At the recent Exchange 2010 Maestro event in Greenwich, CT, I was asked to give my opinion about the set of Exchange 2010 books that are currently available on the market. Clearly I won’t comment about my own Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 Inside Out
book as a review of that text is best left to others who were less intimately involved in its creation. However, I do have some views about other books that I have read.
I’ll prefix my comments by saying that writing a book about a topic such as Exchange 2010 is bloody hard work for very little reward, especially when you encounter the parasites of the world who steal content from books and never even acknowledge the author (click here for more on that topic). It’s also true that writing books about software can be an elusive dance sometimes as the engineers make changes in beta code to get a product out the door. Errors can therefore be expected. The best books minimize errors by both double-checking with multiple sources (engineers, documentation writers, program managers, other experts such as MVPs) and by testing everything that they learn about before they commit any words to paper (or into your favorite word processor). Even so, errors can creep in and even get by the eagle eye of the book’s technical editor. Such is life.
I’ve included a table of books at the end of this post together with links to their print and Kindle editions in Amazon.com. Of course, there are other online bookstores that you can go to but I thought that I’d gather all of the relevant information from one source. I also include the number of reviews and current star rating at the date of writing. The number of reviews provides a very rough indication of how popular a book is – it could be the case that a book is more popular than it seems but that people just haven’t taken the time to write a review. Star ratings are very subjective but again can give some guidance. I don’t agree with all the ratings. For example, I think that Mastering Exchange 2010 is too low at 3.1 stars while Exchange 2010 Instant Reference doesn’t really warrant five stars when compared to the other books in the list. You can make your own mind up.
And now to comments about each book:
Exchange 2010 Best Practices (Microsoft Press) is a good, solid book that incorporates lots of ideas about what best practice should be when planning a deployment. It suffers a little because it appeared just as Exchange 2010 SP1 was under development and so its coverage of SP1 is sparse and incomplete. However, that being said, this is certainly an excellent book to dip into as you plan and then execute your Exchange 2010 project.
The Exchange 2010 Administrator’s Pocket Consultant (Microsoft Press) is “portable and concise”. In other words, it’s not one of the doorstep volumes like some of the other books. Length is traded for brevity in the interest of walking you through the major components of Exchange 2010. The author is not an Exchange expert, but he has the ability to communicate in his writing. Don’t expect in-depth discussions about the finer points of Exchange (like the Database Availability Group) and SP1 content is limited.
Exchange 2010 Server Administration: Real World Skills (Sybex) sets out to help candidates who wish to understand Exchange 2010 to a level where they can pass the Microsoft 70-662 and 70-663 certification exams. I have an instinctive dislike of books that are focused on tests but I understand how they help people. If you need to prepare for the kind of questions that you expect to see in these certification exams, you could invest in this book. I wouldn’t, however, use it as the basis of understanding how to design an Exchange 2010 deployment.
Exchange 2010 Administration Instant Reference (Sybex) is a step up from the Pocket Consultant in its coverage of Exchange 2010 topics. It’s highly rated in terms of stars but I don’t think this is a five-star book. It will certainly do a job for you if you want something that you can quickly plunge into to retrieve a concise description of something about Exchange 2010, but the depth and insightfulness isn’t there and it’s weak on SP1.
Mastering Exchange 2010 (Sybex) is the latest in a long line of very good “Mastering” books that have been written about different versions of Exchange. This volume is definitely weakened by the authors’ decision not to include coverage of the Database Availability Group (DAG). I can understand their reluctance to include content that might not have been to the standard that they wanted but the reviews that the book has received clearly indicate disappointment on the part of its readers. That being said, I am an admirer of the Mastering series and recommend this book.
The Exchange 2010 PowerShell Cookbook (Packt Publishing) is a relatively new book written by a real expert. PowerShell is one of those topics that can enrage people. Some love the power and the functionality released by the shell; others cling to the GUI tools and resist change. This book will help both groups by expanding the knowledge of those who already understand the Exchange Management Shell and by showing those who prefer the GUI that PowerShell isn’t really all that bad once you get used to it.
Exchange 2010 Unleashed (SAMS) should have been roped up at publication and not released on the general public. It’s a weak book, released in a hurry to be first to market when the original version of Exchange 2010 appeared, and it shows all the signs of sloppy writing, bad cut-and-paste from the previous Exchange 2007 book, and a lack of knowledge about the subject matter. It will do absolutely zero for you in terms of information about Exchange 2010 SP1. I admire Rand’s ability to get books out the door quickly but it would be nice if a tad more energy was devoted to quality control and editing.
Exchange 2010: A practical approach (SysAdmin Handbooks) delivers what it promises in the title. No high-brow treatment of architecture and design principles, but plenty of let’s get our sleeves rolled up and start a deployment going. I like Jaap’s approach and I like the way he brings his experience to the table. This book won’t cost you very much but I can guarantee that you’ll extract some value from it.
So there you are – just one person’s opinion. I hope that you find success in whatever book you decide to buy.