Great Tips To Optimise Exchange 2013

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Experts agree that Microsoft Exchange 2013 version is a great tool that has been built to deliver the enterprise-grade security and reliability that your business requires. Your biggest challenge however is to ensure you have a fully functioning system running during peak business hours. Use these tips to help you optimise this great tool.

If you’re still running an earlier version of Exchange you may be wondering why you should upgrade. Take a look at a few of the highlights of Exchange 2013 over 2010 and you may change your mind:

  • Reduction in server roles from five to three; Client Access server, Mailbox server, and Edge Transport server
  • New streamlined Outlook 2013 and Outlook Web App user interfaces, and offline access for OWA
  • No more Exchange Management Console, all administration is now performed using the new web-based Exchange Administration Centre and the Exchange Management Shell (using PowerShell 3.0)
  • Improvements to high availability features and manageability
  • Public folders are now stored in mailbox databases and can take advantage of Database Availability Groups for replication and high availability
  • Data loss prevention capabilities that can be integrated into Transport Rules 

So, on to the tips to help you optimise Exchange 2013!

Sound Planning
It’s no surprise that good planning and a thorough deployment are critical to the success of optimising Exchange 2013. Every minute you invest in planning, designing and sizing the required messaging infrastructure will save you hours of troubleshooting potential performance bottlenecks, unplanned downtime or unexpected behaviour of the involved components. Microsoft has released a very well designed excel template to help you calculate the requirements needed for your Exchange 2013 server role.

Outlook Performance
If you start getting complaints from users regarding the performance of Outlook, try these suggestions:

  • If you’re using PST files, keep them at a reasonable size. Although the 2GB limit is long ago gone, it’s still recommended to keep them relatively small (<5GB).
  • Check the OST file size and compact it if needed
  • Reduce the number of items in Calendar, Contacts, Inbox, and Sent Items folders. The Inbox folder or the Sent Items folder should contain no more than 20,000 items whilst the Calendar + Contacts folders should have less than 5,000 items.
  • Disable add-ins that may be causing Outlook to respond slowly such as those that scan each message that you receive or those that scan index messages.

Exchange 2013 is a “secure by default” product that has been designed to meet the demands of your business however, there’s always the “human factor” which can significantly impact the reliability of your system. Here are some tips to make your infrastructure a little bit safer:

  • Keep your servers up to date with the latest security patches by running Microsoft Update
  • Run the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer
  • Leverage the DLP capabilities of Exchange Server 2013 by regularly updating the DLP Policy Templates
  • Leverage Information Rights Management
  • Implement Administrator audit logging
  • If you deploy file-system antivirus software to protect your Exchange servers, you must exclude the directories where the Exchange mailbox and public folder databases are stored from file system antivirus scanners
  • Do not disable Windows Firewall. Exchange 2013 is designed to run with the Windows Server Firewall with Advanced Security enabled. Exchange Setup creates the required firewall rules to allow Exchange services and processes to communicate. It creates only the rules required for the services and processes installed on a given server role.
  • Your Exchange servers rely on SSL certificates to encrypt data. Since SSL certificates expire, it’s a good idea to check regularly the expiration dates. If a certificate expires, then services like ActiveSync and OWA will fail.

Performance and Scalability
Your users expect the system to perform perfectly all the time whenever and wherever they use it. Here are some tips that will help maximise performance:

  • Turn off hyper-threading, because Exchange Server will not take advantage of it and there can be a significant impact to memory utilization on Exchange servers when hyper-threading is enabled
  • Use fixed size pagefile of size of RAM + 10MB, capped at 32778MB
  • On Mailbox servers (including multi-role), configure DAS storage controllers for 100% write cache. On CAS roles consider 25% write/75% read.
  • Partition Allocation Unit size for Mailbox servers – When formatting the volumes that will host Exchange databases, it is recommended to use a NTFS allocation unit size of 64KB. The recommendation of 64KB is based on the performance improvements seen with large sequential read operations, such as streaming backup and some essential tasks.
  • Disk defragmentation is supported, but not required nor recommended for Mailbox servers

No matter how much you plan and how well you manage Exchange 2013 there will be times that you face a challenging problem. Here are some great tools you can turn to:

Office 365 Outlook Connectivity Guided Walkthrough
Guided walkthroughs for Exchange, Lync, SharePoint, and Office 365
Using the Exchange Server 2013 Management Pack for troubleshooting

Thinking of upgrading to Exchange 2013? Give us a call on 1 300 780 730 if you’d like some help.