When managing email databases, like Microsoft Exchange, what are the best IT policies to ensure everything goes smoothly? What is an optimal size for the database to ensure the whole server runs efficiently? What about preventing spam or blocking more nefarious things like malware and phishing?
Let’s take a look at some industry recommended strategies for managing Exchange, with the understanding that many of these same principles also apply to other email systems.
Microsoft Exchange Storage Considerations
Before determining how much storage to allocate for an Exchange database, it helps to get a feel for the amount of emails sent and received each day. Understand as well, that Microsoft has made the I/O process more efficient with each successive release of Exchange — so expect the 2013 edition to perform best. Exchange 2013 also includes enhanced database caching, which makes the email retrieval process generally faster.
Another point to consider when determining database size, is Exchange’s background database maintenance process and bandwidth it requires. EMC provides an excellent white paper that details effective strategies for right-sizing the Exchange database, while taking into account the overall usage of the system. According to EMC, bandwidth requirements may dictate configuring fewer large databases (larger than 500 GB) instead a greater number of smaller (up to 500 GB) to make Exchange run more efficiently.
EMC also notes the importance of log files when optimizing system performance. Again, the number of emails sent each day plays a large factor in the allocation of space. Finally, the hard drive type and the choice of a RAID array are also important factors in the overall design of an Exchange server’s storage capacity.
Preventing Spam and Malware with Microsoft Exchange
Spam, malware, and phishing remain the bane of many IT operations administrators. Thankfully, Exchange includes a host of functionality to help prevent nefarious emails from reaching corporate users’ mailboxes. For companies that don’t use any up-front filtering of spam before it reaches their mailbox server, Exchange provides an array of anti-spam agents that analyze sender and receiver information in addition to the actual message content; blocking email from reaching the user when deemed necessary.
Organizations can also take the extra step of installing Forefront Online Protection for Exchange (FOPE) or Microsoft Exchange Online Protection (EOP) that offer enhanced malware and spam filtering (including outbound message filtering) and easier management of the anti-spam agents. These Cloud-based services work with the on-premise Exchange installation using a layered defense strategy. Third-party anti-malware software can also be used in concert with Exchange; Microsoft provides the ability to disable the built-in Exchange malware filtering functionality if warranted in this scenario.
One offshoot of the scourge of spam and malware is the maturity of the tools IT ops staff have at their fingertips to effectively manage this threat. Following industry standard practices for right-sizing Exchange databases and protecting mailboxes from spam and malware makes Microsoft Exchange administration a relatively simple process.
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