Brick backups and Exchange – not recommended


I was recently asked whether a company should invest in brick-level backup for Exchange 2010. This request came as quite a surprise because I hadn’t run into anyone who was interested in this kind of technology for a number of years. Curiosity got the better of me so I agreed to have a look into the issue.

The first order of business is to understand why the requirement for brick-level backup might exist. Generally it’s because a company wants to be able to take selective backups of one or more mailboxes rather than a complete database. I could understand why this would be the case in the days when we used the NT Backup utility or third-party products to backup to slow tapes. Even though the databases were much smaller than those that are often encountered with Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013, backups could be excruciatingly slow. In addition, tapes failed, usually right at the end of the backup or even worse, in such a way that an administrator might not notice the problem.

Neither Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013 support tape backups. Databases are now backed up to disk using Windows Volume ShadowCopy Services (VSS)-based utilities and operations proceed much faster than before. Indeed, many commentators have made the case that databases protected by sufficient copies (at least 3, preferably 4) to maintain adequate redundancy in Database Availability Groups (DAGs) do not require a traditional backup regime. It’s undeniable that company policy might require backups to be taken for purposes such as long-term offsite storage, but the case can be made that the advent of the DAG has created a whole new environment within which to consider how and when to take backups.

Does the ability to take faster and less frequent backups eliminate the need for brick-level backups? Well, another thing to factor into the equation is the small matter of support. Microsoft’s policy is pretty straightforward.

There are several third-party backup programs that can back up and restore individual mailboxes, rather than whole databases. Because those backup solutions do not follow Microsoft backup guidelines and technology, they are not directly supported.

Microsoft is obviously not in favor of brick-level backup solutions. The reason why this stance exists might well be that Microsoft doesn’t provide any supported method of performing a brick-level backup or, possibly even more critical, a restore operation that extracts information from a brick-level backup and merges the data seamlessly into a user’s mailbox. It’s easy enough to restore a complete mailbox using information contained in a complete database backup but much more complex to consider all of the issues that might crop up when faced with the problem of restoring data back into a mailbox containing some information. For example, how do you fix up a calendar meeting request so that it accurately contains all of the attendee responses? How do you handle conflicts when data in the mailbox differs from that in the backup? And so on.

Because Microsoft doesn’t provide software vendors with supported methods to perform brick-level backups and restores they have to come up with all sorts of innovative methods to access Exchange databases. For example, although I have no hands-on experience of the product, the online description of iBackup for Exchange indicates that it uses the Export-Mailbox and Import-Mailbox cmdlets (updated by New-MailboxExportRequest and New-MailboxImportRequest from Exchange 2010 SP1 onwards) to write to and read from intermediate PSTs. iBackup goes on to say that a brick-level backup “is not a method for a the complete backup or recovery of the Exchange database.” Quite so.

I emailed the PR contact for iBackup to ask them what methods they endorse and received no response. In any case, although using cmdlets is certainly a supported method to access database content, I suspect that it would be horribly inefficient and slow if you had to process more than a handful of mailboxes. Indeed, as noted by Acronis, brick-level backups can be 20-30 times slower than a full database backup.

It’s also good to ask the question whether the desired functionality can be achieved using standard product features. For example, if all you need to do is to take a backup of a single mailbox, why couldn’t you use the New-MailboxExportRequest cmdlet to export everything out to one or more PSTs? And if you need to restore content back from a database, perhaps you can use Exchange’s ability to mount a recovery database using a backup copy and then recover the data from it using the New-MailboxRestoreRequest cmdlet. It seems like this is what many vendors do, albeit with a nice wrapper around the cmdlets.

Don’t get me wrong – I think that there are good solutions to examine in this space and innovation does exist. For example, Veeam Software offers an interesting utility called Veeam Explorer for Exchange, part of their Backup and Replication suite. You can use this tool to open Exchange databases and recover information from individual messages to complete mailboxes. A 30-day free license is available from Veeam to allow you to test the software in your own environment to make sure that it meshes with your operational processes and whatever regulatory regime your company might operate under. As with any utility that has the ability to open and extract information from user mailboxes, you also need to pay attention to privacy and ensure that access is controlled at all times. Veeam is run by Ratmir Timashev, who previously ran Aelita Software before selling it to Quest (subsequently sold to Dell), so he knows the Exchange market. I am more positive about buying software from companies led by people who have a strong track record in the industry.

The company that asked the original question eventually decided to stick with a standard backup regime. I don’t pretend that brick-level backup is a bad concept. In fact, I’m sure that it has its place and can add value in the right circumstances. It’s just that it didn’t satisfy requirements in this case as Microsoft’s lack of support was the deciding factor. But I think the salient fact that most of what they wanted to do could be accomplished using standard product features had an influence too. This just goes to show that a solution designed to solve a problem in a certain environment isn’t necessarily as valid or as useful given current technology. Hasn’t this always been the case?

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Posted in Exchange, Exchange 2010, Exchange 2013 | Tagged , , , | 4 Comments

ePublishing for Technology: a new book on Exchange 2013 High Availability


Time is both the greatest enemy and greatest friend of technical books. I know that seems like a statement which makes little sense, but truth lurks in these words.

We all know that technology now evolves at an ever-increasing cadence. The upshot is that the traditional publishing cycle struggles to keep up. In the past, an author would have time to consider several betas of a new product and then the final version before settling down to write text that (after technical and copying editing) would be accurate and valid for a couple of years. The publishers were happy because the investment they made in bringing a book to market could be recouped over that period; authors were happy because the hundreds of hours of work required to create the text would be compensated for through royalty payments.

The cloud has had a terrific effect on all of us, most positive as new features and functionality are revealed every week. But this makes it really difficult for authors who write about technology because their text ages dreadfully quickly, even as the first printed copies of books appear.

Take Exchange 2013 for example. Paul Robichaux and I declined to write our “Exchange 2013 Inside Out” books based on the first (RTM) version because past history had taught us the wisdom of waiting for at least six months to see how a new server functioned when revealed to the harsh judgment of customer deployments. Even though some kudos can be gained through first to market status, books rushed out to coincide with the first availability of a new product are invariably flawed, and in the case of Exchange, they can be horribly flawed.

So we worked away in the background to create and hone content, going through the exacting editorial process managed by Microsoft Press to ensure that the books were as good as a team of technical reviewers, copy editors, indexers, design artists, and series editors can deliver. We eventually ended up with material that is up to date with Exchange 2013 CU2, but that’s five cumulative updates ago!

A lot has happened since CU2 appeared. I would argue that the content of Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability and Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Connectivity, Clients, and UM are still valuable resources because although some details have changed since Paul and I stopped writing in September 2013, the concepts and general descriptions of technology have not. Some of the content could be rewritten now because we have more knowledge about a topic or Microsoft has made decisions that affect how we might describe things. Modern public folders are an example as the scalability issues that have forced Microsoft to focus on some reimplementation and tuning in this area were not known when I wrote that chapter and I would definitely have some different advice to offer today.

Still, the books are valuable resources and have largely stood the test of passing cumulative updates as long as you treat them as a starting point for understanding Exchange and supplement what you find in the Inside Out series with information published since Microsoft released Exchange 2013 CU2.

Which brings me to “Deploying and Managing High Availability for Exchange 2013”, a new eBook authored by a high-powered trio of very experienced Exchange MVPs: Paul Cunningham (“Exchange Server Pro”), Michael Van Horenbeeck (“Van Hybrid”), and Steve Goodman (all-round nice guy and co-host of the regular UC Architects podcast). That’s a pretty good line-up of talent to focus on a topic like High Availability.

Spread over 210 pages of content and 43 of a useful lab guide, the book addresses the following areas:

  • Client Access server High Availability
  • Mailbox Server High Availability
  • Transport High Availability
  • High Availability for Unified Messaging
  • Managing and Monitoring High Availability
  • High Availability for Hybrid Deployments

The best thing about the book is its practical nature. The content is approached from the perspective of an administrator who needs to get things done and there are lots of examples included to show you what commands need to be executed to perform different tasks.

The interests of the authors shine through too. Paul has long been a dedicated fan of Database Availability Groups (DAGs), so the coverage of how to put a DAG into operation is detailed and exact. Michael’s interests cover hybrid connectivity (obviously), but also the murky world of Managed Availability, so there’s plenty on that topic. And I suspect that Steve had something to say about certificates and their proper use within an Exchange deployment.

You can buy an electronic (PDF or EPUB format) copy of the book here. The cost is a very reasonable $34.99 (check the site for a discount). That might seem high for an eBook, but consider how much you have to pay for an hour of a consultant’s time and it makes perfect sense to acquire some knowledge by buying a book.

No book is perfect and I am sure that people will find points on which they disagree with the authors in this book. But that’s missing the point. A book about technology should never be deemed to be the last word on a subject, especially when dealing with servers that are deployed into a huge variety of different on-premises environments where one implementation differs from the next. It is the role and responsibility of an administrator to accumulate knowledge from books like this and then put that knowledge to work by placing it in context with the operational environment and business needs of their company. This book provides a lot of useful information that will help people immediately but it is important that readers surround the knowledge contained in the book with their own experience, background, and opinions.

And because no book is perfect, it’s good to know that this eBook can be updated pretty quickly if new information comes to hand. For example, the thinking around DAGs evolved significantly with the introduction of the simplified DAG in Exchange 2013 SP1. It will evolve again when Microsoft allows witness servers for multi-site deployments to be located in Azure early next year. And so on.

I believe that the future for technology books is not in the printed form. Sure, we will continue to have some books that are suitable for printing, but I think that the vast bulk of the market for books covering commercial application servers like Exchange will soon be in electronic format. Given the release cadence, it just makes sense.

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Creating a new address list for Exchange Online (Office 365)


A question was posed in the Exchange IT Pro group of Microsoft’s Office 365 Network:

Is there any way I can add folders to directory on Outlook for example add a folder “staff” for users to click it and all the staff come up. I have added a picture. Thanks :) By the way I’m using Office 365 Exchange Online.”

The accompanying screen shot showed the People section of Outlook Web App (OWA) and all indications were that the request wanted a way to create a new “Staff” entry under the “Directory” tree on the left-hand side of the screen. By default, this tree includes entries for “All Rooms”, “All Users”, and so on.

My reply was that a new address list would serve the purpose, assuming that you could create a recipient filter to isolate the mail-enabled objects that you wanted to display when the list was accessed. However, a few differences exist in creating an address list for Exchange Online than for Exchange 2013 (documented in pages 345-349 in chapter 7 of “Microsoft Exchange 2013 Inside Out: Mailbox and High Availability”), so here’s a brief overview of what needs to be done.

First, like everything else in Exchange, RBAC controls access to the cmdlets that control the ability to work with address lists. As it happens, the “Address Lists” role is not assigned to any administrative role group, so the first task is to assign the role to a suitable role group. Follow these steps:

  1. Open the Exchange Administration Center (EAC) in Office 365
  2. Click “permissions”
  3. Click “admin roles”
  4. Select the role group that you want to amend. I chose “Organization Management” as it is the usual role group used by tenant administrators. Click on the pencil icon to edit the role group.
  5. Add the “Address Lists” role to the set of roles included in the group and save.

Adding the Address Lists role to Organization Management

The next step requires PowerShell because EAC does not include an option to allow you to create a new address list. Start PowerShell and connect to Office 365 (use these commands if you don’t already have them in your PowerShell profile). When you connect, RBAC will load all the cmdlets that you are allowed to run into the PowerShell session, including the Address Lists cmdlets.

Next, run the New-AddressList cmdlet to create the new list. You need to provide two pieces of data – the name of the address list as seen by users and the recipient filter used by Exchange to extract items from the directory for display in the list. The example shown below is a very simple filter that extracts user mailboxes whose “StateOrProvince” property is set to “Ireland.”

New-AddressList –Name ‘Ireland Users’ –RecipientFilter {((RecipientType –eq ‘UserMailbox’) –and (StateOrProvince –eq ‘Ireland’))}

Running the New-AddressList cmdlet

Normally, after a new address list is created with on-premises Exchange 2010 or Exchange 2013, you would run the Update-AddressList cmdlet to update the list. You don’t have to do this for Exchange Online (the cmdlet is not available to you), possibly because any update activity that could soak up a lot of system resources is handled behind the scenes. In fact, there are some strange oddities about how Exchange Online populates recipients into address lists that are documented in KB2955640.

The new address list shows up in OWA

After a couple of minutes, you should be able to go to OWA, access People, and see the new address list under “Directory” – and better again, if the recipient filter works and the right information has been populated about the objects you want to display, you will see a populated list. The last point is important – address lists can only work if they can find objects according to the filter criteria you specify. If an object is missing some value then it won’t be found. For instance, if a user doesn’t have “Ireland” in their StateOrProvince” property, then they won’t appear in the “Ireland Users” view.

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Should we spend less time discussing software bugs?


Is there a vague possibility that the technical community spends too much time complaining about software bugs? This rather startling proposition came up during a discussion with Paul Cunningham, of ExchangeServerPro fame.

Paul remarked that we seem to spend a lot of time finding bugs, reporting them, checking for workarounds, and describing them in blogs and other social media, all of which takes away from the normal work of IT professionals. He then wondered whether “it had always been this way?”

The simple answer is that it hasn’t. Although we might consider current software releases to be flawed, previous software was equally if not more flawed. For example, Exchange 2000 was a perfectly horrible release that combined with Windows 2000 and the first iteration of Active Directory to deliver a horrific deployment experience for anyone who had to upgrade from Exchange 5.5 and Windows NT 4.0. But the flaws (and there were many) of Exchange 2000 never received the kind of full-on publicity that Exchange 2013 gets today.

In fact, ten or fifteen years ago, news coverage tended to concentrate on features rather than problems. Limited communications and restricted outlets for discussions forced correspondents to focus on new functionality rather than bugs. Magazines weren’t interested in publishing in-depth articles about flawed features – it took them far too long to get an article through the publishing process and a fix might have been made available before the article appeared. And anyway, advertisers weren’t interested in publications that discussed problems – they wanted articles about new and exciting technology and “how-to” features to explain how to put the technology into action. Selling print ads was very important then.

Today, it’s all about page views as online magazines, blogs, forums, and other media jostle for prominence in a crowded Internet-centric marketplace. News appears fast and bad news is good for page views, so many articles are devoted to the exposure of flaws in products from mobile phones to laptops to enterprise software. Reports are written up in articles and blogs and flash messages are sent to the world via Twitter, Facebook, Yammer, and Google+ to let people know that new information is available. The news is subsequently explored, interpreted, updated, discussed, and generally dissected ad nausem.

Some of the exposure is good. For example, letting people know about potential security holes is absolutely the right thing to do. Calling companies to account when they let flawed and incomplete products into the market also delivers a service to the industry as it enables customers to make better buying decisions. But I sometimes wonder if those of us who write about IT sometimes make far too big a deal of bugs.

All software has bugs and all products will eventually expose their bugs to users. The question is whether the bugs that are discovered are important or not. I think that the best articles on bugs provide an analysis of why the bug has appeared, what it means in practice, and whether any workarounds exist. These articles help users to understand the impact of a bug in the context of their IT operations and decide what action they should take. Perhaps they can proceed with deployment or maybe they have to wait for a hot fix or software update. In either case, the decision is made in a state of knowledge.

I despair when I see a blizzard of “me too” posts appearing like a rash across blogs, all faithfully reporting the discovery of a new bug without adding an iota of intelligence or analysis to the debate. Too many people rush to publish without thinking about why a bug has appeared and what its impact might really be.

But software vendors don’t help themselves when they push software out that contains obvious bugs that should have been picked up during testing. These are the worst kind of bugs because customers expect that vendors will test their products thoroughly before release and depend on the quality of the testing to know when a product is ready for deployment. No customer can hope to be able to test a product in the same way or depth as a major software vendor as they don’t have the staff, the tools, or the expertise. So we need products to be released when they are ready and validated through testing and not to make an arbitrary date set by senior management or marketing.

Perhaps we should spend less time discussing some bugs (important bugs will always be visible) and more time thinking about the best use of technology to solve business problems. That, after all, is the real aim of the IT game.

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Outlook 2013 and site mailboxes


Although the new-and-interesting Office 365 Groups have taken some of the shine and luster off site mailboxes in terms of the collaboration options that are now available in Office 365, some companies have site mailboxes deployed because they like the way that site mailboxes exploit Exchange mailboxes and SharePoint document libraries (for the 2013 on-premises versions or their cloud equivalents). I’ve used site mailboxes productively for project-level collaboration in the past. The big advantages offered by site mailboxes over Groups are that:

  1. Site mailboxes can be used in on-premises deployments, including hybrid deployments if both SharePoint libraries and Exchange mailboxes are on the same platform (cloud or on-premises). Groups are not currently available for on-premises deployments. The earliest that they might appear is in Exchange 2016, due in the 2nd half of 2015.
  2. Site mailboxes are accessed through Outlook 2013 rather than Outlook Web App (OWA), which is the only client supported by Groups. However, you must deploy the Professional Plus version of Outlook 2013 if you want to use site mailboxes.

Outlook 2013 can open a maximum of ten site mailboxes. This might seem an arbitrary number because it is possible that someone might contribute to more than ten projects at one time, but some good sense lies behind the limitation. First, there’s the question of usability and screen real estate. Every site mailbox requires a certain amount of space to be displayed in Outlook’s list of available resources alongside a user’s primary mailbox, perhaps an archive mailbox, some favorites, and maybe even a PST or two. In short, the resource list can be a pretty cluttered space even without site mailboxes.

And then there’s the question of performance. Every site mailbox that Outlook has to open requires memory to map the folders and items held in the mailbox. Allowing Outlook to open more than ten site mailboxes might exhaust some system resource and cause slow performance. Ten seems like a reasonable compromise between functionality and preventing site mailboxes becoming a drain on system performance.

So what happens when you fall into the happy category of being so busy with so many projects that you are a member of more than ten SharePoint sites that include site mailboxes? The answer lies in the “Manage All Site Mailboxes” option that is revealed when you right click on the account name in Outlook’s navigation pane. This option forces Outlook to open the “my site mailboxes” page that is actually under the control of Exchange as evident with its URL (usually something like https://contoso.com/ecp/TeamMailbox/TeamMailbox.slab). You can use this page to decide which of your site mailboxes should be displayed in Outlook. It’s as simple as that. The changes that you make will be effective as soon as Autodiscover publishes details of the new set to Outlook either the next time you start the client or as a result of its regular 15-minute refresh.

If you’re still struggling with the finer details of an Exchange 2013 deployment and can’t yet face into deploying SharePoint 2013 so that site mailboxes can be used, why not consider signing up for an Office 365 test domain? Apart from letting Microsoft do all the heavy lifting to install and configure Exchange and SharePoint, this approach is a great way to establish a sandbox environment where you can test new features, including site mailboxes, at your leisure.

Happy collaboration!

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Posted in Email, Exchange 2013, Outlook 2013 | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

Good and bad in the new Outlook for Mac


Being an Office for Mac 2011 user is sometimes hard. Really hard. And not just because Office for Mac 2011 is so far behind its Windows counterpart in terms of functionality, it’s also because its applications like Outlook for Mac 2011 looks so outdated and horrible. In the case of Outlook, it might be on a par with the Outlook 98 design. Thankfully, I only have to deal with the horror when my wife has a problem with Outlook for Mac, which is approximately every two days. I get lots of practice at sorting out Outlook for Mac problems.

So I was pretty happy to learn of the October 31 announcement that Microsoft will ship a new version of Office for Mac in the second half of 2015 with a beta version available to the public in the first half of 2015. The way things are lining up, it seems like Microsoft is finally synchronizing Office for the Mac and Windows platforms in the Wave 16 releases, which would be a good thing.

The same announcement contained the news that a new version of Outlook for Mac is available, but only for Office 365 customers. Still, that’s not too bad because I have an Office 365 tenant domain and my wife’s mailbox is in the cloud, so off I went to examine the details of the new software. Interestingly, although Microsoft is providing the software to Office 365 customers, there’s nothing to stop you connecting it to an on-premises server. Or if you really must, you can use IMAP4 to connect to other popular email services such as Gmail.

Obviously, Outlook for Mac will always be different to Outlook for Windows. There’s the slight matter of protocols for a start, where the Mac software uses Exchange Web Services (EWS) while Windows continues to use MAPI, albeit the new-improved-and-all-round-better MAPI over HTTP in the newest iteration.

EWS is great, especially in the hands of a real expert such as MVP Glen Scales, whose blog is replete with examples of how EWS can be used to examine, extract, and manipulate mailbox contents. But a nagging doubt always exists in my mind that EWS must surely lag MAPI in some respects. After all, MAPI has been around for so long that EWS must still miss some MAPI features that it has to implement. Or so the urban myth goes.

Leaving protocols aside, the good news is that the new Outlook for Mac looks much better than the 2011 version. I don’t think it is a case of applying a better type of lipstick on a pig (a difficult task if you contemplate what actually has to be done to make the lipstick stick on the pig). It’s actually a better look and feel that is ascetically pleasing. At least it is to me.

I’m less enthused by the list of updated functionality. The highlights as published in Microsoft’s blog post (together with some commentary from me) are:

Better performance and reliability as a result of a new threading model and database improvements. Sounds good. And as Paul Robichaux describes in his WindowsITPro.com article about Outlook for Mac, the improvement is noticeable.

A new modern user interface with improved scrolling and agility when switching between Ribbon tabs. Good. Welcome. Great.

Online archive support for searching Exchange (online or on-premises) archived mail. At last some support for archive mailboxes appear five years after their introduction in Exchange 2010… but to be fair to the developers, EWS support for archive mailboxes was needed first. And BTW, the support is not only for searches as mentioned in much of the press coverage – it really means access to archive mailboxes from Outlook for Mac for the first time, albeit with the bizarre caveat that you cannot drag and drop folders from your primary mailbox to the archive. Paul also notes that the archive mailbox has to be on the same platform as the primary, which seems like a pity as many hybrid scenarios are ruled out.

Master Category List support and enhancements delivering access to category lists (name and color) and sync between Mac, Windows and OWA clients. Which is what you’d expect – but seriously, it’s amazing how the small points in user interface design are so important.

Office 365 push email support for real-time email delivery.  I thought that Outlook for Mac 2011 had real-time delivery but then found that it really wasn’t. I assume Outlook is now using the same notification mechanism that pushes email to OWA for Devices clients but maybe not!

Faster first-run and email download experience with improved Exchange Web Services syncing. Sounds good and appears to be accurate.

Although undoubted improvements are in the list it’s a poor set to put before faithful Outlook for Mac users who have waited so long for a new version. And it’s still not feature-comparable with Outlook for Windows. Where is the support for site mailboxes (possibly of little interest to most, but supported in Outlook 2013) for instance? Or MailTips? Or DLP policy prompts? Or retention policy details? Or the slider to allow control over how much offline data is cached on the Mac? Or PSTs?

Hmmm… there are many Outlook for Windows features that have been around for quite a while and the developers should know about. In particular, it’s hard to know why the useful policy tips have been excluded. On the plus side, it’s good that Outlook for Mac now supports the write-once use-on-many platforms model for Outlook apps.

My summary is that the new version of Outlook for Mac boasts a pleasing interface that is a lot better than its predecessor without delivering the functionality that would allow it to stand beside its Windows cousin. That being said, a lot of time will elapse between now and the second half of 2015 so there’s hope that the final version of Outlook included in Office for Mac 2016 will be better.

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Exchange Unwashed Digest – October 2014


October 2014 was an interesting month for my “Exchange Unwashed” blog on WindowsITPro.com. I had the chance to write about some new technology (Delve), old technology (Exchange 2003 mega-clusters), bad technology (Chrome bugs), and current technology (various posts). All in all, a pretty productive month.

Azure beckons for Exchange DAG witness servers (Oct 31): Microsoft let the cat out of the bag at TechEd Europe and told us that they will support placement of a witness server for a DAG on Azure from January 2015 onward. This will be of interest to folks who have to design and implement stretched DAGs, which is nice, but not perhaps of much interest to anyone else.

Office Delve, Exchange mailboxes and even perhaps public folders (Oct 30): This was my second post to cover Office Delve in the month. This time round I wondered what information Delve might be able to extract and display from Exchange mailboxes, including shared mailboxes, site mailboxes, group mailboxes, and even (gasp!) public folders.

Pondering the connections made by Office Delve (Oct 28): Office 365 tenants can now use Delve to explore “connections” made to information that might be of interest to them. The connections are made by the Office Graph, which explores “signals” extracted from sharing information in SharePoint and OneDrive for Business (plus a little Exchange). But how are those connections made and what do they mean? Read on…

The fallacy of the workstation File Share Witness (Oct 23): It’s always good to be able to debunk an urban myth. In this case it’s the attempt by some to argue a case that a Windows workstation could be used to host a witness share for an Exchange DAG. An interesting exercise in technology perhaps, but it kind of undermines the whole high availability thing, don’t you think?

Appointments reappear in OWA calendar as one Chrome bug is fixed (Oct 20): I have been on a small crusade to point out the places where Microsoft and Google could work together better to fix Chrome and make it a browser that is fully usable by Outlook Web App. One bug introduced in Chrome 38 is fixed, but there’s still work to be done…

Why Exchange Online now preserves BCC and DL information in message headers (Oct 16): This post is a little geeky because few people probably care about how Exchange preserves information about BCC and distribution group addressees for messages. But those who deal with the immutability and preservation of messages find this kind of stuff terrifically interesting because they might have to prove the provenance of a message in a law case. The condensed story is that Office 365 doesn’t allow its mailboxes to be used as a journal destination so they had to come up with another way to preserve messages. This is it.

Microsoft turns off the last public folder in their internal Exchange deployment (Oct 14): Awww… a deployment which began in 1996 comes to a natural end as Microsoft removes its last public folder. But the real news is that they had to replace public folders with multiple technologies. That might or might not be feasible for paying customers.

Exchange: the gateway drug to the cloud (Oct 10): Satya Nadella thinks that Exchange is the application that will make companies move to the cloud, specifically to Office 365 (although you could move to clouds operated by other hosting companies too). I think there’s a reasonable amount of truth in this stance and in fact it’s a case of history repeating itself as Exchange 4.0 proved Microsoft’s enterprise application credibility some 18 years ago…

Google Chrome and Office Servers – the continuing saga (Oct 9):  More on my Chrome crusade with details of just how the problems affect users and why Microsoft and Google seem to be screwing up together when they should be really co-operating much better.

Email and the evolving state of Office 365 collaboration features (Oct 7):  Atos has been trying to reduce the amount of email that employees receive for a few years, perhaps (not being cynical at all) because they sell a collaboration platform that they’d really like their people to use. All of which leads us to a discussion about the collaboration features that are available to Office 365 users, like Yammer, and SharePoint, and even Exchange. Since I published this post, I published an in-depth article on Office 365 Groups that explains how to use this new feature.

A personal view of the HP split (Oct 6): I have a certain history with HP that allows me to have some insight into how corporate planning and direction occurs in Palo Alto. The news that HP plans to split into two companies came as no real surprise, but I had a view on it…

Memories of Microsoft IT’s 7-node mega-Exchange 2003 cluster (Oct 2): Ten years or so ago we were all terribly impressed when Microsoft told us about their 7-node mega-cluster at events like TechEd and MEC. That was then… has much changed since?

Upwards and onwards into November to see where technology brings us…

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Posted in Exchange, Exchange 2013, Office 365, Technology | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments