Microsoft Exchange Server 2010: Best Practices for Planning, Migrating and Managing - Page 2

Ron Robbins

The multi-mailbox search is one of the most useful features of Exchange 2010. This search function allows users with appropriate permissions to search the entire organization for messages containing specific keywords or characteristics. It was designed to simplify e-discovery, but is helpful in a host of other situations, including when confidential information has been leaked from the organization, or a new virus is spreading.

Preventing information leaks is a concern for many organizations, and Exchange 2010 includes new ways to protect messaging data. Information rights management (IRM), which restricts access and makes data accessible only to specifically named parties, has been expanded to work with OWA in addition to the Outlook client. The rich OWA client works in Microsoft Internet Explorer, as well as  the Apple Safari and Mozilla Firefox browsers.

MailTips is another new feature, likely to become popular with end users who have mistakenly sent a message to a large distribution group instead of their intended few recipients. MailTips gives users hints about what they are about to do before a message is actually sent. It includes preconfigured options, but also can be tailored by the user. While MailTips is not natively supported by Outlook 2007, a plug-in is available to extend it to this legacy client. Both the Outlook 2010 client and OWA 2010 include native support for MailTips.

Exchange 2010 also includes expanded message transport rules covering additional message characteristics, such as information from a user's Active Directory account. Rules now can be created to block, IRM-protect or force moderation of messages from a group of users to a specific domain or e-mail address, and messages also can be scanned for certain keywords or phrases.

Active Directory Rights Management Services (AD RMS), which became much simpler to deploy and manage with Windows Server 2008, is well-integrated into Exchange 2010. The new transport protection rules can apply AD RMS templates to messages and attachments without involving end users in the decision-making process. The Do Not Forward template, which prevents recipients from printing or copying message data, is likely to become very popular.

Flexibility and Reliability

Besides enhanced anywhere access, protection and compliance, Exchange 2010 offers improved flexibility and reliability. Keeping messaging data available at all times is a major focus in Exchange 2010. Its new clustering functionality is a giant leap forward from the continuous clustering options available with Exchange 2007, and light years away from the single copy clustering of Exchange 2003 and earlier versions.

Microsoft has reconfigured the database structure, so with Exchange 2010, disk I/O is reduced by up to 50 percent of Exchange 2007 levels, which is a reduction of up to 85 percent from Exchange 2003. Microsoft continues to recommend the use of direct attached storage (DAS) for Exchange data. Because Exchange 2010 can perform consistently and reliably on less expensive storage, there is no longer a need to use an expensive SAN to hold messaging data. Exchange 2010 was designed to work well with desktop-class disks such as serial advanced technology attachment (SATA) discs.

Microsoft has long recommended specific RAID configurations for Exchange Server implementations, but they're not necessary with Exchange 2010. That's because a new type of continuous clustering called database availability groups (DAGs), introduced in Exchange 2010, provides enough redundancy that discs become disposable. If a disc fails, the mailbox database can switch over to another DAG instance, allowing administrators to simply pull the disc, replace it and rebuild the database instance.

With the introduction of the DAG, Exchange 2010 offers a solid clustering solution that provides protection against serious failures in the environment. A DAG is a set of up to 16 Exchange 2010 servers assigned the Mailbox role, where each member server can contain a copy of the mailbox databases assigned to that DAG. Initial database instance seeding is done through ESE streaming, and each database instance is kept up to date through log file shipping using TCP raw sockets.

One of the best characteristics of the DAG architecture is that DAGs can be created on the fly. They can easily span sites to provide geographic clustering without any special configuration, eliminating the tedious configuration process required with earlier releases of Exchange clustering.

Exchange 2010 also introduces online mailbox moves for users moving from one Exchange 2010 server to another. Users can stay connected to their mailboxes, and active within them, for the duration of the move. Previously, moving users from one Exchange server to another required disconnecting them from their mailboxes, which resulted in moves taking place during maintenance windows or at times carefully coordinated with all users. Users still must be disconnected when mailboxes are moved to or from Exchange 2007 or Exchange 2003, however.

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