Troubleshoot "The Server Is Not Operational" errors

Use these tips to troubleshoot the error message, "The Server Is Not Operational" in Exchange 2000 or 2003.

TechRepublic's free E-mail Administration NetNote provides tips that will help you manage your Exchange server and other e-mail systems. Automatically sign up today!

Some error messages are more unnerving than others. For example, when you open the Exchange System Manager, here's something you really don't want to see: a dialog box with a big red X that says "The Server Is Not Operational."

This error can cause your Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003 organization a lot of trouble if you don't get to the root of it. However, figuring out where the problem originates typically isn't a problem.

Under these circumstances, the most likely cause for this error is one or more problems with DNS. For example, you may need to point your DNS server to itself for DNS resolution, the DNS server may be down, or the DNS server may not be replicating properly with other DNS servers on your network.

If you encounter this error dialog box when you're moving a mailbox from an Exchange 5.5 site for the first time, you probably need to turn on Lightweight Directory Access Protocol (LDAP) for your Exchange 5.5 site or server.

We've also seen both of the above situations when the Exchange 2000 or Exchange 2003 server couldn't find a domain controller. DNS problems can cause this, or the domain controller could be down.

None of these problems usually take long to correct, but they can be quite disruptive to your Exchange organization. A problem with accessing domain controllers means problems with accessing Active Directory, which has a very detrimental effect on local mail delivery.

Therefore, resolving these problems quickly and (hopefully) painlessly is important to your users--and to your sanity as an administrator.