One of the coolest features in Microsoft Exchange is the ability to share calendars for scheduling meetings. You may run into a little problem, however, when you try to share calendars with multiple Exchange servers present. In this Daily Feature, we’ll take a look at how you can avoid such problems.

Identifying the problem
Your first indication that you have a problem will be when you select a user whose mailbox resides on another Exchange server and all you see after his or her name is \\\\\\\\\\\\\\\. Fixing this isn’t an insurmountable task but one that will take a little planning.

If your Exchange servers reside in different NT domains but in the same Exchange configuration (i.e., they can all be managed from the same copy of Exchange Administrator), you will first need to have NT trusts in place before proceeding. If your network isn’t already connected using either direct data circuits between different locations or with VPNs over the Internet, you will need to have one of these two methods in place, as the process described here is performed using Remote Procedure Call (RPC) commands, which won’t work over the Internet.

The next thing you will need to have in place is a Directory Replication connector. You can find out how to do this in the Daily Feature “Establishing two-way communication between Exchange sites.” After you have Directory Replication in place, let things settle for at least several hours (if not a day), depending on the size of your Exchange setup, before you proceed.

Next, you must install the MS Mail Connector. Although you won’t use it to talk to any MS Mail systems, you do need the connector because it allows you to share calendars between Exchange servers. The rest of this article will walk you through the process of sharing calendars across your Exchange network.

Installing the MS Mail Connection
First, insert the Exchange 5.5 Server CD into the server’s CD-ROM drive. When the install program appears on the screen, click on the Exchange 5.5 option. On the next screen, select the Add/Remove option. When the components screen appears, highlight Microsoft Exchange and click Change.

Select the box beside MSMail Connector and click OK to return to the previous screen. Next, click Continue to proceed with the installation of the MS Mail connector. Enter the Exchange Service account name and password when prompted and click OK.

Click OK to acknowledge the message about reinstalling the Exchange Service Pack. (One thing that is not mentioned is that after you install the connector, you will also need to reinstall the last NT Service Pack you put on your server, followed by the Exchange Service Pack and any Exchange hot fixes that have been installed.)

Once you have completed the reinstallation of the service packs listed above and have rebooted the server, you are ready to configure the MS Mail connector to share schedules. In Exchange Administrator, expand the Folders icon. Next, expand System Folders and look for the Schedule + Free Busy folder. Expand this folder and look for the folder that is titled with a name that matches your Exchange organization and local site container names.

Click on this folder and then choose the File option from the main toolbar. Highlight and click on the Properties option from the File menu. On the properties tab, click Replicas. The server in your site should already appear in the Replicate Folders field. (If it isn’t, add it at this point.)

Click on the drop-down arrow below the SITE: label. Highlight and click on the Exchange site container that you want to share schedules with. When the screen refreshes, you will see a list of servers that are in the Exchange site container you just selected. Click on the server(s) that you want to share schedules with and click Add. The server(s) you just selected will now appear in the Replicate Folders column.

The last step is to schedule how often you want to replicate the calendar information. Click the Replications Schedule button. You may choose Information Store Schedule, Never, Always (i.e., all the time), or selected times. The Always option will use the most bandwidth, depending on the schedule changes occurring on each Exchange server, so it may not be the best option if you have little bandwidth to spare. Once you have decided how often to replicate the schedule information, click OK and your job on this first server is finished. You will need to repeat this process on each of your Exchange servers that you want to share calendars with.

As you can see, the process isn’t that hard. And when you have the connectors communicating, it shouldn’t require that much administrative work—just a few server reboots and everything will be running in a fairly short period of time.
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