5 new and improved tools for Exchange and Office 365

Whether designing, deploying, configuring, or troubleshooting on-premise Exchange 2013 or cloud-based Office 365, these free tools can help

In addition to building Exchange, SharePoint, and Lync, the server development teams at Microsoft also offer a good deal of instruction on how to deploy, configure, and troubleshoot those wares, as well as provide handy tools to assist along the way.

Courtesy of the server and tools team at Microsoft, recent additions and improvements to the tool bag include these five gems that aid in Exchange and Office 365 deployment and troubleshooting. They're not only supremely useful, but they're free for the downloading. 

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Mail Flow Guided Walkthrough

Mail flow problems are common, whether you're working with on-premise Exchange or Office 365. The Office 365 Mail Flow Guided Walkthrough (GWT) helps narrow down what the problem might be and where to begin troubleshooting. Initially you're asked questions regarding the type of mail flow issue you're having, starting with basic info on the sender and recipient. GWT then presents possible solutions to point you in the right direction.

Remote Connectivity Analyzer

The Remote Connectivity Analyzer (RCA) is an online tool that assists with testing the connectivity, availability, and functionality of your on-premise Exchange (and more recently Lync) environments, as well as Office 365 services. The RCA tool itself is not new, but many of the features are. For example, the Office 365 tab has a feature called Mail Flow Configuration that allows you to verify service delivery, MX records, and outbound connectors. This additional set of tests is geared specifically toward folks using Exchange Online Protection (EOP) for their antispam/antivirus filters between the Internet and on-premise servers.

Office 365 Best Practices Analyzer for Exchange 2013

Although the tool includes Office 365 in its name, it can also be used with on-premise Exchange 2013 deployments and hybrid (on-premise/365) deployments. Until the introduction of Exchange 2013, the Best Practices Analyzer was part of the Toolbox, where it did a solid job of pulling in Active Directory and Exchange configuration information and recommending adjustments to bring your environment into harmony with Microsoft "best practices." You'll need an Office 365 or Azure Active Directory user ID to download the tool, but not to run it.

Exchange Server Deployment Assistant

The deployment assistant is not a new tool, but it continues to evolve in response to product changes and customer feedback. The latest version consolidates two tools (one for 2010 and one for 2013) into one that starts with the scenario type first, not the platform. To begin, you indicate if you want to perform a deployment of Exchange on-premises, hybrid, or cloud only. From there, you can choose Exchange 2010 or 2013. As before, you answer a few questions regarding your specific deployment, then receive the easy-to-use checklist for your deployment.

GetTransactionLogStats.ps1 Script

Let's say you're gathering data for a site resiliency design. You'll need to consider the number of transaction logs generated by your existing production environment on an hourly and daily basis because those logs will start by replicating within your site (depending on your configuration), then branching out across sites. In turn, each additional database copy will increase replication traffic. This downloadable PS1 script, along with the Exchange Server Role Requirements Calculator (yet another free, awesome tool provided by the Exchange Team), can provide valuable assistance in the process.

This new PS1 script has two modes: Gather and Analyze, which respectively -- surprise, surprise -- gather and analyze log statistics. Gather runs at the top of every hour and takes snapshots of the current log generation. Analyze should be run after sufficient time has passed (two weeks is recommended), so it can determine how many logs are created for that period. That will help you determine if your infrastructure within and between sites is up for the design you're proposing.

Tools that let you do your job effectively and efficiently are always welcome. These five new and improved tools will help you do just that.

This story, "5 new and improved tools for Exchange and Office 365," was originally published at InfoWorld.com. Read more of J. Peter Bruzzese's Enterprise Windows blog and follow the latest developments in Windows at InfoWorld.com. For the latest business technology news, follow InfoWorld.com on Twitter.

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