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Choices on how to manage Exchange

The most obvious place to manage your Exchange installation is directly on the server, but as this tip explains, you need to be aware of certain downsides to this strategy.

You have to manage Exchange once it's installed in your enterprise, and you have several tools to help you do this. The two basic ones are Active Directory Users and Computers and Exchange System Manager, which are installed on the server by default with Exchange.

The most obvious place to manage your Exchange installation is, clearly, directly on the server. The advantage to this is that it takes no more hardware or software or setup effort to manage your server on the machine itself.

But there are some downsides to this scenario. For example, while you're logged in to the server with admin privileges, you can inadvertently delete some files or folders that are needed for other program capability. Another scenario: You log into the server with admin privileges, and your boss comes around and asks that you step into his office for just a minute. You do, but forget to log off as administrator. Aha! The entire server is now available to anyone who has physical access to the keyboard. This is not really a good idea if there's any chance that some individual with less than honorable intentions can wander in while you are away.

You can use Remote Desktop or Terminal Server to get to the server in a separate session and run the admin tools in that terminal session. While that works, you can still delete files accidentally, and you've opened a gateway to some viruses for the server because the tools are running on the server. You also have to make sure that you've purchased enough Terminal Server licenses so that you will have access even when others are trying to access the server through Terminal Server.

Finally, you can use a dedicated workstation to handle the admin chores. This means you have to install the Exchange management tools on that separate workstation, and it means you have to have the workstation in the first place, running XP Professional with SP1. If you do this, then you can create a dedicated instance of the Microsoft Management Console that already has the two basic Exchange management tools installed as snap-ins, thus simplifying the management chore.

You will still have to be aware of physical security, but you now have a situation where the accessibility to the server is reduced, making for a safer overall installation. You can put the management workstation anywhere you like: your office, for example.

If you want to use this last approach, you can read detailed instructions in the Exchange Server 2003 administration guide, which is available for free download on the Microsoft Web site.

David Gabel has been testing and writing about computers for more than 25 years.

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