How can this help Exchange administrators?
It’s often simple to not routinely keep an eye on our Exchange server as we attend to other tasks during our workday. Then, the phone rings, and it’s not good news. Fortunately, there is a simple tool that allows us to keep an eye on the server and potentially avert problems before they affect users.
Similar to a Windows Vista gadget, SolarWinds’ Exchange Monitor is quick, easy, and free. It just sits there and gives us a quick status view of key parameters of our server.
Download and Installation
The tool is freely available from SolarWinds website following a simple registration. It can be installed on a server or an administrative workstation.
Installation is pretty straightforward with this product. If the installer doesn’t detect Microsoft .Net Framework 2.0, it will download and install it for you. Following installation, the tool starts right up in its default configuration. The tool will also start automatically when Windows starts.
The first thing to be done is configuring the various features. This is accomplished by clicking on the little options button in the tools toolbar. The resulting screen, as seen in Figure 1 below, allows us to configure the name of the server we’d like to monitor, as well as configuring warning and critical thresholds for key Exchange parameters such as SMTP Local Queue Length and processor utilization.
We can also configure the authentication for connecting to the monitored server. Configuring which of the various Exchange services to monitor is available by clicking on the Monitored Services button. The tool defaults to monitoring most of the Exchange related services it finds on the machine. Since many organizations don’t have all services running, like POP3 and IMAP4, we can remove them from being monitored as seen in Figure 2 below.
The monitoring interface is broken into three sections: Status of Exchange services, Mail Queue Length, and resources like CPU and available memory and drive space. Each section has a status jellybean at the top that is either green, yellow, red, or clear, depending on that sections status. Next to the jellybean is text describing the status. At the bottom of each section is a link to SolarWinds’ website if you want to monitor more information, as SolarWinds does have some other solutions.
At the top of the window is a general status indicator. As seen in Figure 3 below, my demo system shows several issues.
Next to the server name, sh-email1, we see the round red indicator. Hovering over it shows a tool tip that describes the problem. In this case, the WMI counters are not available. Next, we see the red indicator for the Exchange Services. Several services, such as The Event and IMAP4 services aren’t running. As mentioned earlier, we can configure which services don’t need to be monitored, and they’ll be removed from this list.
Next down we see the Mail Queue Length section. In Figure 4 below, the jellybean is clear because there is no data here. This is related to the WMI error mentioned above.
Below the Mail Queue Length section is the CPU Utilization section. Here we see the status of all processors in the server. If the utilization on either of the processors climbs too high, the respective jellybean next to the utilization level will change accordingly, as seen in Figure 5 below. Under this is the available virtual memory and drive space meters. These give us a quick view as to what level these resources are at.
The Solarwinds Exchange Monitor tool is fairly simple, and gives a good overview of the parameters it’s capable of monitoring. It’s quick and easy to install and configure. The only downside I saw was that it only supports Exchange 2003 today. However, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a 2007 version out eventually. As with most free tools, Solarwinds does have some links to their higher level products included in the interface. Still, for the price, you can’t beat what Exchange Monitor has to offer. Exchange Monitor gives you a quick look at how your server is performing, and can sit on your desktop for easy reference. I recommend that you Download the free Solarwinds Exchange Monitor and give it a try for yourself!
Also, for more information on Solarwinds product line, take a look at David Davis’s Review of Solarwinds free VM Monitor for VMware ESX Servers or download a trial of their Orion Network Performance Monitor.