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Monitoring Microsoft Exchange from the Real World (Part 1)

Level 10

Recently we covered what it means to configure server monitoring correctly, and the steps we can take to ensure that the information we get alerted on is useful and meaningful.  We learned that improper configuration leads to support teams that ignore their alerts, and system monitoring becomes noise. Application monitoring isn’t any different, and what your organization sets up for these needs is likely to be completely different than what was done for your server monitoring.  During this article we will focus on monitoring Microsoft Exchange on-premises, and what should be considered when choosing and configuring a monitoring tool to ensure that your organizational email is functioning smoothly to support your business.


Email Monitoring Gone Wrong


In the early days of server monitoring it wasn’t unusual for system administrators to spend months configuring their server monitoring tool for their applications.  With some applications, this decision may be completely appropriate, but with Microsoft Exchange I have found that server monitoring tools typically are not enough to successfully monitor your organizational email system. Even if the server monitoring tool comes with a “package” that is specifically for monitoring email.  The issue becomes that by default these tools with either alert on tool much or too little never giving your application owner exactly what they need.


Corrective Measures


So how can your business ensure that email monitoring is setup correctly, and that the information received from that tool is useful?  Well it really comes down to several simple things.

  • Evaluate several Exchange monitoring tools, and then choose a tool that will best suit your Exchange needs.  In most cases this tool is not the same as your server monitoring tool.
  • Implementation of Exchange monitoring should be project with a dedicated resource.
  • The tool should be simple and not time consuming to configure. It should NOT take 6 months to be able to properly monitoring your email system.
  • Choose a tool that monitors Active Directory too.  Exchange depends heavily on Active Directory and DNS, so Active Directory health is also vital.
  • Make sure you can easily monitor your primary email functionality. This includes email flow testing, your Exchange DAG, DAG witness, Exchange databases, ActiveSync, Exchange Web Services, and any additional email functionality that is important to your organization.
  • Ensure that the tool selected has robust reporting.  This will allow for time saving’s from scripting your own reports and allow for better historical trending of email information. These reports should include things such as mail flow SLA’s, large mailboxes, abandoned mailboxes, top mail senders, public folder data, distribution lists and more.

This approach will ensure that your email system will remain functional, and alert you before a real issue occurs.  Not after the system has gone down.


Concluding Thoughts


Implementing the correct tool set for Microsoft Exchange monitoring is vital to ensuring the functionality and stability of email for your business.  This is often not the same tool used for server monitoring, and should include robust reporting options to ensure your SLA’s are being met and that email remains functional for your business purposes.

6 Comments

I'd be interested in seeing:

  • A list of MS Exchange monitoring tools that folks have tried
  • A rating for each of them, provided by folks who've evaluated them
  • A comparison rating of an Orion monitoring tool as experienced by someone who's compared Orion to a third-party tool for monitoring Exchange.

It could save some Thwack customers serious time if they had a resource that gave them their options and provided unbiased reviews and comparisons.  I enjoy research and learning about new options, but I don't have time to reinvent the wheel if there's an agreement from IT folks about which tool is best for this.

Level 14

Let's not forget Edge or other DMZ mail forwarders.

I would also like to see the results of Exchange monitoring tools that others have tried.

MVP
MVP

I think any major application needs to have the correct monitoring tools to make sure you can meet SLA's. Unfortunately it usually it takes a catastrophic failure of some description before people realise this.

We have moved away from Exchange to Google Mail. I do miss Outlook.

Level 12

i have moved from exchange to lotus-live server for mail.

muwale

How did the Lotus migration go?  With 50K accounts, I don't see us migrating unless there were a HUGE benefit AND cost saving.  What were the biggest savings and benefits?

Level 12

i am using only services of the lotus servers only.