Microsoft Exchange Server for Epsilon Semi-Morons?
July 3, 2008 9:39 AM   Subscribe

How do I set up Microsoft Exchange (or Outlook) Server for a small office?

I'm providing basic knuckle-dragger tech support for a small office, and one of the things they want to implement and that I want to provide eventually is an Exchange or Outlook server.

Where do I begin? What should I watch out for? What about security issues?

I will be using Server 2003 and a primarily XP client base.
posted by loquacious to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
A couple thoughts:

1. Migration concerns. Where is their old email? How will you move it?

2. Establish size quotas. Establish attachment size quotas (I recommend 10 megs). Dont let them treat email as a filesystem. Its a bad habit to get into and they'll protest when they have to change.

3. Implement an anti-spam solution. I think the built-in Outlook junk filter is mediocre. Its better than nothing. You may need to train them on how to put someone on their safe senders list. You can create a global safe sender list via GPO or at install time with the office resource kit customized installer. You want want to whitelist the domains of all their vendors and partners.

4. If theyre using laptops then configure them to use rpc over http. Theyll need office 2003 or higher and XP SP2 or Vista. No need for a vpn then.

5. Make them a couple distribution lists but also teach them they can make them in their personal contacts. Make sure they understand the differences between a global address list and their own personal contacts.

6. Of course get all the latest service packs and updates. Expand AD schema with /forestprep etc etc.

7. Backups. You'll need to come up with a backup plan.

8. Dedicated server. If you have the option dont put exchange on your file server or domain controller. Give it its own hardware.

9. Also install a WSUS server for updates for both the clients and the server. Although, I wouldnt recommend having any server group auto-updating.

Good luck. Its really slick once it all comes together.
posted by damn dirty ape at 9:57 AM on July 3, 2008

TechNet is your friend in any Microsoft shop. Here's all the details on Exchange 2007 deployment.

However, Microsoft is about to release Windows Small Business Server 2008. If you're a "one server shop," you may want to wait for that, since SBS consolidates most of the features that a small office that wants to run their own Exchange server might need.

There's also service provider hosted Exchange, both from Microsoft and third parties. While this can be pricy and difficult to administer in the big little shops, it may well make sense for a smaller shop where running an Exchange server doesn't make sense.

If the above information seems daunting, you may want to consider hiring a local consultant with good references to set things up, and be there while that individual does the install and get training on administration.
posted by eschatfische at 10:02 AM on July 3, 2008 [1 favorite]

You will want to go with an Windows SBS solution most likely, unless you have the time or budget for multiple servers.
posted by internal at 10:02 AM on July 3, 2008

How small? Exchange is a waste of money and time for any office smaller than, say, 50 people. In that case you should go with a service provider that handles Exchange for you, as Eschatfische says.
posted by Mo Nickels at 10:43 AM on July 3, 2008

If you do go with a self-hosted Exchnage server, try using Postini as a spam filter. The cost per user is fairly small. The advantage of a service like Postini is that it takes the burden of filtering good/bad messages off your server and it allows individual users to control/monitor their spam settings via the now-ubiquitous browser interface. We've used it for several years and it's pretty darn silent and reliable, even with quite low-skill level users like several of ours. Postini also has a spooling feature that you'll need when your Exchange server goes down.
posted by webhund at 11:19 AM on July 3, 2008

How many people? 75 or under and you're easiest battle is to go with Small Business Server. Echoing dda's concerns, too.
posted by tcv at 1:21 PM on July 3, 2008

If you're going to host it yourself, you want Small Business Server. It's easier to administer and much cheaper than buying separate Windows Server and Exchange licenses.

You should strongly consider two alternatives. One is to pay for Exchange hosting outside your organization. It's going to be cheaper and much lower maintenance than trying to maintain and backup Exchange yourself. AppRiver does this, and though I only used them for spam filtering, they were very, very reliable.

You should also consider Google Apps. You can use it for free, but the pay version is reasonably priced for an organization your size. It provides you e-mail, calendar and shared contacts, which is what 90% of people use Exchange to do.
posted by cnc at 5:23 PM on July 3, 2008

Something damn dirt ape says above has implications that you should understand. Setting quotas to 10 MB means that all e-mail is going to sit on desktop PCs. This means that you are (very likely) not backing up anyone's e-mail at all. If you make this decision, people need to understand that unless they backup their own mail, it's absolutely, positively gone if their PC hard drive crashes. If you think this is going to stop people from demanding their e-mail be restored when their PC crashes, you'd be wrong. Storing mail on the server (which is transparent to end users) allows you to back it up and restore it. Hosting mail with a third-party means you don't need to worry about it at all.
posted by cnc at 5:29 PM on July 3, 2008

cnc, damn dirty ape was talking about attachment size quotas, not overall mailbox quotas. loquacious, I'd advise you to leave the actual mailbox quotas off, or leave them huge. The easiest place to manage mail is when it (or a copy of it) stays on your server. Having users keep the only copy on their desktop is just flirting with disaster and pissed off users.

Can I simultaneously echo an idea, and offer an alternative? I have nothing but praise for the previously mentioned Postini, but Barracuda spam filters are awesome too. The main difference is that the Barracuda has no per-user licensing. I think Postini is $25/year/user for spam filtering and archiving. I think that would make a 'cuda cheaper if you've got more than 16 users (depends on your local reseller).

Either way you go, the benefit is having a "safety net." Your Exchange box can go down for maintenance (planned or otherwise) and Postini or Barracuda is catching your mail for you the whole time. Outsiders sending mail won't know the difference. Postini is off-site, Barracuda is on-site. Your call, great products either way.

And you would be hasty to not see if Google Apps meets your needs. It would make your job 95% easier (and STILL provide a better webmail experience.)
posted by mysterious1der at 7:57 PM on July 3, 2008

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