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A Cool Way To Extend Your Exchange Database Storage Without Any Downtime

A Cool Way To Extend Your Exchange Database Storage Without Any Downtime

Below is a live screen shoot of my additional 838 GB of additional storage space, after I managed to extend my existing Exchange database storage on one of my server in a Database Availability Group (DAG) configuration, without any down time.

Click Image To Enlarge

Advancing technology really has its advantages and has done so much for those of us in this industry.  Could you imagine trying to increase your storage without shutting down your servers?

No exchange system administrator likes dealing with system problems, but problems in data processing are normal.  Problems sometime are so complicated that it raises the stress level of any administrator to a level normally not experienced on a regular basis.

Could you imagine your boss, and many of the other employees “breading “down your neck, asking you when you are going to resolve the problem? If an Exchange administrator has no problems, then he or she will never expand their knowledge base. Problems as an exchange administrator, is evident.  In fact, as long as you are working in an Information technology department, you will experience problems from time to time.

This article will first briefly explain the problem that I had experience and how I went about resolving the issue without any interruptions to the Company.

 The Problem

We are presently moving our users from our older Exchange 2003 servers, to our new Microsoft Exchange 2010 servers.  Many of our users have already been moved to our exchange 2010 server, except for about six executives.

The existing size of the Exchange database store for the users who have not been moved to exchange 2010 servers is about 60 GB in size.  If I had to move the users that are still on our 2003 servers to our 2010 servers, then I would have definitely experience space issues.

I had to think of a way to increase my space on the 2010 Exchange servers, with minimal interruptions to the business.  Before I go any further in explaining how I increased my server space without any down time, let me tell you a little about our present configuration.

Exchange Server Configuration

My exchange configuration consists of two Exchange 2010 servers, and three Exchange 2003 servers. We have implemented High Availability, on our servers for fault tolerance, and redundancy. This redundancy is in the form of a DAG environment.  DAG is short for Database Availability Groups.

There are presently two Exchange 2010 servers setup in a DAG configuration. The mounted database is located on Server One, and the secondary or healthy database is located on Server Two. If Server one fails, then server two should automatically detect a failure and takes over.  This configuration is supported by Microsoft, so if I need assistance they normally assist me for a fee.

Both servers are HP DL 380 G6 servers, which made expanding the space much easier than using regular servers.  These servers came complete with additional expansion slots, to add additional drives, when needed.

The Resolution

As you can see we are also like many other companies still working in a mixed environment.  I am one of those administrators that came from a mixed environment, which included Exchange Server 5.5.

We never seem to be able to completely get rid of the mixed environments.  By the time you are almost off the older version, Microsoft always creates a newer version. I guess this is by design.

The first thing I did was checked the physical configuration of the server to see if I had addition slots available, to install new drives.  To my surprise, I had two slots available on both servers.

I guess I should have known this, if I had documented my server’s configurations.  Like so many administrators, I did not document our configuration. Documenting your server’s configuration, on initial install will save you many hours, when you are faced with problems.

The second thing I did was asked the purchasing agent to get me a quote on at least five 900 GB hard drives. The reason why I asked for a quote on the five drives, instead of four was to have a spare drive in the even I had a failure in the future.

Once the drives arrived, I installed them within the servers.  Two drives were installed into each server.  The reason I installed two drives in each system was to create a mirror for redundancy. If one drive failed, then the other drive would have immediately continued to work, until I was able to install my spare.

This was one of the reasons why we always purchased HP Servers.  These servers have so many build in fault tolerance, from the perspective of the hardware, instead of the software.  No need to depend on the operating system, to setup the fault tolerance.

The next thing I did was logged into each server and access the build in Raid utility, to configure the drives.

Click Image To Enlarge

If you look closely at my diagram above you will see two SAS drives that we had purchased to add to the server.  Here you will notice that the two drives are showing, but in the diagram at the beginning of this article, you would have noticed that only one drive is showing with the 838 GB.

The Array utility takes as many drives and configures them into one large drive. There is some overhead involves that is why you would have seen the 900 GB reduced to 838 GB.

Once I had configured my drives using this build in utility, they were ready for use.  My next step would have been to begin creating addition database stores using Exchange server, or Database Availability Group, for our Executives.

Once my additional stores were created then I would have begun the process of moving my Executives to the additional space.

I hope that you have enjoyed this article.  Please my other articles on Exchange server here on this site.

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What is An Exchange Server? The Best Email Server, In my Opinion

What is an Exchange Server? Many questions similar to this question have flooded the minds of many aspiring system administrators. The fact that you are searching for information on this software, lets me know that you are probably new to electronic email servers, but not new to the field of Information technology.

Whatever your reasons for finding out more about exchange server, I can assure you that once you have mastered this technology your value to any establishment would tremendously be increased. You would be envied by many of your peers, working in the same department.

Exchange servers are normally managed by exchange system administrators.  Exchange administrators are generally trusted by upper management because of the confidentially, and nature of the systems that are being managed.

Exchange administrators are also called upon by executives to perform many confidential tasks that the normal employee would never be asked to perform.

You do not need a degree in computers to learn exchange server technology, but specialized training is more often required.  All you need to do is have the willingness to learn, and an open mind. Aspiring exchange administrators normally learn about exchange by attending evening institution, or using a self-study guide.

Exchange Server was designed specifically for the purposes of email.  This technology has been used extensively for many years by many large and medium size corporations. I can assure you that this technology is here to stay, and should only get better as time progresses.

Exchange, at times is referred to as Microsoft Exchange Server. This software was developed specifically for the purpose of business electronic email in an enterprise environment. The product is client server in nature.  This means that a client is required to collect email from the server.  It also means that most of the heavy processing of the email is done by the client. The server product works in collaboration with other Microsoft products like Outlook, and Eudora.

Even though exchange was designed as an enterprise solution, if you have between five and ten employees, you would still be able to benefit from this software.

Exchange server also includes a calendaring feature to organize meeting, and contacts.  Wireless synchronization of contacts, and email functionalities are available using mobile phones, and other technical gadgets.

Exchange also has a feature that allows employees to read their voice mail directly within their outlook, or compatible email client. The software is so smart that it translates voice to text. There are so many other valuable features available in this software, to mention here in this article.

Many companies are presently using other email technologies like Lotus Notes, and other email programs, but exchange server is used by more companies around the world than any other mail technology software.

Exchange Server has evolved from many versions, to the present version of Exchange Server 2010, as of the writing of this article. I can assure you that there will be many other versions in the future. Other older versions of this software included Exchange Server 2003, and Exchange Server 2007.

The earlier version of Exchange 5.5, even though it was introduced over ten years ago still exist at many companies today, because of their stubbornness to upgrade to the latest version of this server software. Exchange 2007 is also widely used today by many companies.

Cautious system administrators will never upgrade, or install any new software unless the old was broken.  Maybe you have heard the term, “If it is not broken, you should never try to fix it”. In other words, as long as a program or a system was doing the job that you intended it to do; there should be no need to change it. This is a common term that is used on many occasions in the field of Information technology.

The only time an exchange administrator, or system administrator would move to new software platform would be when their software had reached its end of life.

End of life is a term that had been used to let users know that they would no longer be able to receive support, for a particular version of software.

Many software developers would announce the end of life for different versions of their software in an attempt to forced users to purchase a newer version of their software. If no technical support for any particular software was available, then it makes no sense using that software.

Exchange software had to be installed, along with the windows operating system to work. This operating system was also created by the same company that created Exchange.

Operating systems are installed on personal computers, and servers alike to assist in the communication of hardware to software. Without an operating system, a personal computer would be considered a, “dead piece of equipment”.

Exchange software is also used by Internet Service providers to give free email accounts to their subscribers. If you have a hot mail, or even a G mail account, then you may be attached to an Exchange Server, on the back-end.

When I used the term back-end, I am referring to the computer infrastructure that had been setup by a company, to offer services to their clients.

While I am on the topic of computer infrastructure, I would like to make you aware that Exchange Server does not run entirely on its own, as a separate system.  Another program known as Active Directory has to be installed first, for Exchange Server to work.  The topic of Active Directory is out of the scope of this topic, but since it is an integral of the functioning of exchange server, I have to briefly mention it.

Active Directory was developed for the sharing of computer resources like printers, fax machines, and any other devices that needed to be shared amounts employees.

Active Directory is also known as the security boundary of a company’s network. No user would receive access to resources, including access to Exchange Server, unless they were authorized by Active Directory.

When Active directory is installed on computers at a company, a domain is created to form the basis of a company’s network.

Active Directory and Exchange Server may be installed on the same computer, if resources are limited. Best practices dictates that you would experience better performance of your email environment, if all installed software has its own dedicated computer, or server.

Many companies around the world have dedicated Exchange Server administrators employed. So, learning Exchange Server will give you an advantage, over other administrators. That is what makes Exchange Server software a good option to learn, by aspiring administrators.

In fact the company that developed the software has many annual seminars dedicated to this technology alone.

Some persons might disagree that exchange server is not the best email server, but everyone has an opinion based on their experiences with a product. I am presently employed as an Information Technology Manager, working with Active Directory, and Exchange Server on a daily basis.

I can tell you for sure, that you can never learn exchange server without understanding Active Directory. These two technologies complement each other.  In fact, they are depending on each other.

I have also written many other articles on the topic like, exchange server prerequisites, and what is hosted exchange, along with many other articles. Please see other articles on this website.

Further Reading



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Exchange Server 2010 Prerequisites and Exchange Server 2010 System Requirements

Any wise Mail Administrator contemplating transitioning from any version of Microsoft Exchange Server, to the latest mail server version of Exchange Server 2010, would commonly be concern about the Exchange Server 2010 Prerequisites, or whatever the latest Microsoft mail server software available.

There may be later Exchange versions available, if you are reading this article several years after the published date, but the same will apply in every case. Wise administrators are developed through experience, not born with the talent to be a wise administrator.

I hope that you are not one of the few persons left in this world that are running Exchange Server 5.5.  I am just “kidding”, but really, you do need to upgrade to the latest exchange server version, so you can receive support, when you need it.

No need to feel left out, if you are still running Exchange 5.5.  I am one of those persons that refused to upgrade just because a new version of software is produced. I never like being on the cutting edge of any new software.  I love waiting until others have tried it out first. The only reason I transitioned to the latest version, was because of Industry pressure from other administrators, while attending Microsoft Tech Ed conference in June 2010.

I am sure by now, if you have been working in this field for some time, that you have heard of the term, “If it is not broken, do no fix it”.

While at the Tech Ed conference, the question was asked of participants whether they were still running Exchange 5.5, and to my surprise it was at least more than half of the attendees.  If you have never attended Microsoft annual Tech Ed conference, then you are being deprived of knowing which direction technology is headed, in reference to Microsoft products.

Another reason for upgrading to Exchange Server 2010, or later is because main line support for Exchange Server 5.5 has been discontinued, since 2005. Microsoft also has available in place extended support for Exchange Server 5.5 that began in 2006. You can imagine how expensive this can be.

Support is critical to the successful running of your exchange environment.  I am a true witness of this. Could you imagine having an email system crashed, and not having support available? Trust me; you do not want to ever be caught without some kind of support in place.  Email is a critical part of the running of any company, and any wise administrator will strive to always have support available.

AS and Exchange System Administrator you will require support at some point in your career.  No system will ever run 100% up time.  I can recall on several occasions when I needed support but was not able to received support because of no support agreements being in place. I have learned my lesson, which is one of the reasons why at the beginning of each year I would normally renew my “5 Pack Support” with Microsoft.

I have to constantly remind myself that this article is not about the day to day operation of my exchange server environment, but about Exchange Server 2010 Prerequisites.

If you are running exchange server 5.5 you must know by now that there are no direct approved upgrade paths to Exchange Server 2010.  I have used the term “approve upgrade path”, because there may be some undiscovered third party utilities available to accomplish this, but you have to be careful.

If the upgrade path that you are using is not approved by Microsoft, then they will not give you any assistance, if needed during your greatest challenge. To reduce some of the problems that you may experience during an upgrade to Exchange 2010, you should pay close attention to Microsoft representation of Exchange Server 2010 Prerequisites.

Exchange Server 2010 prerequisites require that the Active Directory Forest functional level be set to Windows Server 2003, or higher.  Whichever server is responsible for the Schema Master role within the forest, should be running Windows Server 2003 with a service pack level of at least 1.

If you are running Exchange 5.5 then you must upgrade to Exchange 2003, before you can get to Exchange 2010.  If you are running Exchange 2000, then you can easily go directly to Exchange 2010.

You should also be aware that Exchange Server 2010 will only run on Windows Server 2008 using a 64bit processor.  Exchange 2010 will not work on Server 2003 and 32bit processor.

Rather than trying to explain all of the minute details of Exchange Server 2010 Prerequisites, I want to point you in the direction of a resource that I have used when I upgraded our infrastructure to Exchange Server 2010.  Please Click Here for the document, or visit Microsoft Corporation website for more information.

Further Reading:

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What is the Best Mail Server for Windows?

Locating the best mail server for windows is an easy task, if five or less users require an email account. If five or more users require an email account then the tasks may not be as easy.  This article will briefly explain in my opinion, why I think the Microsoft Exchange Server platform is your best choice, depending on the size of your business.  

I am assuming that if you are searching for information on the best mail server for windows, that you are using the Windows Server platform operating system, and not the Windows Client operating systems like windows 7, and windows XP, or Microsoft latest client operating system. 

Running the best mail server software, using the Windows Operating system, requires the Microsoft Server platform, rather that the Microsoft Client operating system.

There are many free platforms available online, but free does not necessarily means that it is secured. Whether you are using windows server 2008, or the latest Microsoft Server Software platform, then you should consider Microsoft Exchange Server. 

I really do not want to sound as though I am being bias when I suggest the Microsoft Exchange Server platform.  I am an Industry Professional who has worked with Microsoft Exchange Server since Exchange Server 5.5 was introduced, so I am somewhat knowledgeable about this platform.

The organization where I am presently employed has approximately five hundred uses on this platform. Exchange Server is scalable, and will grow with your business and can be very easy to administrate, once the right training is received.

There are many other platforms available for use, but if you are using the windows server platform then it is best to go with the people that created the windows platform, and also the creators of the best e-mail software, Exchange Server.

Like I mentioned earlier in this article, if you have a very small office that has five or less employees, then it is best to go with one of the free platforms like G mail, or even Hotmail. Gmail offers in excess of over2 Gigabits of free storage space, and also Hotmail.   All you have to do is create accounts for each person using either platform. 

Exchange Server requires an Active Directory platform in order to be functional, and will require special skills in both areas to implement, and administrate.  On the other hand, free accounts can be setup by anyone, with minimal computer knowledge.

When using free accounts, all administrative functions are eliminated.  Administrative functions are performed by the owners of these free platforms.  One common problem that you may encounter when using these free platforms, would be not being able to recover items that were accidentally deleted by users.

Another problem may be that the security of items in your inbox, can never be guaranteed. You really get what you have paid for, when using free email server providers.

Even with five or less users, the Microsoft Exchange Server platform will work, but not recommended because of the high overhead that you may experience.  If the funds are available to setup and infrastructure, along with Active Directory, then Exchange Server would really be your best choice. Like I mentioned earlier, Active Directory is required to run Exchange Server.

Microsoft Corporation does not pay me anything for saying that their platform is the best email server for windows, but because of the assistance that they normally give me when assistant is needed, I love them.

I can recall on many occasions when my “back was against the wall” at my company, that Microsoft came through for me.  If you are an IT Professional,then you would understand what I am referring to.

Exchange Server is really the best email server for windows,but if funds are limited, and you have less than five users that require email accounts, then Hotmail, or Gmail will work for yo

By Andrew Moss

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Download Exchange 2010 SP1? – What You Should Know Before Installing

Before you download exchange 2010 SP1 to upgrade your exchange server 2010 installation, there are several points to consider, before installing the software.

Are you aware that once you have installed Exchange Server 2010 with service pack 1, you will also need to install Exchange Server Roll up Update 6, for Exchange server 2010?

I am an Industry professional who has worked with Exchange Server since it’s’ inception. When I use the term since its inception, I am referring to one of the earlier versions of exchange mail server software,version 5.5.I have worked along with countless upgrades regarding exchange server, and Active Directory, just to name a few.

If you are an exchange administrator, then you should know what an exchange server is.Just in case you have accidentally accessed this article while searching for the meaning of exchange server, I will briefly explain.

Basically, Exchange Server is an email platform that serves email to users who use similar free email platforms, like Hotmail and Gmail.These free email server providers also uses some kind of email servers in their back office, to service their free email clients.

Since I have mentioned Active Directory in one of my earlier paragraphs I will briefly explain what Active Directory is used for.In fact Exchange Server will not work without Active Directory.

Active Directory is a service developed by a popular software vendor to facilitate secure access to resources on a network.Active Directory also allows the sharing of resources like printers, documents and other hardware items to users.Exchange server relies heavily on Active Directory.

Several days ago, I attempted to upgrade our current Installation to the latest release of Exchange Server 2010 software, with exchange 2010service pack 1, but experienced issues in reference to the replication service that ran in the background. The replication service “crashed” continually,almost every day.

I then proceeded to do some research in reference to the issue that I was experiencing, and discovered that many users worldwide experience this same issue.The only way that this issue could have been resolved was to install another patch.The name of the patch was Exchange Server Roll up Update 6.The lesson was that you cannot upgrade Exchange to Service Pack 1 without installing the Roll up Update.I guess this is how we all acquire experience when using a product.

If you are an exchange administrator, then you should be aware that the replication this service is required to replicate databases to other servers in the environment, when using the Database Availability Group feature of the software.

Again, if you are new to exchange server, the Database Availability Group feature is a feature that allows administrators to setup redundancy for their Servers by copying their databases to several servers in their environment.This feature allows the administrator to recover very quickly from a system failure.

Exchange Server 2010 SP1 is also required to fix an issue in reference to memory leaks, when using Windows Server 2008 Operating System.The four of our mail Servers experienced a memory leak because of the missing patches.

Because of this memory leak, my Server‘s memory allocation were improperly distributed.The task manager showed that the Memory usage continued to ran around 90% to 97% usage continually.This was not a good position to be in as an administrator.The Server potentially could have malfunctioned at any time, if the patch was not installed.

The service that was consuming about one gigabit of memory should only have consumed about half of this amount normally.If this problem was not corrected immediately then clients would have experienced very slow performances when accessing their email, with their outlook client, or other compatible mail client software.

As an Exchange Server administrator you would have also have begun to notice an abundance of RPC communications errors, recorded in the system logs, as a result of the memory leak.I will explain RPC errors in another article. RPC stands for Remote Procedure Call.

To eliminate some of the many issues that you may experience when you attempt to download Exchange Server SP1 to upgrade your existing Exchange Server 2010 environment, you should also download Roll up Update 6, the same time.