ENow Exchange & Office 365 Solutions Engine Blog (ESE)

Force Azure AD Connect to connect to specific Domain Controllers only

Posted by Michael Van Horenbeeck on Feb 11, 2016 2:30:00 AM

Consider the following scenario: you are about to implement directory synchronization for Office 365. You have multiple Active Directory sites across several, geographically dispersed, locations all over the world. Unsurprisingly, some of these locations have better connectivity than others and you might not want AAD Connect to connect to Domain Controllers in locations with a slow or high latency connection at the risk of slowing down the entire process.

When Azure AD Connect connects to a new forest, it uses DNS to locate domain controllers it needs to connect to. Without additional configuration, it is very difficult to control or know exactly which Domain Controllers AAD Connect will connect to. I believe that within the domain it is installed in, AAD Connect will try and connect to Domain Controllers within the same site first –but I’m still waiting on getting that confirmed. Even if that is true, that would not necessarily be the case for remote forests as there is no way for AAD Connect to know which site in the remote forest is closest.

Once AAD Connect is installed, you will find that it is relatively easy to define a (static) list of Domain Controllers that AAD Connect should connect to.

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Topics: Azure, AADConnect, Azure AD Connect

With Exchange 2016, are SANs Finally Dead?

Posted by Paul Cunningham on Feb 2, 2016 2:33:00 PM

With the release of Exchange Server 2016 it’s time for on-premises customers to consider their upgrade options. Which means that it’s also a good time to review their Exchange storage strategy.

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Topics: exchange online, Exchange 2016, SANs

Hybrid Headaches: Webinar Part 1

Posted by Michael Van Horenbeeck on Jan 28, 2016 10:50:53 AM

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Topics: Office 365, MSExchange, Hybrid Headaches, hybridheadaches

Setting Up a Simple Exchange Server 2016 Lab

Posted by Paul Cunningham on Jan 20, 2016 2:53:00 PM

The best way to learn about Exchange Server is to get hands-on with the product. And the best way to get hands-on without risking a production environment is to build your own test lab.

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Topics: Exchange, Exchange Server, Exchange Server Tips, Exchange 2016

Understanding controller caching and Exchange performance

Posted by Andrew Higginbotham on Jan 12, 2016 2:30:00 AM

One of the primary talking points of my Storage Configuration Options for Exchange session at IT Dev Connections was around JBOD with Exchange, and what that definition means to various people. Since Exchange 2010 and the advent of the Database Availability Group, the idea of deploying Exchange onto JBOD has spread like wildfire. Starting with laughs and jeers from the IT community at the mere idea of placing production workloads onto non-RAID protected direct-attached storage, evolving to the largest Exchange deployment in the world (Office 365) running on JBOD storage. Not only does Exchange Online run on JBOD, but mailboxes in the service do not have traditional backups performed against them. Instead relying upon Exchange Native Data Protection. Quite a shocking fact, especially if you were to present it to an Exchange Admin around the year 2009.Exchange.jpg

For the correct deployment architecture, JBOD actually makes a lot of sense once you understand the performance and High Availability improvements made in the product. Exchange 2013/2016 requires ~90% fewer IOPS than Exchange 2003, making large/slow/cheap disks such as 6TB 7.2K NL SAS a deployment option. This also removed the requirement for expensive SAN storage with optimized RAID configurations to achieve acceptable performance. Also, with a DAG providing up to 16 geographically diverse copies of your mailbox database (although 3-4 is a more practical number), there’s no need to waste drives on RAID when the application itself can handle your data availability and redundancy.

While I’m not here to tout the awesomeness that is Exchange High Availability (that actually is its own book), I did want to discuss a common misconception around the hardware requirements for an Exchange JBOD solution (which is the Preferred Architecture). Misconceptions that I’ve seen many encounter, which resulted in poor performance and escalations to their hardware vendor. In every case, it was not the deployed hardware which was at fault, but rather an inappropriate hardware configuration.

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Topics: Exchange

Hybrid headache: Modern Public folders and Exchange Online: a story of hate and love?

Posted by Michael Van Horenbeeck on Jan 6, 2016 9:23:44 AM

Over the past few years, Microsoft has made many attempts to do away with public folders. If you have had the pleasure to work or are still working with Exchange 2007 and Exchange 2010, I’m sure you’ll remember the many rumors about Public Folders being deprecated in “vNext”. Yet, they still exist today in Exchange 2016 –although not in exactly the same form as in earlier versions of Exchange. Not only do they still exist, but Public Folders are still widely used! It’s not unheard of that a company has several million public folders representing terabytes worth of data.

Many administrators reacted surprised when Microsoft first announced “Modern Public Folders” back when Exchange 2013 was introduced to the world. Modern Public Folders offer the same exact user functionality as traditional public folders, but align with Microsoft’s efforts to improve high availability using Database Availability Groups. Traditional Public Folders, which were stored in separate Public Folder databases, did not fit into that paradigm. Even more so, because of that architecture with separate databases and no real HA story, Microsoft could not really support Public Folders in Office 365. To be honest, I am almost certain that Microsoft made the changes to the Public Folder architecture so that they would be able to offer them in Office 365. The fact that on-premises customers can now take advantage of those advancements is an added bonus.

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Topics: Hybrid Cloud, Exchange Hybrid Deployments, Hybrid Headaches, hybridheadaches

Mail-Enabled Public Folders & Directory-Based Edge Blocking

Posted by Michael Van Horenbeeck on Jan 5, 2016 3:54:00 PM

Directory-Based Edge Blocking (DBEB) is a feature in Exchange Online Protection which automatically blocks email messages sent to recipients that do not exist in the Office 365 tenant. By default, DBEB is enabled for every domain in the tenant.

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Hybrid Headaches Starts

Posted by Paul Robichaux on Dec 31, 2015 5:30:00 AM

Hybrid environments are complicated. Microsoft has done tons of work over the years to try to simplify the hybrid experience—a huge task when you remember that hybrid Office 365 deployments can cover Active Directory, Exchange, SharePoint, and Skype, along with cloud-only services such as Office 365 Groups. Sometimes, despite the best efforts of the wizards of Redmond, running a hybrid deployment leads to situations that we call Hybrid Headaches… problems that on-prem-only environments won’t encounter but which can be incredibly frustrating obstacles in a hybrid environment.

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Topics: Hybrid Deployment, Exchange, Exchange Hybrid Deployments, MSExchange

Skype for Business new capabilities (Preview Program)

Posted by Johan Delimon on Dec 30, 2015 1:00:00 AM

This blogpost talks about the upcoming, soon to be released (maybe if you read this blog it may already have been released) features for Skype for Business, specifically about Skype for Business Online and Hybrid deployments with users hosted in online.  I will give my perspective to all the great work that Microsoft is doing.

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Topics: Skype, Lync, Skype for business

The 7 Deadly Sins of Exchange Server Backups

Posted by Paul Cunningham on Dec 17, 2015 3:30:00 AM

A career-defining moment for many IT professionals is the day that their customer requests some data to be restored from backup, and the backup is found to be not working. Or even worse, the backup doesn’t even exist.

It’s not a situation you ever want to find yourself in, and to help you to avoid it I’m going to tell you about the common (but easily remedied) mistakes that can lead to such an unfortunate position.

Or, as I like to call them, the 7 Deadly Sins of Exchange Server Backups.


#1 – Not Taking Application-Aware Backups

Microsoft Exchange Server uses a transactional database system that is almost continuously in a state of change with a memory buffer, log files, and the database file itself all working together in unison to maintain the integrity and consistency of the mailbox data.

What this means for Exchange Server backups is that you can’t simply take a backup of the Exchange data by treating it as a bunch of files on a disk. Even though that may yield you a set of files on backup media, recovery from those files (without the risk of significant data loss) is impossible.

Microsoft only supports application-aware, VSS-based backups that properly handle the Exchange database engine and take a consistent backup of the database and transaction log files. If you aren’t sure, go and check that your chosen backup product is supported for Exchange Server backups.

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Topics: Exchange Backup, Exchange

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