Software

Learn the problems addressed by Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 1

Few organizations deploy a new piece of software before the first service pack is released. Here's what you can expect to find in Exchange 2003 Service Pack 1.

For Microsoft Exchange server tips, check out TechRepublic's Tech Tips for Exchange Administrators CD-ROM. Packed with more than 100 technical solutions, this tips collection simplifies Exchange 5.5, 2000, and 2003 administration.

Microsoft recently released Service Pack 1 for Exchange Server 2003. Like other Microsoft service packs, Exchange Server SP1 incorporates bug fixes and a handful of new features and improvements. SP1 isn't a massive upgrade, but there are enough important bug fixes and feature enhancements to certainly put an SP1 deployment high on your list of things to do. Let's take a look at what's fixed and what's new.

Bug fixes

SP1 addresses eight main issues for Exchange Server 2003. Here's a summary of these issues and the Knowledge Base article associated with each:

  • Problem removing public folder replica: This issue prevents you from removing a public folder when it matches the name of a public folder on another server and the folders have been replicated between the servers. See KB article 842018 for details.
  • Exception when sending a message with System.Web.Mail: This problem occurs if the From field exceeds 255 characters. SP1 still limits the From field to 255 characters or less, but it generates a generic error rather than an unhandled exception. See KB article 842031 for details.
  • Sony Ericsson T68i with R301 or later profile: Prior to SP1, Exchange Server did not support the T68i with WTAI support and an R301 or later profile when connecting using Outlook Mobile Access. See KB article 842110 for details.
  • MSExchangeDSAccess counters unavailable or incorrect after failover: When a failover occurs in a cluster, the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeDSAccess subkey is overwritten on the passive node, which affects performance data in System Monitor. SP1 corrects this problem. See KB article 842121 for details.
  • "[0x2] Protocol Error" when configuring a public folder connection agreement between AD and Exchange Server 5.5: SP1 corrects a problem with the Connection Agreement stopping when the ADC attempts to insert an empty msExchPfCreation attribute to the public folder object in the AD. See KB article 842123 for details.
  • "Active Directory still contains objects that are not replicated" warning message with ADC Tools: When you use the ADC Tools with the Active Directory Connector to verify replication between Exchange Server 5.5 and the AD, this warning message is logged to the log file. The ADC does not replicate all objects, but ADC Tools scans all objects with mail attributes, thereby generating a false error. SP1 corrects this problem. See KB article 842124 for details.
  • Error with Outlook Mobile Access with actions that require recipient resolution: Several errors can occur when you use OMA to perform actions that require resolving recipient names, such as sending an e-mail, creating a new contact, adding a task, or creating a new appointment. You might also see events 1506 and 1805 on the front-end server. The problem occurs when the storage limit for the mailbox is reached. See KB article 842023 for details.
  • Error when using WebDAV to query the information store: If the query is too complex for the Query Optimizer of the Exchange OLE DB provider, you might receive the error "Full-Text Indexing must be enabled to use the CONTAINS() clause in a query." SP1 fixes this problem. See KB article 828708 for details.

New and enhanced features

The bug fixes in SP1 will certainly make some Exchange administrators happy, but most of the issues addressed by SP1 that I described above are very specific and don't apply in a broad range of scenarios. The feature enhancements in SP1, however, do apply to most Exchange Server shops.

Recover Mailbox Data Wizard

Recovery Storage Groups enable you to create a backup information store to perform mailbox recovery. Prior to SP1, you had to use Exmerge to recover mailboxes and merge them back into the regular store. The Recover Mailbox Data Wizard introduced with SP1 eliminates the need to use Exmerge to recover data from Recovery Storage Groups. This wizard integrates the features provided by Exmerge into the System Manager, which simplifies the mailbox recovery process; the process is now a lot like moving a mailbox.

In addition, the wizard is not constrained by Exmerge's 2-GB limit, so you can recover very large mailboxes. The wizard also offers two options: Merge and Copy. The Merge option brings the data back into the original location in the store. For example, recovered messages from a user's inbox go back into the inbox. The Copy option brings the data in to a subfolder rather than merge it with the existing data. Use the Copy option when you need to restore individual items and don't want to affect the user's existing mailbox items.

RPC-over-HTTP

RPC-over-HTTP configuration has been simplified. RPC-over-HTTP enables remote users to access their Exchange Server mailboxes from Outlook 2003 using HTTP as the communication protocol. RPC-over-HTTP simplifies network configuration because administrators don't have to open additional ports in the firewall to support incoming mailbox connections (port 80 is almost certainly open already). RPC-over-HTTP also eliminates the need to provide and support VPN connections for remote users who need to gain access to their mailboxes from Outlook.

Prior to SP1, you needed to make some manual changes in the IIS console and tweak the registry to get RPC-over-HTTP to work. With SP1, configuration is handled through the properties for the server in the Exchange System Manager (Figure A).

Figure A

You now configure RPC-over-HTTP in the System Manager.

You can designate the server as the front-end server or the back-end server for RPC-over-HTTP. Choose the back-end server option if you have only one server, and it will support RPC-over-HTTP access. (You configure the server as the front-end server on the General tab of the server's property sheet.)

With the installation of SP1, the front-end server must be running Exchange Server 2003 SP1. The back-end server(s) can run Exchange Server 2003 RTM or SP1. In addition, the GUI-based RPC-over-HTTP configuration requires separate front-end and back-end servers. However, the GUI change does not support configuration for RPC-over-HTTP in a single-server environment. You can still use RPC-over-HTTP in a single-server environment, but you must configure the ValidPorts registry key manually.

The process for configuring RPC-over-HTTP is also different. When setting up RPC-over-HTTP, you need to configure the back-end servers first. The front-end servers can then scan the AD for registered, managed-topology back-end servers and configure the ValidPorts key appropriately (this scanning is the reason SP1 is required for the front-end servers). If you configure the front-end servers first, they won't be able to find any managed back-end servers in the AD and will blank out the ValidPorts key, even if it already contains valid entries for existing unmanaged back-end servers. In situations where you need to integrate several existing back-end servers, you can use the TopoManager.vbs script, available from Microsoft's Product Support Services group.

Outlook Web Access and clustering

Another addition in Exchange Server SP1 is more language support for spell-checking in Outlook Web Access. Exchange Server 2003 includes English, French, German, Italian, Korean, and Spanish. SP1 adds Arabic, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, Hebrew, Norwegian, and Swedish (Figure B).

Figure B

SP1 adds several other languages to OWA.

SP1 also adds several additional file types to the Level1 and Level2 attachment lists. These lists control attachment blocking and attachment behavior through OWA access. You can also modify the lists by changing the Level1FileTypes and Level2FileTypes values in the HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\MSExchangeWEB\OWA registry key.

SP1 also supports multiple MAPI public folder stores per cluster in clusters with more than two nodes. However, SP1 limits to one the number of MAPI public folder stores per Exchange virtual server.

ADC Tools

The ADC Tools in SP1 have been tweaked to give you more control over connection agreements (CAs). When creating a connection agreement, you now have the option to review a CA prior to creating it, giving you the capability to override settings. You can configure desired default settings in CD_Defaults.xml to control default CA attributes. For example, you might configure the default startup type to Never to prevent the CAs from starting immediately upon creation. Also included in SP1 is a script named Activate_CAS.vbs, which automates the process of reconfiguring CA startup type from Never to Always.

Mobility and Lotus Notes Connector

SP1 provides additional language support for Outlook Mobile Access (OMA), including Czech, Hungarian, Polish, Russian, Basque, Catalan, Finnish, Greek, Norwegian, Turkish, and Swedish. Device Update #4 ships with SP1 to add support for additional devices with OMA. The Lotus Notes connector in SP1 now supports the Lotus Notes R6 client.

Database ECC changes

The Exchange database prior to SP1 didn't provide the capability to fix single-bit checksum errors in the database. Checksum errors are most often caused by hardware failures and typically generate a -1018 error. Prior to SP1, a checksum error required that the database be repaired or restored. SP1 adds a separate checksum for each 4K page of the database and can automatically detect and fix single-bit checksum errors, eliminating the need to perform a repair or restore. Microsoft estimates that up to 40 percent of the checksum issues reported were single-bit errors, so inclusion of this feature is an important addition.

The database is upgraded to the new version automatically after SP1 installation, one page at a time. You can force a complete upgrade of the database by performing an offline defragmentation of the database.

SP1 incorporates two other changes that affect the store. First, Microsoft has implemented changes that provide for much faster log file replay, which can have a significant beneficial impact on database restore, where a high number of log files are involved. In addition, the database cache is now allocated as private bytes rather than mapped bytes, which causes Store.exe to appear as if it is using approximately 940 MB more memory. If you're monitoring for high memory usage, this change could cause your monitoring software to trigger and alert.

Web tools

Microsoft released several new and enhanced tools on the Web at the same time as the SP1 release to support changes and additions in SP1, as well as provide additional Exchange Server administration tools. These include:

  • Domain Rename Fixup: This tool enables administrators to easily make changes in the Active Directory required after renaming a domain with RENDOM. The tool works for Exchange Server 2003 only, requires native mode, and can't be used if any Exchange Server is installed on a domain controller.
  • Outlook Web Access Web Administration: This Web-based tool (Figure C) provides a means to more easily manage OWA settings as an alternative to using the Registry Editor to make changes. You can change such items as the server default theme, server-wide feature support, and a host of other settings.

Figure C

Use OWA Web Administration to configure a variety of OWA settings.
  • Auto Accept Agent: This tool automatically processes meeting requests sent to a resource mailbox, accepting or declining the request as appropriate. The agent makes the decision to accept or decline based on calendar data rather than free/busy information.
  • Transport features: The Badmailadmin.wsf script automatically deletes or archives files in the Badmail folder of an SMTP virtual server. E-mail journaling advanced configuration, when used with envelope journaling, enables you to capture recipients on expanded distribution lists and BCC recipients.
  • Intelligent Message Filter: The IMF (Figure D) provides spam analysis for Exchange Server 2003. The filter stamps messages with a Spam Confidence Level (SCL) value to indicate the probability that the message is spam. The higher the number, the more likely the message is spam. You can set a gateway threshold with one of four actions for the message: delete, archive, reject, or take no action. If the message is allowed past the gateway, it is evaluated again by an extended server-side mailbox rule to determine whether it should be placed in the Junk E-Mail folder or placed in the Inbox. Client-side spam settings in Outlook 2003 can override the IMF. For example, messages from senders on the Safe Senders list will be placed in the Inbox regardless of the SCL of the message. An IMF Archive Manager tool, available from Microsoft by download, enables you to manage messages in the IMF archive (if you've configured IMF to archive spam).

Figure D

You can configure two threshold values to determine what action, if any, is taken at the gateway and at the user's mailbox.

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