Software

Get IT Done: How to prepare for and install Exchange 2003

Performing a brand-new Exchange 2003 installation

Exchange 2003 promises to be a compelling upgrade for many users of Exchange 5.5 and 2000 since it contains a number of enhancements over these older versions. However, support for these new features requires various preparations, based on the conditions of the current messaging environment. I will present a series of articles presenting various installation scenarios. In this article, I will perform a brand new Exchange 2003 installation in an environment where no messaging system currently exists.

For this scenario, I am running release candidate 2 (RC2) for Windows Server 2003, as well as the beta version of Exchange 2003 included with Office 2003 beta. The target system is running inside a VMware 4 beta partition with 512 MB RAM and using an AMD Athlon 2100+ processor. Keep in mind that this information is based on the beta of Exchange 2003 and may change slightly after the product is released.

Preparing for Exchange 2003
Exchange 2003 has a series of requirements—related to hardware, software, network, and directory—that should be met before running the installation.

Hardware requirements
Exchange 2003 requires a minimum of 128 MB of RAM with 256 MB recommended by Microsoft. Additionally, at least 200 MB of disk space is required on the system drive of the server onto which Exchange will be installed and 500 MB on the drive where Exchange's associated databases will reside. The drives must be NTFS volumes. Finally, Exchange requires a minimum of a Pentium 133 processor on the server.

These are Microsoft’s minimum and recommended requirements. For the real world, they are simply not adequate. I wouldn’t run Exchange 2003 on a server with less than 512 MB RAM, a few gigabytes of drive space, and CPU of at least 750 MHz. While it will run on a lesser configuration, you might be disappointed with system response and overall performance. Keep in mind that you’re not just running Exchange; you’re running it on the Windows server with Active Directory and DNS in many cases.

Software requirements
Exchange 2003 will only run on Windows 2000 SP3 (or above) or Windows Server 2003 RC2 (or above). You also need to make sure that the SMTP and NNTP components in IIS are installed. This can be done from the Add or Remove Programs applet in the Control Panel. Administrators will also need to verify that they have ASP.NET installed (it is an included Windows component in Windows Server 2003, but it is not necessarily installed by default). Exchange uses SMTP and NNTP for messaging, while Outlook Web Access uses the ASP.NET services.

Note: Before trying to install Exchange, disable any antivirus software that may be running on the server.

Network requirements
Exchange requires a properly configured network infrastructure, particularly on DNS. During the installation, you can run the NetDiag test from the Deployment Tools option to make sure that DNS, as well as other services, are set up correctly. For a brand new Exchange installation, the other tests are irrelevant.

To properly set up DNS, you need to define an MX (Mail eXchange) record in DNS with the external IP address of the Exchange server on which you will be running the SMTP service. The DNS server with the MX record must be accessible to anyone who wishes to send you a message. For smaller organizations, DNS services are generally housed externally, so you will need to contact your ISP or other provider who hosts your DNS in order to make this change.

I ran NetDiag in my lab environment before installing Exchange 2003 (this step should not be skipped in any production environment). To run NetDiag, copy the contents of the \support\exdeploy folder on the Exchange 2003 CD to the local drive and run netdiag.exe from there. If you run it from the CD, the log file cannot be created. For my installation, I got these results, showing only one error in DNS configuration.

If I were installing Exchange 2003 in a production environment, this would be an installation stopper since DNS is critical to the services provided. However, this installation is in my lab network for which I do not allow incoming connections (since I often have unpatched and unsecure software being used for testing). You will also notice that NetDiag still reports Windows Server 2003 as Windows 2000 (build 3718) rather than with its proper designation.

The directory
Active Directory requires a number of modifications in order to support the additional Exchange attributes. These extensions can be added by running the Exchange setup with the /forestprep switch. However, this step is also accomplished during the installation of the product. Some administrators prefer to split the installation into smaller steps, especially when performing it against a production environment. For this article, I handled the Active Directory extensions with the system installer and not performing the modifications separately.

Previously, the organization name was created during the forestprep process. This is not the case with Exchange 2003. The organization is now named during the system installation, as you will see.

Installation
To begin the installation, insert the Exchange 2003 CD into the Windows 2003 server. The setup program should run automatically. If it does not, double-click on the setup.hta file in the root directory of the CD to produce the screen shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Some options are disabled on the startup screen because documentation has not yet been updated.


One of the things that you will notice in Figure A is that the options related to documentation are disabled. While the documentation in question is present on the CD, it has not yet been updated (it only has the info for Exchange 2000). Of course, once the product is released, these options will be enabled.

To begin the Exchange 2003 installation, click on the Exchange Server Setup option. It will take a minute or two for the installer to load up after which you will need to accept the license agreement, a action that will produce the Component Selection screen (see Figure B) where you will spend most of your time for the installation.

Figure B
The component selection screen is key to the installation process.


On this screen, you can select the type of installation you wish to perform and specify the location for each of the options. Since this is a new Exchange installation in a new domain, and I have no other messaging system in place, I selected a typical install. This installs the Exchange system itself as well as the related management tools. The system drive C: will be the location for my installation. However, for a production system, I recommend a disk separate from the system disk for performance and security reasons.

The next step of the installation asks whether you wish to create a new Exchange organization or whether you want to join or upgrade an Exchange 5.5 organization (see Figure C). I selected the option to create a new organization.

Figure C
This screen is used to select the type of installation desired.


At the top level of every Exchange server environment is an organization that must be named. The default name of First Organization will work, but what makes more sense is the name of the company or part of the domain name. My Windows domain is "slowe.com," so I will name my Exchange organization "slowe" (see Figure D).

Figure D
You should rename the organization to reflect your company or domain name.


The next step asks whether or not you agree to be bound by Exchange’s per seat licensing model. I recommend that you choose to agree if you wish to continue with the installation. You will then see a screen that provides an overview of the selections that were made in the wizard (see Figure E). Click Next to continue.

Figure E
This screen provides an overview of the selections made in the wizard.


At this point, the installer does its duty and installs Exchange, and shows you the progress (see Figure F). The installation takes quite some time as the Active Directory schema is updated before the Exchange components are installed.

Figure F
This screen tracks the progress of the installation as schemas are updated and components are installed.


Exchange Server 2003 is now installed and running. However, this is only the beginning of the setup process.

Managing Exchange 2003
After Exchange is installed, you will notice that user accounts now have mailboxes associated with them in Active Directory Users and Computers, as shown in Figure G.

Figure G
Mailboxes are now associated with user accounts.


The new features
In addition, a number of new features are available upon initial installation, including Outlook Web Access, which formerly required a separate installation. Wireless access capability is also available. Each of these new features can be enabled or disabled on a user-by-user basis (Figure H).

Figure H
Use this screen to set up new features.


In Figure H, you may notice that there are three new services available on the user profile—Wireless Browse, User Initiated Synchronization, and Always Up-to-date Notifications. These are part of the new mobility features, which have undergone extensive improvements in this version of Exchange, and all of the various mobility services are installed by default when you install Exchange 2003.

The Exchange System Manager
Of course, there’s a lot more to maintaining an Exchange server than just user administration. Exchange's management tool utility – the Exchange System Manager (see Figure I)—is located at Start | All Programs | Microsoft Exchange | System Manager.

Figure I
The Exchange System Manager is key to maintaining your Exchange server.


Queue maintenance
One area of consternation for Exchange administrators has been in the area of message queue maintenance. In previous versions of Exchange, the administration of the queues was buried within other settings and not convenient to access. In Exchange 2003, Microsoft recognized this as an area needing attention and created a Queues option (see Figure J) on the server branch in the System Manager. This option lists all of the message queues.

Figure J
The Queues option helps admins with queue maintenance.


Using Exchange: The client perspective
There are a lot of ways in which you can handle the client side of Exchange, but the full Outlook client is still definitely the most robust and flexible option available. If your employees are based on the network with the Exchange server or are connected by a VPN or some other kind of high-speed connection, then I recommend using the full Outlook client, especially if the employees need to use the additional groupware features (e.g., tasks, contacts, and calendars) provided by Exchange.

With Exchange 2003, Outlook clients can make a secure connection to the Exchange server from outside the firewall without the need for a VPN. If you want to make use of this functionality, the clients must be running Windows XP SP1 with Outlook 11 and the Exchange server must be running Windows 2003 and not Windows 2000 SP3.

Perhaps one of the most noticeable improvements to Exchange 2003 is with the Outlook Web Access component, which has undergone a major overhaul. Both from an interface and a performance perspective, this is a whole new OWA. From the beginning, it is definitely more responsive than prior versions of OWA, and it now sports an interface (see Figure K) very much like that of Outlook 11.

Figure K
Outlook Web Access has undergone a major overhaul.


Test setup produces results
In a testing environment, getting Exchange 2003 up and running in a stand-alone, single-server setup is useful to get an idea of the way that it is administered and to get a handle on the new features included. This article went over the simplest of installations. Next, I will look at upgrades from Exchange 2000 and 5.5.

 
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