 3:15PM

Learn how to migrate Public Folders from Exchange Server 2007 and 2010 to Modern Public Folders in Exchange Server 2013. This Instructor-led Lab walks you through all of the PowerShell cmdlets to perform a migration. You also learn about administration of Modern Public Folders. Steps to migrate to Microsoft Office 365 are discussed, but not included in the labs due to time constraints. The ILL is led by an Exchange MVP expert.

Bumps and Blips on the Road to Cloud Nirvana: From On-Premises Microsoft Exchange to Office 365

Tony Redmond

Thursday 1:30PM

Come learn from one of the most experienced Exchange MVPs what it’s like to make the journey from on-premises Exchange to Exchange Online. It’s easy to start using Microsoft Office 365 if it’s a fresh start, but things can get more complex when you are moving your existing users and content to Exchange Online. To be successful, you have to get comfortable with the cloud, understand its limits, and be able to embrace and utilize its strengths. The presenter has strong opinions on what works and what doesn’t. You’ll hear what’s good and not so good about Exchange Online and how to make it work for you. Intensely practical and honest, this is a must-attend session for anyone who’s contemplating the move to Exchange Online.

Experts Unplugged: Exchange Online Migrations

Michael Van Horenbeeck with Tim Heeney (Microsoft)

Thursday, 5PM

The unplugged panel is your chance to hear directly from product experts in an unscripted, conversational format. The panel includes a mix of perspectives—from engineering to support to real-world deployment experts—so you get answers that range from visionary to practical. Bring your tough questions and hear them answered live on stage, as top experts discuss the issues that matter to you.

Microsoft Office 365 MVP Panel

Brett Hill, Darrell Webster, J. Peter Bruzzese, Jethro Seghers, Martina Grom and Sean McNeill

Thursday, 5PM

Learn from the Office 365 experts. This session brings together a few of Office 365 MVP experts to share and discuss the hot topics they have seen while working with customers. Bring your questions and expect to interact in this session.

Exchange Online Archiving: Notes from the Field

Paul Robichaux

Thursday, 5PM

Users love email—so much so that their mailboxes can grow almost without limit over time. Archiving old mail helps keep things tidy, and Microsoft has offered personal archives as part of Exchange since Exchange 2010. Moving your archives to Exchange Online Archiving (EOA) gives you flexible archiving, but to get the most from EOA, you’ll need to know how it works, how EOA integrates with on-premises and Office 365 mailboxes, how to efficiently move your users’ data into EOA, and how to manage and troubleshoot both the import process and ongoing operations— luckily, all topics covered in this session.

Servicing Microsoft Exchange Server: Update Your Knowledge

Brent Alinger and Paul Robichaux

Thursday, 5PM

This session takes a close look at the servicing model for Exchange Server. Join us to gain a deep understanding of the update process for Exchange Server, including the support requirement for Cumulative Updates. You won’t just hear the Microsoft strategy but also learn how this strategy is applied in the field with first-hand experience from an Exchange MVP expert.

MVPs Unplugged: The Journey to Microsoft Exchange Online

Jeff Guillet, Michael Van Horenbeeck, Nicolas Blank and Tony Redmond

Friday, 10:45AM

Join this session to engage in a dynamic question and answer session with some of the best Exchange MVPs in the business. There is time for both the moderated questions and questions that you can ask during the session. Topics are driven by the audience!

Get Ready to Deploy Exchange Server 2013 (Workshop)

Nicolas Blank

Learn from Exchange MVP experts and jumpstart your Exchange Server 2013 deployment. The day focuses on building a design for a selected scenario and provides opportunities to test your deployment knowledge first hand. This pre-day session provides deep hands-on opportunities and a chance to learn from experts in the field.

Building a Hybrid Exchange Server 2013 Environment (Workshop)

Michael Van Horenbeeck and Nathan O’Bryan

In this pre-day session, learn how to deploy a hybrid Exchange Server 2013 environment from scratch. Through a mix of tutoring and hands-on exercises, gain experience in how to install and configure Microsoft Azure Active Directory Synchronization Services (AAD Sync) and Active Directory Federation Services for Office 365. Learn how to use the Exchange Server 2013 Hybrid Configuration Wizard to set up a hybrid deployment and then move mailboxes to Microsoft Office 365. The lab is hosted in Microsoft Azure, so all you need to bring is your own laptop!

Whatever sessions you chose to attend, remember to pace yourself and not try and get to everything. The sessions you don’t manage to get to will be available on Microsoft’s Channel 9 video streaming service soon afterwards, so you’ll be able to catch up that way. And of course, make sure that you include some after-hours events in your schedule as all work and no play makes anyone pretty dull.

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Posted in Cloud, Email, Exchange, Exchange 2013, Office 365 | Tagged , , , | 2 Comments

Ignite sessions and after-hours events


Microsoft’s Ignite conference takes place in Chicago from May 4-8. I will be presenting twice. During the first session, I’ll examine the path taken to move workload from Exchange on-premises deployments to Office 365, including a discussion about the bumps and thumps that can occur along the way. This session is scheduled for 1:30 pm on Thursday, May 7. Rooms have not yet been allocated to sessions, possibly because Microsoft is waiting to see what demand for the various sessions are indicated by people adding them to their personal Ignite schedule. If you’ve registered for Ignite (the session is now sold out), you can create your schedule online.

Nirvana - maybe!

Nirvana – maybe!

The second session is at 10:45 am on Friday, May 8. There are many downsides in having a session scheduled so late in a conference. First, people are tired after four full days of chasing around a conference center going from session to session. Second, people are even more tired because they will have attended the various parties and other after-hours events that occur at major conferences like Ignite. Third, those who do turn up to panel Q&A sessions like “The Journey to Microsoft Exchange Online” often come equipped with questions that no one else has been able to answer during the rest of the conference, which then leads to some entertaining “ohs” and “ahs” from panel members.

MVP panel session

Speaking of after-hours event, I am not a huge fan of attending these events because they tend to be noisy, crowded, and feature pretty poor food and drink (calculated to a low price point). So I avoid most of these events. However, I will be attending two at Ignite. The first is the UC RoundTable organized by MVP Jeff Guillet (who is technical editor for the Office 365 for Exchange Professionals eBook) on Wednesday night.

Before then, on Tuesday night I’ll be at the “ScheduledMaintenance” party, which is organized by ENow Software and sponsored by a group of other companies, including Kizan Technologies. Apparently ENow might run the final of their Exchange Trivia Quiz in front of a drink-crazed audience, which might be fun, especially as I hear that there will be quite a few dollars at stake for the winner. I also hear rumor of some interesting guests at that event, so we’ll have to wait and see.

I’m not sure about the Ignite Attendee party. It might be good – then again, it might be more of the same ‘ol conference hang-around-and drink bad beer kind of gathering that I don’t like. But in any case, I shall have to be early to bed because I have that Office 365 nirvana session to give on Thursday afternoon.

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Slipping standards in how Office 365 is reported and analyzed in the technology press


Those who observe the way that news is reported about developments in the Office 365 space might be uncomfortably aware that standards are slipping. The basic problem is that once Microsoft posts some information about a product announcement or other development on the Office 365 blog, it is recycled over the next few hours in an uncritical and undemanding manner. In fact, some of the reports that appear on so-called independent news web sites are so close to the original that they might almost be accused of plagiarism.

As an example, compare the reports on major web sites about Microsoft’s announcement that basic mobile device management capability is being provided in Office 365 and consider how much text is taken directly from Microsoft’s post and how much thought has been put into the topic by the author. Churning out articles by reusing broad swathes of Microsoft text is certainly a fast way to publish, but how much added value is present?

I wrote about the MDM for Office 365 announcement too, but hope that I didn’t fall into the same trap. You can make your own minds up.

I’m sure Microsoft is very happy to see this trend. Their carefully-crafted text is recycled without challenge and the marketing message is passed unaltered, all without any great effort by Microsoft to convince journalists and bloggers of the worth of their announcement.

I find this trend disturbing and regrettable. It’s important that companies like Microsoft should share information that they consider to be important with the industry; it is equally important that journalists should parse, analyze, and assess that information before reporting their view of what the information means. Ideally, the announcement should be put into context for readers so that they understand its importance and how the new information fits into the overall picture. But that just doesn’t happen as often as it should.

Another worrying trend that is now rife in technical web sites is the use of gratuitously inflated headlines that are barely relevant to the content of the accompanying article. These headlines are there to grab attention, which is fine, but it would be nice if they were in some way related to the text. A recent example is the article proclaiming that “Security survey shows Exchange as a sitting duck for attacks” (yes, I know that this is not an Office 365 article, but the piece really grabbed my attention for all the wrong reasons). The headline is startling and conveys a message that Exchange administrators ought to be worried about, but the article never lived up to the headline and petered out in a sad collection of banal observations that really didn’t amount to much. On the other hand, I’m sure that all the companies mentioned in the article were extremely happy to be featured so prominently.

Of course, I do not mean that editorial independence was compromised in any way here, but sponsored content has a habit of being presented as factual reporting. Even when content is sponsored by a company, it can be presented in a lucid and knowledgeable manner, as is the case with Paul Robichaux’s piece on “The Sony Hack: Vital Lessons for Microsoft Admins“.

The question is why standards are slipping. It’s probably not due to just one reason. Instead, I think there are several influences at work. Here are the top three that I have seen:

The need for speed: Microsoft often posts new items at 8 am (Pacific) and a race begins to see which web site is first to report the news. The site that is first is the site that gets most page views and page views are the critical factor in driving advertising revenue. The need to get something posted fast leads writers to cut and paste from Microsoft’s text and create yet another me-too report. They have no time for analysis or critical review of what has been announced, but the report is deemed successful because it appears ahead of competitors. Tweets inform all and sundry that the report is available first and the cycle starts again as writers wait for the next pronouncement from Redmond.

Poor editing oversight: It would be nice if editors reviewed the text of reports to weigh whether the content adds any value to the discussion, but most do not. Instead, editors want to see a certain amount of new content posted daily and they want that content to look good (in other words, it is nicely formatted and is accompanied by some attractive graphics). This, together with a salacious and often misleading headline is enough to keep an editor happy.

In the past, good editors would parse and interrogate copy provided by writers to hone the content into the best possible shape. Leading statements were struck down, bland assertions were eliminated, and the focus was on fact and analysis. The resulting articles were more informative, but they cost a lot more to produce and were slower to appear, something that didn’t matter so much in a world when monthly print publications were the norm in the technology world and the process was supported by lucrative print advertising. We’re clearly not going back to that world – my point is that quality is achievable if sufficient time is devoted to writing and editing.

Lack of technical knowledge and hands-on experience of the technology: Perhaps the biggest challenge facing those who write about Office 365 is their lack of hands-on knowledge of the technology. A good example is the article headlined “10 Steps for Ensuring a Smooth Migration from Exchange Server to Office 365“, which really doesn’t probe past the basics of approaching a migration. The author might have intended this to be the case, in which case they might have included the word “basic” in the title. However, as everything in the article has been recycled and regurgitated elsewhere multiple times, I suspect that a lack of experience is more the case as the article never demonstrated that the author had actually moved any mailboxes to Office 365.

If someone doesn’t understand a technology, it is terribly difficult to assess the importance of any development. You can accept Microsoft’s view of the matter, which is hardly unbiased, or you can seek advice and guidance from those who might know, which means that your report will be slower and the editor unhappy. The problem is compounded by the rapid development cycle used by the service and the speed in which features appear, are adjusted, and then made available in general release. Anyone who has followed the evolution of Office Delve or Office 365 Groups will appreciate the truth in this assessment.

Office 365 is not going to slow down anytime soon. Microsoft is not going to stop pumping out blogs and press releases to trumpet the release of new features. And writers are going to remain under pressure to report fast to help drive page views and increase ad revenue. No one is going to delay a report for an hour to allow for in-depth consideration of an announcement before deciding how best to communicate the news. Unfortunately it’s the kind of world in which we live today.

Apart from favoring sites where some degree of writing and editorial standards have been maintained (and there are a few). I’m not sure what can be done to improve matters. I doubt the problem sites will pay any attention to any protests that are made. After all, they have other things to be getting on with, such as pumping out more sub-standard articles.

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Exchange Unwashed Digest March 2015


March 2015 was a busy month, if only because I was heads-down writing content for the “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals” eBook that is scheduled for launch at Microsoft Ignite in Chicago next month. At this point it’s a matter of editing material and making sure that it kept updated to reflect the pace of change that occurs inside Office 365, which can be pretty rapid at times with not all changes being flagged in advance. So it’s been an interesting experience to write about an ever-changing vista.

In any case, my Exchange Unwashed blog on WindowsITPro.com had to be taken care of too, so here’s what appeared on the blog during March 2015.

MDM for Office 365 – better than EAS policies, but not quite full mobile device management (Mar 31): ActiveSync (EAS) policies have been used to control mobile devices for years, but the protocol was designed a long time ago (in Internet terms) and doesn’t handle the kind of mobile device access that occurs in a more-than-email world. So Microsoft have included basic mobile device management (MDM) in Office 365. It won’t meet the MDM needs of the more complex enterprises but it will be sufficient for the masses, which is what is needed for Office 365.

Using the updated version of the Office 365 Admin app (Mar 26): Microsoft has released an updated version of the app to help Office 365 administrators run their tenants. The app is OK – just OK. It could be so much better and hopefully it will be in time, but not right now.

RBAC Manager: making Exchange role-based access control more understandable (Mar 24): RBAC Manager is a CodePlex project, which means that both the source and executable are available to you. It’s a pretty good utility for managing RBAC roles, assignments, and definitions for Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013, and (with some caveats), Exchange Online. I like the program a lot and contacted the author to tell him so and to urge him to improve the code so that some of the flaws were addressed. Here’s hoping that the issues will be resolved, but today’s code is pretty good and very useful.

The various flavors of Outlook (Mar 19): Sometimes you might imagine that Microsoft has rebranded everything in sight to be Outlook. It makes sense to exploit the Outlook brand, but it can be confusing with Outlook desktop and Outlook apps and Outlook mobile and Outlook for Mac and so on… So this post attempts to bring everything together. And yes, I know it omits Outlook Mobile Access (OMA). That’s because it is a dead Outlook: it has ceased to be, is no more, and gone to the great byte wastebasket somewhere in the sky…

Exchange 2013 CU8 appears. Instant boredom ensues – but for the best possible reason (Mar 17): I really upset some people by calling Exchange 2013 CU8 “boring”. But CU8 is, and it’s a good thing. It’s good because no problems have been reported since Microsoft shipped CU8 and it’s good that the software has achieved a solid level of reliability and quality. But it’s bad that Exchange 2013 has entered the point in its lifecycle when nothing exciting can be expected in future updates. Not that I wasn’t ecstatic about the public folder updates in CU8… Oh no…

Microsoft releases Delve after six months incubation in Office 365 First Release program (Mar 16): Some could care less about Delve and rightly so, especially if you are running on-premises software as Delve is just for the cloud. But I rather like it, just like I appreciate most knowledge management software, which Delve is really. Not that Microsoft will ever apply such a moniker to Delve. That would be the kiss of death, or something like that. But Delve is now in the wild and you can use it if you’re an Office 365 customer, which is good.

Why PSTs should never show their faces on a file share (Mar 12): One of my more popular rants on the horrible nature of PSTs and why they should never be placed on a network file share. Except that unlike most rants, there is some good logic behind this recommendation.

Stopping reply-all responses to messages is harder than you might think (Mar 10): Let’s face it: we all have probably used reply-all to respond to a message when we should not have. And then cursed Outlook and Microsoft and anyone else who contributed to the creation of the reply-all plague. You might then look for a solution to eradicate the problem and come across some interesting work done by Microsoft Research, which is good for Outlook, but not so helpful for the many other clients that we use today.

Clutter evolves to become more useful – but still only for Office 365 (Mar 5): Clutter is a great example of a feature Microsoft introduced into Office 365 without any management capabilities. For all that, I quite like Clutter and consider it a great way of eliminating rubbish from my Inbox, which is why I liked the addition of some administrative features to support Clutter. Still not enough, but at least it’s a start.

Do Exchange Online backups make sense? (Mar 3): After sitting down and talking to the nice people at Spanning.com, who have a product to take online backups of Exchange Online mailboxes, I wondered if these backups make any sense at all. Maybe they do. Your choice.

Now we’re into April and I have to complete the book, make sure it is formatted nicely (always interesting for eBooks), create some presentations for Ignite, and take care of the blog. I shall be busy.

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Posted in Cloud, Email, Exchange, Office 365, Technology, Writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Cloud services: losing control over the small things


A number of interesting UI changes occurred inside Office 365 in the recent past that caused discomfort to some people who don’t really like change. Cue a torrent of protest in places like the Office 365 IT Network, much to the amusement of those who run on-premises software who wondered why the cloud folks were getting all bent out of shape when the promise of evergreen software was being delivered in all its glory.

One of the changes was pretty trivial and involved changing “Outlook” for “Mail” in the Office 365 app launcher. As you can see below, the same familiar Outlook logo was retained, so only the text underneath changed.

The Office 365 App Launcher

The Office 365 App Launcher

The other change occurred when a Groups notification icon showed up in the menu bar. Apparently this is part of an effort to provide a common approach to notifications generated across Office 365 and will be used when Office 365 Groups support the social networking “like” feature, which is due soon.

Groups Notification Icon

Groups Notification Icon

In any case, Microsoft quickly removed the offending icon, but not before many protests had been voiced.

In some respects the folks making the protests are right. They are administrators or support personnel who help Office 365 users get the most out of the system and the appearance of new options or changes to well-known options are liable to cause users to worry and ask questions. Apart from anything else, no warning was given of these changes as they were not flagged in the Office 365 Roadmap.

But here’s the thing. When you sign up for Office 365 – or any other cloud service – you accept whatever the cloud provider delivers in return for your monthly subscription. It’s different to when you exert total control over an on-premises environment and can say exactly how and when software is deployed. That’s fine; it’s your deployment and you manage the software, hardware, and network. But that’s not the case when you subscribe to a massive multi-tenant platform where things are run by the book (according to the cloud provider) and you don’t get to vote. In fact, your opinion is hardly ever asked or required.

Losing control – or rather ceding control to the cloud provider – is just part of the journey that companies make when they move workload from on-premises to the cloud. Most of the time the loss of control is more than compensated by the extra functionality, good service, and economic advantages that can be gained from cloud platforms. This is especially true for small companies who essentially get to use IT systems that they would never be able to purchase for on-premises use.

You can complain all you like when changes like this happen in a cloud system. Venting is good to a point but it won’t get you anywhere. Control is lost. You can’t and won’t be able to change it. It’s best to accept that this is the way things are and invest your energies in looking opportunities to extract more value from the cloud.

Which brings me back to “Office 365 for Exchange Professionals“. We’re still on track to have a great book at Microsoft Ignite in the first week in May. The last few weeks have been “interesting” because lots of change has occurred inside Office 365, mostly around the introduction of the new Compliance Center, which is now showing up in some First Release tenants. The Compliance Center draws together aspects of compliance functionality that are scattered across the Office 365 applications such as retention, preservation, deletion, and search. Lots of good stuff there, but also lots to change in chapters to reflect the new functionality.

And the rapid cadence of development is the joy of cloud services – or the despair, if you’re writing a book about the platform or supporting users. But we signed up for it, so we have no reason to complain. Do we?

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PowerShell to the rescue to control Exchange 2013 logging


I’m sure that you, like me, pay close attention to Microsoft’s stated requirements to install Exchange 2013.  It is, after all, gripping reading of the kind that is guaranteed to lull the reader into a deep sleep within 22 nanoseconds. In short, it’s material that you try and read just once as you prepare to install Exchange. Or maybe not, if you assume that installing Exchange 2013 must be pretty similar to previous versions and therefore commit one of the cardinal sins of technologists.

The requirements state that you need to have at least 30GB free space on the disk on which you want to install Exchange 2013. The Exchange setup program is picky on this point too and won’t allow you to proceed if it feels that too little disk is being placed at its disposal. We can therefore conclude that all of the space is needed for important functions, such as logging every step that the setup program takes as it installs Exchange. You’ll be glad that this happens if a problem is encountered during setup.

But after a successful setup, when a brand spanking-new version of Exchange has been laid down on a server, you’ll find that lots of disk space can be recovered through a few simple clean-up steps. I commonly delete the contents of the ExchangeSetupLogs folder, saving just ExchangeSetup.log as a record of the installatio. In passing, I should note that from CU5 onward, Exchange is better at cleaning up as it removes the temporary scripts used by the installation. I then move on to the \Logging\Lodctr_backups folder and remove all the files there. These files are used to update Performance Monitor counters and they are absolutely unrequired once used. I can’t quite work out why the Setup program can’t clean these files up following a successful installation – the problem persists to this day, even with Exchange 2013 CU8. The same behaviour exists for Exchange 2010.

Exchange 2013 folder size

Exchange 2013 folder size

Following some spring cleaning, the size of the complete directory tree created and populated for an Exchange 2013 installation will be anything from 8 GB to 16 GB, depending on the logs that are around. The screen shot shown above is from an Exchange 2013 server after the CU8 update and after some clean-up operations were performed.

But I bet it’s not when you go and check your servers because Exchange 2013 is extraordinarily prolific when it comes to logging. Everything possible that can be logged will be logged from incoming SMTP messages to OAB generation to the work done by mailbox assistants in a set of 133 folders under the \Logging root. There used to be (only) 110 folders (CU1), so the amount of logging done on an Exchange 2013 is growing.

I have written about this topic in the past and pointed out that many of the logs generated by Exchange 2013 arise from the activities of Managed Availability and diagnostics logging. Some administrators report that it is common to find that over 25GB of log files build up relatively quickly, which means that the 30GB required for Exchange 2013 isn’t used for things like program files and the like. The vast majority is consumed by logs.

I like logs as much as the average person does. Or perhaps even a little more. But keeping quite so much information in quite so much detail seems a tad excessive, especially if you run Exchange 2013 on relatively small servers.

One obvious answer is to use larger disks for Exchange servers. After all, no self-respecting administrator would be seen dead if their servers had anything less than 1 TB available for Exchange. But the unwary amongst us and those who never go looking into the bowels of logging might just be surprised that Exchange absorbs quite so much disk space for log files.

What’s worse is that Exchange offers no method to control the log files. There’s no handy PowerShell cmdlet to clean things up like:

New-LogCleanUpOperation –TerminateUpTo 1-Oct-2014 –DontAskMeAnyIrritatingQuestions –TargetServer ExServer1

It would be even better if the Exchange Administration Center (EAC) included an option to allow the generation and clean-up of log files to be controlled on all servers across the organization. In other words, define a policy that Exchange then applies to all servers.

We can but wait for Microsoft to recognize that the issue exists and does something about it. They probably don’t care too much that the logs accumulate over time on the 100,000 servers that run inside Exchange Online because these servers are periodically taken offline, stripped to bare metal, and reinstalled with the latest versions of Windows and Exchange.

Rebuilding servers is certainly one way to remove logs. Those who seek a less dramatic solution can write some PowerShell to scan the \Logging folder tree and remove old logs. Or take advantage of the work that MVP Brian Reid has done and use his script. Seems like a good idea!

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Posted in Exchange, Exchange 2013 | Tagged , , , , , , , | 9 Comments