5 Tips to Optimize Exchange Server for Improved Performance

In today’s business world, email services are considered to be one of many mission critical applications, if not the most important application. At the end of the day, email downtime will affect business operations. In turn, sales teams may have a tough time reaching out to customers. Microsoft Exchange is a great tool where setting up the infrastructure and accessing emails are concerned. However, the biggest challenge for an Exchange admin is to constantly have a fully functioning system running during peak business hours. Below is the list of essential tips that an Exchange admin can leverage to optimize and improve Exchange server performance.

1. Storage Allocation and Performance

Sometimes when Exchange admins don’t correctly configure or partition the disks which store Exchange, it leads to email failure. When storage volumes runs out of available disk space, it leads to issues where Exchange can’t store additional emails. Even before assigning email space to users, as a best practice, Exchange admins should monitor available disk space and avoid the issue in advance. Planning your disk storage for Exchange server is critical because high disk latency will lead to performance issues. For optimum storage performance, it’s essential for admins to consider:

  • Deploying high performance disks and spindles
  • Selecting the right RAID configuration
  • Improving performance by aligning your disks

2. Mailbox Quota

Often, Exchange admins get trouble calls from users who can no longer send or receive emails. This happens when they’ve gone beyond their allocated mailbox quota. Instead of removing mailbox restrictions, Exchange admins can encourage users to move attachments, set up an archive, or adjust their archiving policy to reduce mailbox size. It’s important to monitor mailbox sizes to ensure each user group or individual employees remain at their original allocation. Larger organizations with many users will have to be smart about configuring mailbox sizes since they can get more trouble tickets due to an oversized email. Admins should proactively configure alerts and warn users when they’re about to reach their threshold.


3. Mailbox Database Capacity

Admins have to understand mailbox database capacity in order to get more visibility into:

  • Mailbox database size: You can determine how many mailboxes can be deployed in a single database. For example, development teams may have to share emails with heavy attachments to customers for feedback, such user groups or departments with large mailboxes can be moved to another database to balance load and capacity.
  • Storage usage: In order to estimate database capacity, you should map the number of user mailboxes per disk or array.
  • Transaction log files: Looking at transaction logs for user mailboxes will give you more information about message size, attachment size, and amount of data sent and received, etc.
  • Database growth and size: The database size will give you a rough estimate on the number of mailboxes you can deploy. This will depend on the availability factor (if you have a database copy then you have something to fall back on during failover) and storage configuration.

4. Indexing Public Folders

Even though indexing is useful, it utilizes a lot of resources causing performance issues to Exchange server. When you index public folders in Exchange it consumes a lot of CPU and disk usage. When your mailbox content changes, for example, as you receive more and more emails, the size of the index becomes larger and larger. If you have a mailbox which is about 5GB in size, then your index size also takes up a fairly large size. This happens because your email or message gets indexed separately to each public folder. Admins should only recommend indexing to specific teams or departments, otherwise there will be various resource bottlenecks.


5. Managing Unused Mailboxes

Businesses typically hire temp staff, interns, and contractors for a limited period. Admins have a tendency to leave those dormant mailboxes untouched for a long time. Removing these will free up storage and database capacity. Admins can reassign these to users who are short of capacity or keep them handy for future hires.


6. Bonus Tip: Automated Alerting

Admins can set up mechanisms to alert end users that their quota is nearly reached. Additionally, they can provide information about their mailbox, like the number and size of attachments, and information on how to reduce mailbox size. This automation can save the admin several hours and leaves the responsibility of size reduction on the user.

Exchange server can be a complex application to deal with especially when you have very little time to diagnose and troubleshoot issues. In order to be proactive, you can optimize the performance well in advance for your environment. Looking at other areas, such as controlling spam, creating proper backups, and cleaning up Exchange server will ensure consistent performance.

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