This section is the most difficult to blog and in my experience, is the most likely to be ignored, the most difficult to report on, but equally the area which in the long run can have by far the most impact. I think there is a lot of opportunity here for messaging administrators to take the lead in their IT organisation and demonstrate, why appropriate and relevant operational procedures are important, and the service that can be delivered if some time and effort is spent here.
The ExRAP uses a series of questions to ascertain what processes are place which ensure the successful operation of the messaging infrastructure and where this conflicts with Microsoft's best practise's. Some example of the areas covered are:
- Change Control - not only do you have a change control procedure but what do you do with this information? Does the messaging team have the ability to review and reject changes that may impact the Exchange environment - changes to AD and the network for example?
- Service Level Agreements - SLA's are vital but much more is required. Do operating level agreements exist with the services that Exchange is dependent upon? Is the availability of the messaging service published to management & customers and do the messaging team meet to review where SLA's have been met and why?
- Test Environment - does one exist and what is it used for? For example is there a procedure in place to test the validity of Exchange backups, to practise the use of Exchange tools such as eseutil, to practise disaster recovery procedures...?
- Messaging Hygiene - what and where has anti-virus and anti-spam software been implemented? What protection do you have against spoofing?
This is just a very small sample of the areas that are covered in the operations section of an ExRAP. If you are running your own health check then for this bit you need to become familiar with the Microsoft Operations Framework.
"Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF)
The Microsoft Operations Framework (MOF) provides operational guidance that enables organizations to achieve mission-critical system reliability, availability, supportability, and manageability of Microsoft products and technologies. With MOF guidance, you'll be able to assess your current IT service management maturity, prioritize your processes of greatest concern, and apply proven principles and best practices to optimize your management of the Windows Server platform. "
(The above was taken from Microsoft's web site here.)
If you are just starting with ITIL or MOF then this makes a bit of a mockery of my assertion that an administrator could run a health check of their environment in a couple of days. However a good place to start is the MOF Self-Assessment Tool which is available here; 'Microsoft Operations Framework Self-Assessment Tool 2.0'
I would also strongly recommend reading the following on Technet which is a great series of articles about routine maintenance and contains a series of operational checklists which are very easy to follow; 'Exchange Server 2003 Operations Guide'
In my experience I think there is a lot of scope for messaging administrators to take the lead in operational management. There is still generally a bit of a gap between the business and IT but also between IT senior management and IT administrators. There are plenty of occasions, for example, where SLA's, which amongst other things cover the service availability of the Exchange Servers, have been agreed with the business but the Exchange administrators are unaware of what the SLA's are or where they are published... Why not take the lead? Why not simulate a disaster recovery scenario in a test environment and use the results to determine what recovery SLA you can meet? Let IT management know your results and whether this meets their expectations. It might kick start some interesting discussions...
..'Run your own Exchange Server Health Check.... Part 2 - General Administration' to follow soon...