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Exchange gurus

By Shanghai Sam ·
Scenario: Large NT WAN with 6 Exchange 5.5 servers. 5 servers in site container called HOME. 1 server in site container called REMOTE. Attempted to utilize Exmerge BackOffice utility to move mailboxes from server in REMOTE to a server in HOME. Processed failed, but all Exchange servers seemed unaffected.

Nightly backup of servers stops Exchange services, then restarts at conclusion of backup. Next morning we discovered that Information Stores on 3 servers in the HOME site would not start. 2 servers unaffected. Server in REMOTE site unaffected.

Received the exact errors as shown in MSKB Q185573. However, we were not doing an upgrade, and have no Exchange 5.0 servers.

Attempted to repair databases with ISINTEG and ESEUTIL utilities,but was unsuccessful. Did not yet want to restore from backup, as this would mean a days worth of email for 1000 users would be lost.

Eventually, we realized that it was not our Information Stores that were corrupted, but the Directory Services. Resolved the problem by completely uninstalling and then reinstalling Exchange, restored priv.edb, pub.edb, and dir.edb files from backup, then ran ISINTEG -PATCH. Everything was then back to normal.

We believe, but are unsure, that something became corrupted when we attempted to move mailboxes, and then the corruption somehow replicated. What is strange is that only 3 of the 6 mail servers were affected. What is also strange is that we found a MSKB article describing exactly the error messages, but the listed cause has nothing to do with our situation.

Although we have resolved the issue, if anyone can point me to possible causes or alternative solutions, I would appreciate it.

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Exchange gurus

by curlergirl In reply to Exchange gurus

I'm not sure I can fully answer your question, but I have some ideas. First of all, although the error messages corresponded to those found in the article you mentioned, you have to remember that TechNet articles are written by MS tech support people referring to specific circumstances. The error messages that appear in the Event Viewer, however, are more generic - the messages you saw indicated that there was corruption in the database(s) and/or directory, but this can happen in a number of different ways. One thought I have is that it may have happened as a combination of trying to move messsages and then doing offline backups (this is what MS calls it when you stop the Exchange services in order to back up). MS strongly recommends doing ON-line backups, especially in a system as large and complex as yours, since this improves your data recovery chances if something goes wrong. One thing you have to remember about Exchange is that messages are not committed to the database immediately upon receipt. What actually happens are that transaction logs are created and then "replayed" into the database to update it at a somewhat later time (depending upon the capacity of the server, the size of the site, # of mailboxes, messages,etc.). So, it is possible that some messages were lost or corrupted because you tried to move mailboxes, headers corrupted, etc., and then the directory got out of sync because of this. Now, one common way of setting up Exchange if you do offline backups is to enable circular logging so that the transactions logs get overwritten rather than being backed up and then cleared (which is what happens during an on-line backup). When you have circular logging enabled, you are more susceptible to losing messages or getting corrupted message headers, and this may be what happened.

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Exchange gurus

by curlergirl In reply to Exchange gurus

If you have circular logging enabled and a message header is corrupted, the system is more "self-healing" than if circular logging is enabled. It also might have something to do with the service pack level of Exchange - are you on SP5 or some earlier SP level? If you are on an earlier level, you should certainly "upgrade" all your servers to SP5 (or at least SP4). For one thing, SP4 and above have the move mailbox capability built into the Exchange Admin program rather than having to use theexmerge utility. I've never used exmerge to move mailboxes, but I have read about it, and I have used the newer "Move Mailbox" tool in Exchange Admin to move mailboxes. I was on a much less complex system than yours, but it worked like a charm. Also, I would definitely recommend going to a backup software (Arcserve, Backup Exec, etc.) with the Exchange Agent option so that you can do online backups. I have had much fewer problems with lost or corrupted messages headers and have found Exchange to be much more fault tolerant under these circumstances. Hope this helps!

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Exchange gurus

by curlergirl In reply to Exchange gurus

Oops! Correction to first sentence of last comment - if you have circular logging DISABLED it is more self-healing (I know this sounds contrary, but it's correct).

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Exchange gurus

by TimTheToolMan In reply to Exchange gurus

Hi,

I'm not an exchange guru, but it seems to me that if the message was exactly the one given in the technet article, then its possible that IIS had failed on three of your five target servers during the move. Dont look at the cause in the article - look at the reason for the cause...

It would have been useful to test IIS after the failures. Or at least check the services...

Are there any events pertaining to failed IIS services in the event viewer?

Cheers,
Tim.

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Exchange gurus

by Shanghai Sam In reply to Exchange gurus

Hope this doesn't come off as being rotten, but...

You really need to invest some time in training and reading up on Exchange server management and recovery. Moving mailboxes with ExMerge isn't difficult. That the "process failed" leads me to believe you may have simply winged it, not a good practice.

As the first answer indicates, doing off-line backups is not recommeneded or supported by MS. Restoration of offline backups is tricky at best, even for experienced Exchange administrators. You can do an online backup with native tools, so why do something unsupported, more difficult and more likely to cause problems?

If you suspect your database is corrupt, running ESEUTIL is not the recommended solution, restoration from backup is.As you found out the hard way, in most cases you'll end up restoring from backup anyway. The time you spend trying to recover a bad database or directory with the tools is usually time lost. If you set Exchange up correctly (ie, circular logging disabled) you won't lose anything when you restore -- provided, of course, that you have a good backup and the transaction logs are intact.

In the case above, you didn't need to restore the IS if only the directory was corrupt, and you certainly didn't need to reinstall Exchange.

It sounds like your users depend on their mail, and therefore your ability to support the mail server. Start reading everything you can in TechNet about Exchange, especially the disaster recovery whitepapers, unlessyou hate your job.

Try these sites out for good advise on the basics of Exchange administration:

http://www.swinc.com/resource/exch_faq.htm

http://www.exchangefaq.org/

http://www.slipstick.com/

http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/techinfo/administration/55/default.asp

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Exchange gurus

by maxwell edison In reply to Exchange gurus

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Exchange gurus

by acattr In reply to Exchange gurus

directory errors would cause the directory service to fail, not the IS. For an organization of your size you should consider getting a real backup solution that includes exchange agents.

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Exchange gurus

by Alpha-Male In reply to Exchange gurus

While you may not specifically have been upgrading, you were making modifications and their result may have caused your server to be in a similar state to the one mentioned in Q185573 -

The upgrade fails if Microsoft Internet Information Server has been removed from Microsoft Windows NT Server and the Active Server Components in Microsoft Exchange Server 5.0 have not been removed. After the setup fails, the Information Store service will fail to start with a Server Specific Error 2147746063 because the Directory and Information Store cannot communicate.

My supposition would be that in the migration failing, the communications between the Directory and the Information Store were broken. What did it may have been different, but the result was the same.

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