Mistakenly deleting important messages. Improperly shutting down the mail server in a rush. Human intervention has a way of wreaking havoc on the systems that make business tick. Someone always seems to be goofing up, but in many cases, the system has flaws of its own. Microsoft’s enterprise communication favorite, Exchange Server, surely has its fair share of quirks. These problems have been known to serve up a maddening case of the blues for administrators and users alike.
Enter ActiveStink (Hey, they said it!)
Anyone who uses Exhange with a mobile phone is probably very familiar with ActiveSync. And judging from the alarming number of “I HATE ActiveSync” discussions online, I would guess that some people don’t share in the love for this mobile data syncing tool. Ask some iPhone users. They’ll tell you that ActiveSync will get to acting like it doesn’t even know you. All of a sudden you’re getting a “cannot get mail the connection to the server failed” message, knowing darn well you put in the right password and even tried the old one just to be sure.
Android users don’t necessarily have it any better. Problems related to this platform range from being denied access to the server to credential issues preventing new email accounts from being added. Whether it’s something stopping you from syncing contact data or an unseen force preventing general access to the server, ActiveSync troubleshooting missions may lead back to one of several root causes. There’s usually a solution or a workaround at least. Tweak a policy or two. Create a new email account or password. Still, none of that necessarily lessens the headaches that accompany the hassles.
ActiveSync issues are common, but in this environment, they are only the half of it. The following Exchange Server problems are filled with the stuff IT nightmares were made of.
1. User Access Denied
Being denied access to the system isn’t just an ActiveSync problem. It’s an Exchange problem! Access denial tends to be even more mysterious when the Exchange Server and system services are running because it means a number of issues could be at the root. In most cases, checking the status of the network is the best way to kick off troubleshooting. Is your network operating at full strength and connecting to other apps? If so, administrators should probably look into potential authentication issues at the Active Directory level.
2. Mail Not Being Delivered
For many companies, Microsoft Exchange is the most reliable way to do business email. That’s when it’s working. Sometimes, the mail you think is going out is actually sitting cozy in the queue. The easy solution to this problem is restarting the STMP component that handles outgoing mail. If that doesn’t solve the issue, your DNS structure may be the culprit. Start by using the nslookup utility at the command line to identify the domains you can’t reach, and if need be, run the IPCONFIG /FLUSHDNS to flush out and refresh the DNS cache.
3. SMTP Crashing
Speaking of SMTP, this critical service can tune up some dramatic blues of its own when it starts to constantly crash. SMTP is the protocol that handles sending, so if it’s acting up, mail flow can literally come to a standstill. If resetting the service doesn’t work, try emptying the message queues, and then restart. Sometimes it’s a corrupt message that forces a crash when SMTP tries to access it and load it into the mailbox.
4. Missing Inbox Messages
In the wacky world of Exchange, messages may arrive, but that doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed to stick around. Users often end up scratching their heads, wondering how messages that were once in their inbox suddenly disappeared. When the case of the missing email ensues, administrators often follow clues back to archiving issues in the Outlook client. In this case, the PST file is usually corrupt, and needs to be fixed with the ScanPST.exe command. This command fires up the Inbox Repair tool designed to repair Outlook copies of Exchange mailboxes.
5. Database Corruption
When multiple Exchange services start to fail, a corrupt database could be the root of the problem. Corruption is something that needs to be addressed immediately because if it’s too bad, recovering from a backup may not be possible. In that case, you can attempt to fix it with the built-in Eseutil utility. Eseutil allows you to repair problem databases by running various actions at the command line (defragmentation, soft recovery, hard recovery etc). There are third-party tools that go a bit deeper, but in an absolute worst case scenario, corruption could mean lost data.
Microsoft Exchange Server is a large and fairly complex software solution. Problems can be great in number and not only that, originate from just about anywhere. When it comes to taming this beast, having your best people in the management fold is a must. Knowing how to anticipate issues and where to direct your troubleshooting efforts will make life much easier for all involved.
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