Top 10 Tips to Boost Microsoft Exchange Server Uptime

Posted on August 27, 2018 by Nikhil P Naik

Ensuring unparalleled and non-disruptive communication with MS Exchange is critical to every successful business. As System Administrators grow more accountable for the setup they deploy, they look to Exchange Administrators to inform their decisions to help boost server uptime for MS Exchange system.

Even though Exchange servers are one of the most stable and reliable servers configured, these also require regular maintenance and all Admins do understand the complications of not following these maintenance schedules. Thus, draft a server-maintenance plan and follow this plan to speed up exchange server performance:

Run ExBPA at regular intervals

Running Microsoft Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer or ExBPA once in two months helps Exchange Administrators to analyze the latest configuration on Exchange server and compare it with Microsoft’s recommendations. Almost all Exchange Admins run ExBPA when they deploy a new Exchange in an organization. In fact, this tool is also used when a new server of different configuration is deployed in an Exchange organization, where it helps in verifying new server configuration and identifying any negative effect on the performance of Exchange server as a whole.

Most users tend to forget about this tool when Exchange is configured and optimized, though the tool holds value for usage every two months. Reason being, Microsoft changes its recommendations at a fast pace as it wants to keep pace with security and efficiency. Every time ExBPA runs, it checks for MS recommended latest updates to incorporate in Exchange to make it safer and more compatible.

Configure & Schedule Database Maintenance

The Information Store of Exchange database is swamped with transactions as the messages are ‘Sent’, ‘Received’, ‘Moved’ and ‘Deleted’ all through the day. As the time progresses, the activities leave the database in a bad state of fragmentation. However, Microsoft is aware of this condition of Exchange server and has designed the system in a way that it runs an automated maintenance cycle at the end of the day, every day. This automated maintenance is conducted at the specified time and within the specified time period. In case, some tasks are left meaning these are not completed, Exchange takes some extra time say an hour takes a note of these and complete these tasks in the next maintenance cycle before starting with the scheduled maintenance. Here is the list of tasks performed by Exchange server in the automated maintenance cycle:

  1. Remove indexes and perform maintenance on mailbox’ and public folder’ stores
  2. Delete expired messages from the Delete Folder of the mailbox and public folder stores
  • Remove expired messages from public folders and clean public folders from message conflicts
  1. Delete deleted public folders which are more than 180 days old
  2. Update server version information on public folders in case there are any
  3. Check for and remove duplicate site folders on public folder stores
  • Sanitize deleted mailboxes (reference count of 0) on mailbox stores by deleting deleted messages
  • Scan for orphaned messages in the message table
1. Defragment online Store – the most important of all the maintenance tasks

Although automated maintenance cycle values all tasks equally, online defragmentation is the exception to the rule. Even if the cycle is able to complete just the first task, it dedicates the last 15 minutes to online defragmentation, by default. In case, online defragmentation is not complete within the specified time period, the maintenance cycle extends its time say by an hour and ensures that the last process has enough time to complete.

2. A Prerequisites for automated maintenance cycle:

Even though the name “automated maintenance cycle” suggests that the process completes by itself and is conducted at a specified time, it is not exactly the case. Admins have to ensure the following before starting automated Exchange maintenance:

  1. Set the time period for maintenance. Maintenance should be performed when:
  2. Server has minimal workload
  3. Maintenance does not interfere with nightly backup
  4. Schedule maintenance at different time span for a different store, in case server has multiple stores
  5. Perform maintenance under the guidance of an experienced resource. This will ensure the following:
  6. Administrators are sure that the process is performing
  7. All tasks finish regularly and in the specified time period
  8. Online defragmentation results in increasing of space
  9. Event IDs can be recognized and resolved in no time
2. B Schedule Maintenance period:

Maintenance period can be scheduled through Exchange Management Console:

  1. Open Exchange Management Console on server
  2. Navigate through console tree to Server Configuration/Mailbox
  3. Right-click the database to schedule maintenance and select Properties
  4. Store’s Properties dialog box opens. Configure Exchange and click on customize to change the database maintenance schedule

Note: Schedule maintenance process is different for all Exchange version. Here we have taken the example of Exchange 2007.

Conduct Server Integrity Checks

Manual integrity checks are equally necessary to check for any Exchange database problems and take corrective actions immediately. It is necessary to perform quarterly manual checks stay up-to-date. However, take proper precautions before performing any integrity check:

  1. Admins have taken a full backup of the database. This is because manual database maintenance may result in a corrupted database
  2. Ensure disk space is optimum: Repairing a database requires enough free space to accommodate a full copy of the database and up to 20% more to accommodate overheads

Steps to conduct Server integrity check:

  1. Dismount-Database store and open Exchange Management Console or EMC
  2. Go to Server Configuration/Mailbox
  3. Go to the database you want to check, right-click on it and select dismount database from the shortcut menu
  4. Open Exchange System Manager and go to the console tree to your store. Right-click and select Dismount Store from the shortcut menu.
  5. Use Isinteg to check the database errors by using the following command in the Command Prompt window: Program files > Microsoft > Exchange Server > Bin Folder:

isinteg -s <servername> -test allfoldertests

A list of database displays along with database number. Press ‘Y’ to initiate the test. Enter the number of database on whom server integrity check is to be performed. The best part is Isinteg also informs about the corrective action to perform and correct the problem. If Isinteg is unable to correct the server-level integrity check, try Stellar Phoenix Mailbox Exchange Recovery.

In case Isinteg is unable to perform, try Eseutil for database-level integrity check. The command to be used is:

Eseutil /G “<database file path>” where database file path denotes actual database path, for example, Eseutil /G “C:\Program Files\MS Exchange server\ mailbox one storage group\Database.edb”

Always ensure Free Space in Database

A well-known fact is that online defragmentation is performed every day during the after-office maintenance cycle. But this is not mandatory that it leads to database shrinkage only. Sometimes, empty pages are grouped together efficiently as for reuse.

Ensuring free space in database is easy and does not pose a problem, however, if the user tries to move the mailboxes to another store to free-up the space then this task is successful only after offline defragmentation is performed. In any case, the best option is to maintain optimum space on database through regular checks. If there is excessive free space (generally >15GB free space is considered excessive). This free space can be reduced with the help of Eseutil command.

Eseutil /D “<database file path>” where database file path denotes actual database path

Ensure Backups are configured and tested

Although Backups is not a part of Exchange maintenance, however verifying backup health is one of the most important tasks. In case backup is not regular or it is not latest or it has got corrupt then the Exchange database restore is not possible.

Regular monthly checkup of Exchange database backup and database integrity check help ensure the database authenticity. Also, steps can be taken to correct the database backup in case there is an issue.

Ensure Database Growth is optimum

Exchange Database may increase in size owing to growth in document database. Database can be easily monitored with the help of database verification and this is easily done through backup. Compare Database backup of the recent time and the time it takes for the backup. If these two parameters are thoroughly judged, then these will help in analyzing future requirements for Exchange database storages.

Lack of enough capacity may result in failed backups.

No stuck Messages in Queue

Stuck messages in Exchange database may create hurdle in the optimum working of Exchange server, hence it is mandatory to check the queues every fortnight and remove those stuck messages. It is easy to detect these ‘Stuck Messages’. For Exchange 2007, open EMC or Exchange Management Console, go to Toolbox and select the Queue Viewer. Use Message Tracking to resolve the issue or just delete the message. For confirmation, Mail a NonDelivery Report for Deleted messages.

Buy and update OpsManager

MS Operations Manager also is known as Microsoft System Center Suite Operations Manager or SCOM is used to monitor server health and performance of applications installed on Exchange server. OpsManager ensures that Exchange Administrators can keep track of server performance and informs them proactively in case of a problem.

Check UPS and Electricity Connections

Many times, error in Exchange is due to abrupt power cut-off or interrupted UPS Connectivity. These errors include Dirty Shutdown error, a database in an inconsistent state, and more. In such cases, the Eseutil and PowerShell command fails to repair the Exchange database.

These situations are easily avoidable by keeping a fortnightly check on UPS and Power supply for Exchange. UPS should always be configured to ensure that server shuts down properly in case the batteries have started to run low.

Always stay proactive

Being proactive lets you stay connected with Exchange server and database even when you are not on premises. Although Exchange has its own maintenance and regulatory mechanisms, you can avoid most of its problems by staying up-to-date.

Prepare an elaborate Disaster Recovery Plan and never forget to include Stellar Phoenix Mailbox Exchange Recovery software inside this plan, because if Exchange server is not working or database is in an inconsistent state and you are unable to restore from backup then the best solution to repair the Exchange database is to through Exchange Server Recovery Software.

Conclusion

Take an initiative on assessing the factors to boost Microsoft Exchange Server uptime, and put these into regular practice will help of System Admins and Exchange Admins to create a competitive advantage for Exchange administration. If the Exchange Administrators follow the above 10 mentioned tips, they can easily avoid common problems and ensure that the Exchange is up and running 24×7.

However, disasters do happen, then the need of the hour is to fix exchange server error. However, Admins must speed up Exchange server recovery by reducing downtime and hence business loss. This is possible with Stellar Phoenix Mailbox Exchange Recovery – a software which is known to recover dismounted and offline Exchange database files or EDBs as well as repair large & multiple EDB with no data loss.

About Nikhil P Naik

Nikhil Naik has finished his graduation in the field of IT and is currently mastering at the University of South Florida. He also loves watching cricket, listening to music and travelling. Twitter Handle - @buzz_nikhil.

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