As you know, planning a proper Exchange organization takes work. That’s true with even a simple network configuration. But things really get complicated when you’re dealing with WANs, routers, remote sites, and other non-Exchange groupware software. In this Daily Feature, I’ll address some of these additional planning issues.

What are foreign connectors?
You’re probably already familiar with the concept of connectors and how they work with routing groups. (For a complete discussion of routing groups, see the Daily Drill Down “Working With Exchange 2000 routing groups.”) In short, a connector is a logical device that ties one group of Exchange servers to another.

There are also foreign connectors. Foreign connectors typically act as gateways to non-Exchange mail systems. For example, suppose that one of your company’s offices used Lotus Notes for e-mail. If you wanted their Lotus Notes server to interact with your Exchange organization, you’d have to use a type of foreign mail connector to get the job done.

You’ll also have to use a foreign connector to access Internet-based e-mail. Unless you implement an Internet mail connector, your clients will be able to send and receive e-mail within the company but won’t be able to send messages to or receive messages from the outside world.

Planning for foreign connectors
Although the process isn’t usually very complicated, implementing a foreign connector can be a big deal. Without proper planning, the connector may not work well and could unnecessarily bog down your network because of misdirected traffic. However, I have a few pointers to help you plan for using a foreign connector. Since Internet mail connectors are the most commonly used type of foreign connectors, I’ll explain some planning issues for creating an Internet gateway.

You can place the Internet mail connector on any of your Exchange servers, thus designating that server as the organization’s Internet gateway. However, in the interest of performance and reduced traffic, I highly recommend placing the Internet mail connector on the server that actually maintains the connection to the Internet (or more likely to the machine that has the closest route to the firewall).

If your organization uses multiple routing groups that are separated by WAN connections, it’s a good idea to have a physical Internet connection available in each routing group and to create an Internet mail connector within the each routing group. Doing so will prevent clients at remote offices from having to pass through the WAN connection to get their Internet mail. Such a design can lessen the amount of traffic that’s flowing across your WAN connection and offer greater overall performance.

One more thing that you can do to enhance performance is look at who really uses a foreign connector. If the foreign connector is an Internet mail connector, then there’s a good chance that just about everyone will be using it. However, if the foreign connector is a connector to a different type of mail server in a remote office, then there’s a good chance that only certain employees will be passing data through the connector. If this is the case, try to place those employees’ mailboxes on the server that actually contains the connector. This will offer those employees that use it better performance and will prevent related traffic from having to pass through the rest of the network.

As if planning an Exchange 2000 organization isn’t hard enough, things get even trickier when you want to do things like implement Exchange 2000 across a WAN or use non-Exchange messaging platforms. You can save yourself a lot of headaches by doing a little bit of planning.