With most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) depending on Microsoft Exchange as the core of their messaging infrastructure, Exchange performance is critical to the Exchange admin. Whether the email is down, or merely slow, admins will need to take care of the help desk calls. However, it doesn’t have to be like this; with the appropriate measures, Exchange admins can ensure that Exchange performance remains satisfactory, and reduce those help desk calls in the bargain.

The first step when it comes to maintaining Exchange performance consists of the basic, but crucial, admin tasks. Microsoft routinely issues patches for Windows Server that correct bugs and security holes. It is good security practice to keep Windows up-to-date against the latest threats. A related point is that of checking for updated drivers that may have performance enhancements. Windows Update makes it easy to check for the latest updates and install them. Apart from Windows Server updates themselves, there are Exchange updates and service packs issued from time to time. Windows Update does not check for Exchange updates so it’s good practice to check regularly, or to sign up to Exchange-related blogs or news sites. Other basic admin tasks include putting in monitoring disk space and the Exchange performance counters as they can help identify if the hardware is adequate or not to provide the required Exchange performance.

The above measures go some way towards ensuring adequate Exchange performance, however admins can go a step further in ensuring both Exchange performance in terms of speed and availability. It is stating the obvious, but the fewer emails stored in Exchange, the lower the load on the server, and hence faster performance. Admins cannot set mailbox quotas to a few kilobytes otherwise they won’t be long in a job! However admins do set mailbox quotas to reasonable limits, not just for performance reasons but also due to storage constraints. As users don’t like to delete emails, they tend to resort to PST files to archive their old email – not an ideal situation as PST files create additional problems. With an email archiving solution, the email is stored in a more efficient, compressed manner. By keeping this central repository of email with mailbox quotas, Exchange will have a reduced email load to process.

Another advantage of having a central repository is that if Exchange were ever to go down, users can still access their emails from the archive should they need to refer to them. With mailboxes being increasingly used as a document store, the large and numerous attachments put pressure on Exchange performance, as well as making any email downtime even more upsetting for the organization. An archiving solution not only ensures continued access to such documents, it can also provide fast, full text indexing of both the emails as well as the attachments.

Exchange on-premise will continue to underpin the communications infrastructure for years to come, and ensuring its performance is critical to any organization. Admins now have tools that provide more than basic admin tasks and which help them boost exchange performance and minimize downtime.