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Part 1: Fix email performance with Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant

Run the free Microsoft Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant tool to identify Exchange server symptoms, collect data and resolve email performance issues.

After downloading the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant tool, double click on the MSI file to begin the simple installation process. The Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant can be installed on your Exchange server directly, or on a workstation running Windows XP.

When you first launch the tool, you will be asked if you want it to check for updates automatically each time the tool opens. I recommend this step. Once updates are complete:

  1. Click on Go to Welcome Screen. You then will be asked if you would like to begin the troubleshooting process or review a result file from a previous troubleshooting session.

  2. Click Start Troubleshooting, and you will be taken to the Troubleshooting Task Selection screen, shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1
Figure 1. Select the type of troubleshooting task that you want to perform.

To work properly in a complex environment such as Exchange Server, an automated tool must know something about any symptoms that the system is experiencing before it can perform a comprehensive diagnosis. The Troubleshooting Task Selection screen lets you choose to either perform a symptom-driven troubleshooting session or a database recovery.

Troubleshooting performance problems

If your Exchange Server is functional, but performing poorly, click on the Performance Troubleshooter link to see the following screen (Figure 2).

Figure 2
Figure 2. Select the symptoms that most closely match your problem.

  1. To begin the troubleshooting process, enter an identifying label for the analysis. This involves naming the troubleshooting session so that you can identify the results later.

  2. Choose the symptoms that most closely match your server's performance problem from the dropdown list, and click Next.

  3. You then will be prompted to enter the name of the Exchange server that is experiencing performance problems. You also must enter the name of a global catalog server, and then click Next.

  4. The Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant will perform a quick connectivity test, and return a series of server statistics, such as the number of databases and the number of mailboxes on the server (Figure 3).

    Figure 3
    Figure 3. Verify that the collected server configuration summary is accurate, and then click Next.

    More resources on email performance:
    Problems sending and receiving email in Microsoft Outlook

    How to set up Microsoft Operations Manager (MOM) for Exchange Server monitoring

    Checklist: Tools that diagnose Exchange performance problems

  5. Check that the server statistics are accurate, and click Next. If they aren't correct, then your server may be experiencing more than performance problems.

  6. The next screen will ask you how you want to collect the performance data. There are three options:

    • Collect and analyze the performance monitor.
    • Analyze performance data that was collected previously.
    • Collect, but not analyze, performance data.

    In either case, you must choose the length of time for which data should be collected. The default setting for data-performance collection in the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant is five minutes. After five minutes, the tool will perform an analysis.

  7. Click Next to begin the data-collection process.

  8. When the collection process completes, the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant will display a brief performance summary related to Remote Procedure Calls (RPC) and user activity. Figure 4 shows an example of this, but keep in mind that this images shows an analysis that was made against a healthy Exchange server.

  9. At the bottom of this screen, you'll see that although no RPC-related problems were detected, additional data was collected but not presented. Click Next to toggle between screens; and notice that some screens follow a format similar to the previous performance summary. However, this screen presents performance information related to disks, queues, and network usage.

    Figure 4
    Figure 4. The Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant displays a summary of performance issues that were found.

  10. In the column at the lower-left corner of the screen, you can see all areas that the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant analyzes. If a performance issue is discovered, the tool will display a message explaining what was found. Click on a specific problem for more detailed information (Figure 5). Additional information will also be available in a subsequent screen.

    Figure 5
    Figure 5. You can obtain more detailed information by clicking on a detected problem.

  11. You will finally come to the View Results screen, shown in Figure 6. This screen contains a number of tabs, each of which has more detailed information about the previous analysis.

Figure 6
Figure 6. The View Results screen gives you a consolidated view of information that was presented previously.

The View Results screen contains four tabs:

  • Execution Issues
  • Recommendations
  • General Information
  • Performance Issues

The Execution Issues tab displays problems with Performance Monitor counters. On my test server, for example, this tab reported three issues in which performance-counter data was not present in the log file that the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant compiled. This doesn't mean that there is a problem with your server. It means that these aspects of the Exchange server's performance were not analyzed.

The Recommendations tab displays suggestions on how to correct any detected performance issues. However, this tab was empty on my lab system.

The General Information tab contains a summary of all configuration and performance data that was collected, as shown in Figure 7. You can click on most items in this screen for more detailed information.

Figure 7
Figure 7. The General Information screen displays all of the summary and performance data that has been collected.

To understand and resolve a server problem, the Performance Issues tab may be the most useful. Previously, the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant indicated that my lab server had a disk bottleneck, but it didn't give any specific information on this problem. The Performance Issues tab lists a variety of issues that contribute to this bottleneck.

For example, Figure 8 shows three configuration problems:

  • Transaction logs are not on a dedicated drive.

  • The pagefile is on the same drive as Exchange data files.

  • Exchange data files share a drive with the Windows system files.

Figure 8
Figure 8. The Performance Issues tab lists a variety of factors contributing to the disk bottleneck.

The bottom half of the Performance Issues tab lists reasons why the Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant tool suspects that a bottleneck exists. This section makes several references to disk-related latency. But if you click on one of these issues, you can see the exact level of latency that was detected, compared to the latency value of a healthy Exchange server. There also is a link that lets you view more information on an issue and how to resolve it.


TUTORIAL: THE EXCHANGE TROUBLESHOOTING ASSISTANT TOOL

 Home: Introduction
 Part 1: Fix email performance with Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant
 Part 2: Manage mail flow with Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant
 Part 3: Diagnose database problems with Exchange Troubleshooting Assistant

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:   
Brien M. Posey, MCSE
Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Exchange Server, and has previously received Microsoft's MVP award for Windows Server and Internet Information Server (IIS). Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at http://www.brienposey.com.
This was last published in December 2007

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