The more you use your Microsoft Exchange server or the more Exchange servers you are responsible for administering, the more important it becomes to know when your Exchange server is having a problem. Don’t worry about having to spend several thousand dollars for a third-party application or having to implement System Management Server (SMS) to watch your server. The tool I’ll discuss in this Daily Feature is included with Exchange and won’t cost a thing to implement—other than a little bit of your time.

Setting up the Server Monitor
First, go into Exchange Administrator. Next, expand the site container where the Exchange server for which you want to configure the Server Monitor resides. Click on the Monitors label in the left pane of Exchange Administrator. Click File | New | Other and then highlight and click Server Monitor.

When the Properties window appears, go to the Directory Name and Display Name fields. Enter the name of the Exchange server you want to monitor in both fields. Next, click the Notifications tab. No entries will be present in the Who To Notify section when the window first opens. Click the New button to start the process of specifying individuals who should be notified when a problem is found.

When the New Notification window appears, you’ll see three choices: Launch A Process, Mail Message, and Windows NT Alerts. In this Daily Feature, I’ll demonstrate how to use the Mail Message option, so click that option and then click OK.

When the Escalation Editor screen opens, the default time delay before notification is 15 minutes. Adjust this setting to the desired interval. By default, the notification process occurs only if the server enters an alert state (critical status). If you deselect this checkbox, notifications will occur in either a warning or alert situation.

At this point, click the Recipient tab and choose the individual you want to be notified. Click on the mailbox for that individual and click OK. If you want to notify several people for a given situation, you can specify that in one of two ways: You can create a notification rule for each person, or you can create a distribution list containing those people you want to notify as members of that distribution list. Click OK to continue.

You’ll now see a message reminding you that an alert will be sent out only for this rule starting in the next polling period following the one that’s currently active. Click OK to dismiss this message. When the Exchange Server Monitor screen refreshes, you’ll see the notification rule you just created.

Next, click the Servers tab to select the Exchange server that you want to monitor. Click on the Site drop-down box below the servers available to be monitored and select the site container that holds the server you want to monitor. Once the server name appears, click on the server and click the Add button. The server should now appear under the Monitored Servers column.

Now, click the Services button to select the services that you want to be monitored by the notification rule. By default, Microsoft Exchange Directory, Microsoft Exchange Information Store, Microsoft Exchange Internet Mail Service, Microsoft Exchange Message Transfer Agent, and Microsoft Exchange System Attendant will be monitored.

If you want to monitor another service, highlight it in the Installed Services list box and click the Add button. The service you just selected should now appear under the Monitored Services column. Repeat this process until all the services you want to monitor have been added to the notification rule.

At this point, consider adding the following services:

  • If you have multiple Exchange servers in your configuration and you’re using the Directory Sync connector to synchronize users between Exchange servers, you should monitor the Microsoft Exchange Dir Sync service.
  • If you’re sharing schedules between Exchange servers, you’ll want to monitor the Microsoft Schedule + Free/Busy connector.
  • If you have users accessing the Exchange server through the Outlook Web Access service, consider monitoring the World Wide Web Publishing service.

Click OK when you’ve finished adding services.

What to do when things go wrong
You can specify one of three actions to be taken when a monitored service stops:

  • Take no action.
  • Restart the service.
  • Restart the computer.

Be careful about using this last option; you may restart the computer when you would prefer not to. Restarting the stopped service on the first failure is a good option to consider. Anything past that point should be done locally and manually.

You must specify an action for the first attempt when the service has stopped, the second attempt, and all subsequent attempts. The default delay for waiting to execute an action is 60 seconds. Leave this setting at the default until you get a better feel of how long you need to wait before restarting a stopped service.

If you have the rule monitoring a server other than the one the rule is being created on, you may need to sync the clocks occasionally. This ensures that the time logged by the server running the rule is the same as the time logged by the server the rule affects. Accept the default option of syncing the time and click OK to activate the notification rule.

As you can see, creating a notification rule is pretty simple and something all Exchange administrators should consider doing. By taking just a few minutes, you can provide a proactive response to any problem—possibly long before your users are even aware a problem exists. Keep in mind that you can use the Server Monitor to watch only servers on which you’ve installed Microsoft Exchange.
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