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Get IT Done: Use Visio to diagram an Exchange 2000 structure

Take a complicated Exchange 2000 structure and present it as an easy-to-read conceptual overview with Visio


Undoubtedly, Microsoft Visio is becoming the de facto standard for creating network diagrams. A recent TechRepublic poll revealed that 62 percent of administrators use Visio to diagram their networks. However, the uses of Visio extend far beyond basic LAN/WAN diagrams. In this article, I will explain how Visio can be used to take a complicated Exchange 2000 structure and present it as an easy-to-read conceptual overview. I've also put together an Exchange 2000 Server configuration worksheet, which serves as a template using the techniques explained in this article. You can download it for free.

Multiple Visio versions
Although the techniques in this article take advantage of some Visio 2002-specific features, the downloadable Exchange 2000 Server configuration worksheet is presented in two formats: Visio 2000 and Visio 5. So users of these earlier versions can still take advantage of this configuration template.

Accessing the Exchange objects
If you're running Visio 2002, you may not know about the Exchange 2000 objects that are readily available to you. Unless you've been explicitly told where to find them, they're easy to overlook. To access the Exchange 2000 objects, you have to select the Active Directory template from the list of Network drawing types, shown in Figure A.

Figure A
Select the Active Directory template to access the Exchange objects.


After the template opens and attempts to load the default AD schema, you'll notice a new category of shapes called Exchange 2000 Objects. These objects, shown in Figure B, include almost all the Exchange shapes you'd expect to find for accurately laying out an Exchange 2000 structure. However, conspicuously missing from the objects list is a shape representing routing groups and site links. I will address this issue shortly.

Figure B
Exchange 2000 objects in Visio 2002


Building your diagram
As you select the objects and place them on your diagram, you will notice that the friendly display name changes to an LDAP naming convention used by Active Directory. This happens because Visio 2002 can be used for importing and exporting Exchange 2000 information directly in or out of Active Directory. I would highly recommend renaming the newly changed LDAP name to one that better reflects your Exchange structure.

Although you can place the objects on your diagram as you see fit, I find that maintaining a view consistent with Exchange System Manager is the best practice. Once you have all the objects in place, make any necessary adjustments to reflect additional information, such as service pack levels and configuration settings. This will make your new Exchange 2000 diagram an invaluable piece of your total network documentation.

You can obtain additional resources and information on using Visio to diagram your Exchange 2000 topology at Microsoft’s Visio Network Center. There, you will find network diagramming tools and resources that extend Microsoft’s Visio Enterprise Network Tools. (This is an add-on to Visio Professional 2002 that basically provides similar functionality to Visio 2000 Enterprise Edition.)

Remember how the basic Visio 2002 Exchange objects were missing the routing and site links? Well, the Visio Network Center offers an Exchange Topology Diagramming solution that connects to an existing Exchange 2000 implementation and graphically presents the routing group topology in Visio. You can even use the tool to design and draw a new topology that can later be imported into your Exchange environment to automatically create the routing groups, although I wouldn't recommend this for most implementations. Don’t get too excited about running out to the Visio Network Center to download all these goodies, either. You have to be a registered, paid subscriber to download them.

Summary
Documenting an Exchange 2000 structure can be complicated and tedious. Fortunately, Microsoft Visio 2002’s Exchange Objects enable you to create accurate and great-looking Exchange 2000 diagrams in no time. And even if you use an earlier version of Visio, you can download my Exchange 2000 Server configuration worksheet and use it for your documentation.

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