Get ready for Exchange Server 2007 with a tool check

With a new release of Exchange Server coming next year, it's time for IT administrators to check their toolbox in advance of planning a migration.

With a new release of Exchange Server just around the corner, IT administrators should prepare by checking their Exchange-related tools to see if updated versions are available for their next server migration.

Exchange Server 2007 saw its first public beta in late July. It is expected to ship in late 2006 or early 2007, according to Microsoft.

Exchange Server 2007 is the first Microsoft platform to require 64-bit hardware. It has a radically different roles-based architecture that lets IT administrators configure Exchange servers as edge servers, bridgehead servers, client-access servers or unified messaging servers.

Microsoft said its most downloaded tool is the Exchange Server Best Practices Analyzer, which helps IT administrators keep servers properly configured. This free tool lets administrators scan the servers and find security holes among other problems, while providing users with the best practices for setting up their servers.

For Lee Benjamin, an Exchange Server expert who runs an advisory consulting business called ExchangeGuy.com, the Best Practices Analyzer tool is a must-have. "It would be my first, second and third choices," he said. "It really helps people to tune [the server] so it runs better."

This tool tops the list for another expert, Brien Posey, vice president of research at Relevant Technologies based in Columbia, Md., a research advisory service. "You don't use it a lot, but it's a critical one," he said.

Microsoft said its other top four downloads are ActiveSync Web Administration Tool, Exchange Server SMTPDiag Tool, Public Folder DAV-based Administration Tool (PFDAVAdmin) and Exchange Server Jetstress Tool.

Posey said he is surprised that the other tools made it onto the top five downloads list. He has his own favorites, including Exchange Server Disaster Recovery Analyzer and the Exchange Server Performance Troubleshooting Analyzer Tool.

The disaster recovery tool collects configuration data and header information from Exchange databases and gets transaction log files, according to Microsoft. It then analyzes all database headers and creates a list of problems with the database and their fixes.

The performance troubleshooting analyzer tool collects Exchange server configuration and other data, then determines where system bottlenecks exist and what can be done to improve performance.

Quest Software Inc., based in Alisa Viejo, Calif., also has a number of popular Exchange management and migration tools that are not free. Among the most popular are MessageStats, Spotlight on Exchange and Recovery Manager for Exchange, and Archive Manager. The most popular is Quest MessageStats, which analyzes what's going on in Exchange and makes reports on the activity. The cost for Quest MessageStats begins at $7 per mailbox.

The second most popular Quest Software tool has been its Spotlight on Exchange, which detects, diagnoses and resolves problems in Exchange. Recovery Manager for Exchange finds and retrieves backed up data quickly. Spotlight on Exchange starts at $1,195 per server.

More recently, though, the company's Archive Manager has moved into the second spot, probably because of the increase in regulatory requirements for keeping all types of communication for longer periods of times and making them easily accessible. The Archive Manager starts at $40 per managed mailbox.

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