At first glance, Server & Application Monitor (SAM) 6.1 might sound like it's a "minor" release. However, with the mountain of new features we've managed to cram in, 6.1 is anything but minor. In previous blog posts I discussed Windows Scheduled Tasks and JSON/XML monitoring, as well as Sustained Threshold Conditions that can be used to squelch nuisance alerts. Despite more than half a dozen additional new features in this release I haven't even talked about yet, such as new SOAP Monitor, Drag & Drop resources (that's right, I said drag and drop), and a new Web-Based Report Scheduler, much of the buzz surrounding SAM 6.1 has centered around AppInsight for Exchange. This is likely due to the success of AppInsight for SQL in the SAM 6.0 release, coupled by the tease that was my previous blog posting entitled "Introducing AppInsight for Exchange - Server & Application Monitor 6.1 Beta 2 Sneak Peek". In that post I gave readers a very early glimpse into AppInsight for Exchange, that barely scraped the surface of what this new application monitoring capability provides. So today I'll attempt to satisfy some of that curiosity by showcasing some of the other functionality included in AppInsight for Exchange.

 

I first cut my teeth back in the day of Exchange 5.5. Since that time I've seen tremendous improvements in Exchange scalability, reliability, and performance. As a consequence of these improvements however, Exchange has become significantly more complex to manage, monitor, and maintain. Simply isolating a performance bottleneck in your Exchange environment can be akin to playing a bad game of "Where's Waldo".

 

AppInsight for Exchange ends the madness by centrally consolidating all information about each mailbox database and its copies across all mailbox servers in the Database Availability Group, into a single Mailbox Database Details view. It is within this Mailbox Database Details view where you will find all relevant information pertaining to that specific individual mailbox database on the server, as well as all other servers where a copy of that database resides.

 

Information including last full and incremental backup, number of mailboxes in the database, average mailbox size, and default storage quotas applied at the mailbox database are all easily at hand.

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The Database Details view also contains multi-server performance, health, and availability information that should make troubleshooting common mailbox database issues a breeze.

 

For example, in the screenshot to the left you can easily identify where the mailbox database resides on each servers file system, the size of that mailbox database, and how it relates to the amount of free space on each servers volume. You can also identify disk I/O performance issues across servers by seeing the Disk Queue Length, Latency, and total IOPS for the volumes on each server where a copy of that database resides.

 

Similar resources also appear in this view for Transaction Logs, showing additional detail such as the total number of transaction log files, as well as their cumilitive total size on disk.

 

All this information allows you to easily spot problems before they start. There's nothing worse, or more preventable than a database dismounting because the volume it's located on has run out of space. With AppInsight for Exchange, now you can be proactively alerted and take corrective action before it impacts your users.

Now let's say your mailbox database was running out of space. Where do you go, and what do you do now? You could move the mailbox database to a different volume that has more space. If you have more unallocated storage you could even extend the volume. Both of those options require heavy lifting, and likely some downtime.

 

What if you could easily identify the offending user mailboxes that are taking up a large percentage of space in the database? You could then either hunt those users down and ask them them to clean up their mailbox, or move them to another mailbox database that has more available space.

 

The "Users By Mailbox Quota Used" and "Users By Mailbox Size" resources allow you to view each and every user mailbox, its total size, amount of space all attachments in the mailbox are consuming, total number of attachments, and percentage of quota used. This information is available in each mailbox database view, as well as across the entire Exchange environment.

 

You can even spot dormant mailboxes easily within the same resource by viewing the "Last Accessed" date.

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From this resource you can drill down even further into the User Mailbox Details view. Here you can see the quota limits applied to the individual users' mailbox, the Active Directory Organizational Unit where this user resides, and can even click their Primary SMTP Address to notify them that some mailbox cleanup is required.

 

Before you do that though, you might want to get a better understanding of how this user is using their mailbox. Perhaps they recently received several very large email attachments that they could move off onto the file server. Maybe this user regularly receives a large volume of incoming email. This could be normal given their job function, or indicative of ineffective SPAM filtering.

 

With AppInsight for Exchange you can easily visualize each users historical mailbox usage, identify trends such as the growth of a user's mailbox over time, and the total size of all attachments within the users mailbox over the same period. You can also gain insight into the volume of mail sent and received by the user each day, both internally and externally.


This information allows you to make informed decisions before extending users mailbox quotas or adding additional storage to the Exchange server. This information can also be included in alerts that give helpdesk staff a heads up as users approach their quota limit.

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What if the problem you're facing was the other direction? Instead of a massive influx email or attachments driving the users mailbox size, it was malicious activity the end user wasn't even aware of? The Users By Messages Sent resource helps identify mailbox abuse caused by potential trojans, botnets, or otherwise unscrupulous activity. Should your users mailbox be taken over by such mass mailing marauders, AppInsight for Exchange makes identifying this unusual traffic a trivial affair.

 

AppInsight for Exchange also allows you to report on the mobile devices being used in your environment, the operating system version running on those devices, as well as the last time any device was used to connect to Exchange via ActiveSync.

 

This information is available on any individuals Mailbox User Details view. It is also available as an out of the box report that lists all mobile devices in use in your organization and their respective owner.

 

Until now, SAM 6.1 has been available only to a select number of beta participants, but that's no longer the case. As of today, all current SAM customers under active maintenance can download and install the official SAM 6.1 Release Candidate simply by signing up here. Upgrading of your existing production Server & Application Monitor installation is also fully supported. So give AppInsight for Exchange, or any of the over a dozen other improvements in this release a go, and tell us what you think!

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