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TechRepublic Tutorial: Establishing two-way communication between Exchange sites

Learn how to get two Exchange servers talking to each other.


In the Daily Feature entitled “Preparing to establish multisite Exchange servers,” I showed you how to get ready to make Exchange servers at different locations work together as one. Now the rubber hits the road. In this Daily Feature, I’ll show you how to make the servers talk to each other.

Getting the two Exchange systems talking to each other
To start, open a command prompt on servers at both ends of the connection. From both sides of the network, make sure that you can ping the Exchange server on the other side. Ping each server by both IP address and name. Doing so verifies that the connection between the servers is good and that WINS is running properly.

If both ends pass this basic test, go into Exchange Administrator on the server on which you have just installed Exchange. Open the Site container in which you just installed the additional Exchange server. Open the Configuration container and the Connections container. Select File | New Other and highlight and click on Site Connector. On the New Site Connector screen, enter the name of the Exchange server at the other end of the connection and click OK.

After Exchange Administrator receives the configuration information it needs from the Exchange server at the other end of the connection, you’ll see the name of the screen change to Site Connector followed by the name of the Exchange Site at the other end of the connection. Click OK, and you’ll be prompted to automatically install a Site Connector in the remote Exchange site.

Once you have clicked OK to finish the Site Connector creation process, let the two sites settle down for at least half an hour to an hour before proceeding on to the next step. There is no magic calculation for how long to wait, but I would suggest that the more Exchange servers you having talking, the longer you’ll want to wait before proceeding.

Below the Connections container where you just created the Site Connector, you’ll see a Directory Replication container. Choose it and then select New Other from the File menu. Highlight and click on the Directory Replication Connector option.

You’ll see a screen indicating the Site Connector with which Exchange Administrator will establish Directory Synchronization. If there is more than one site waiting to be connected, you’ll need to make sure that you select the correct Site Connector. When the Site Connector contacts the target site and receives information from it, you should notice a similar change to what you saw with the Site Connector—the screen title will change to Directory Replication Connector Properties with the name of the other Exchange Site in parentheses.

You’ll need to make some changes on this properties screen. The Local Bridgehead Servers should have the same name as the name of the server for which this directory replication connector is configured. The Remote Bridgehead Servers field should contain the name of the Exchange server at the other end of the connection.

Click the Schedule tab. By default, the Directory Replication connector will synchronize information between the two Exchange sites every three hours. When you are first starting things up (if you have the bandwidth available to do so), I suggest choosing the Always option to streamline the synchronization of information between systems. After it appears that you have everything from each server’s directory viewable from the other server, you can change the schedule.

After you set these properties, click OK to finish the connector creation. A prompt will ask you to create a Directory Replication Connector for the other Exchange Site. Select Yes. Once you do this, you’ll need to take a wait-and-see approach.

Although you might be able to speed up the process by doing forced replication between sites, don’t bother. It won’t really make things replicate fast enough to justify the work that you’ll need to do. There is no good rule of thumb for how long it will take to get things up and running. In a two-server configuration such as we are setting up here, assuming you have at least a 256K line speed or greater, the process will take at least one to two hours if there is minimal network traffic between the two sites.

Checking to see that Directory Replication is working
Your first indication that Directory Replication is working occurs when you examine Exchange Administrator at each site and notice items populating the Site connector for the opposite site. Different parts of the Site container, such as Connection and Director Replication Connector, will be the first to populate. The Recipient container will be the last to populate.

When you see the mailboxes start to show up, check the Global Address List (GAL) and make sure those same mailboxes appear there. Then try sending mail between recipients on each end. If the tests you did earlier while setting up the Site and Directory Replication Connector went well, you shouldn’t see a problem at this point.

Conclusion
In this Daily Feature, we have walked through the steps that are required to get things set up so that Exchange servers at different locations can appear to the user as if they are in the same building. As you can see, the process isn’t that hard but is certainly one that shouldn’t be rushed.
The authors and editors have taken care in preparation of the content contained herein but make no expressed or implied warranty of any kind and assume no responsibility for errors or omissions. No liability is assumed for any damages. Always have a verified backup before making any changes.

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