Sunday, July 20, 2014

Poll: Which new Hyper-V lab server build would you be more likely to buy?

I am preparing to create my 5th generation Super-Fast Hyper-V Lab Server build. As usual, I will create a parts list, photos, videos, and tips about the build on this blog, but I need your help.

I normally stick to a small Micro ATX form factor which currently supports a maximum of 32GB RAM. I currently run this build at home and I'm happy that it doesn't take much room and uses less power. 32GB RAM is enough to run 6-7 medium/large servers at once 24x7.

Some IT Pros have asked for a build that supports 64GB RAM so they can run more or larger VMs. A 64GB build requires me to use a traditional ATX form factor motherboard with more DIMM slots. This will use more power and will cost about $900 more.

I realize cost is more of factor than size to most folks, but this website shows a comparison of ATX vs. Micro-ATX case sizes if you're not aware. The microATX case I usually go with is the same form factor as the "barebones" case shown on the website.

I created the poll below so I can determine which build you would like me to go with for my 5th generation server. I really appreciate your input.

Which new Hyper-V server build would you be more likely to buy?

I will be speaking at the IT/Dev Connections conference September 15-19 in Las Vegas. There, I will be hosting two sessions, "Build Your Own Super-Fast Exchange Lab for Under $2,000!" and an open mic forum entitled "Ask the Exchange Experts," a Q&A session about Exchange and Office 365 migration tips and tricks with fellow MVP Tony Redmond.

I will be bringing my latest Hyper-V lab server build to the lab session and will provide tips on how to build, manage, and use the server to advance your IT career. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

An Open Letter to Microsoft Learning

Yesterday I was notified of a new video touting how Microsoft Learning is revamping its Exchange 2013 exams and certification requirements for Exchange 2013 SP1. As someone who has worked with Microsoft to help rewrite exams for Exchange 2010 SP1, I was interested to see what @MSLearning had to say. I was met with great disappointment when I was greeted with the following video (since removed, but still found on YouTube).

In response I tweeted on Twitter, "One more reason that customers need the MCM program. I weep for our future."

As a Microsoft Certified Master and someone who takes great pride in the 77 Microsoft certifications I hold, I take Microsoft certifications seriously. As a Microsoft Gold Partner ExtraTeam does, as well, and makes its mark in the professional services industry by hiring the the most highly certified consultants and engineers in the industry.

Judging by the feedback I received to my tweet, I know that other IT Pros share my sense of frustration and dismay about the direction of Microsoft Learning.

Veronica Wei Sopher of Microsoft Learning responded to my tweet, genuinely asking for my feedback - so here it is:

  • Take yourself seriously. "Sesame Street" style videos have no place in a professional certification program. As one person wrote, "The costumes? No names? This needs to feel more work related if the sound is muted." How do you think this looks to hiring managers? I can't imagine anything like this coming from the Cisco or CCISP certification programs.
  • Be respectful and show ownership. Many IT Pros, such as myself, have invested significant amounts of time preparing for, taking exams, and maintaining their Microsoft certifications. Many do it on their own time and with their own money. It's embarrassing and insulting to all IT Pros to be associated with a program that makes fun of certifications and the process.
  • Have integrity. Like other MCM candidates, I spent 21 days in Redmond learning 24x7 about Exchange in the MCM program and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. It was one of the best learning experiences of my life. That's why it was so disappointing when Microsoft Learning canceled the MCM program without any notice, even to the Exchange product group. When Tim Sneath canceled the program in September 2013, he told us that Microsoft Learning was looking into ways to revamp the program. It's been nearly a year later and we have heard absolutely nothing. At this time, the highest level of certification that IT Pros can achieve is an MCSE, which is pretty much worthless due to cheating and brain dumps. There has to be a better top-tier certification for Microsoft products than what is available now.
Have a comment? Please leave one below.

Friday, June 6, 2014

How to delete duplicate Lync Contacts or Lync Contacts folders

A bug in previous versions of the Lync 2013 client caused Lync contacts to be duplicated in the Exchange Lync Clients folder. This makes it very annoying to work with contacts in Outlook, OWA, and mobile devices.

I wrote in an earlier article, Fix for Excessive Duplicate Contacts, that describes how to delete these contacts or folders using OWA or earlier versions of Outlook. This was possible because these older versions did not respect the flag that defines the Lync Contacts folder as a protected folder, like Inbox or Drafts.

You could use MFCMAPI to delete protected folders, as shown below, but this can be cumbersome if you have to do it to many mailboxes -- not to mention the fact that you need to grant yourself full access to the target mailbox(es).

A better solution is to have the end-users do it themselves using OWA in Light mode. OWA Light bypasses the protected folder check and allows end users to delete some or all of the Lync contacts, or the entire Lync Contacts folder itself. The best part is that this works from all versions of OWA, even Office 365!

All you need to do is send a URL to the end-users to login to OWA Light with the steps to delete the folder or contacts:
Replace with your organization's OWA FQDN, if necessary. By following this specially crafted URL, users can enter OWA Light to clean it up without affecting their current OWA Premium experience.

From OWA Light select the Contacts folder on the left pane. To delete the duplicate Lync Contacts folder click the link for Manage Contacts Folders, then click the Choose folder to delete drop down list and delete the duplicate folder.

If the user wants to delete Lync contacts from an existing folder, select the Lync Contacts folder and use the checkboxes to select them or use the checkbox at the top to select all the contacts displayed. Then click Delete.

Hopefully this will help those of you who were unable to delete these duplicates because you were running a newer version of Outlook 2013 or OWA. Special thanks to Greyson Mitchem for the tip.

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Does your environment need an Exchange 2013 Edge Transport server?

I was asked to write an article for my friends at ENow Consulting, "Does your environment need an Exchange 2013 Edge Transport server?"  The standard consulting answer applies: "It depends."

If you're wondering if an Exchange Edge Transport server makes sense in your Exchange environment, I encourage you to head over to the ENow Consulting Blog to read the article.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

SMTP Firewall Requirements for Exchange Online

Most of my Office 365 engagements are hybrid projects connecting Office 365 with Exchange on-premises, and most are with larger companies concerned with securing the hybrid deployment.

Exchange Online Protection servers send SMTP emails using a TLS connection usually to the hybrid or Edge Transport server to enable mail flow between cloud and on-prem users. Microsoft does not support any sort of SMTP gateway or appliance between EOP and the Edge or hybrid server. For this reason, customers normally have to open TCP port 25 on the firewall to the hybrid server from the Exchange Online Protection servers.

Companies can secure this SMTP traffic by configuring the perimeter firewall to allow inbound TCP 25 traffic only from Exchange Online Protection servers to the hybrid or Edge servers.

I've seen a number of articles that list the public IP addresses used by EOP to send SMTP emails to on-prem customers, but the one true list is maintained in the article, Exchange Online Protection IP Addresses. Currently, this article lists seven IPv4 blocks and one IPv6 block for SMTP delivery to on-prem:
  • 2a01:111:f400:7c00::/54
Microsoft tries hard to not make changes to this list, but if they do they will update the article. It's important for firewall admins to know that EOP does not use URLs for root domain routing (also known as Top-Level Domains, or TLDs). You must use the IP addresses listed in the article above.

Up until April 2014, Microsoft used many other IP addresses to send emails from Office 365 tenants to on-prem customers. This is because they maintain another set of IP addresses for something called the High Risk Delivery Pool, which is used to protect the production Exchange Online namespace from "spammy" senders. EOP no longer uses the High-Risk Delivery Pool when sending emails between the customer's tenant and their on-prem servers.

It's nice to know that we now have a single source to point to when configuring firewalls for Office 365.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Reporting Outlook Client Versions Using Log Parser

I'm doing a little cross-pollination today. Chris Lehr, one of my colleagues at ExtraTeam, worked up a Log Parser script that produces a report showing all the clients versions connecting to Exchange.  This is very helpful to show which clients are running Office versions in your organization that should be updated prior to migration.  Check out his blog post here.

Outlook Client Version Report
Clients will always get the best experience using the latest version of Office, currently Office 2013 SP1. The best practice is to always update your clients with the latest cumulative update prior to migration. this is especially true when you're migrating to Office 365, since most updates pertain to Office 365, Exchange Online, and Exchange 2013 compatibility.

If you find that you need to upgrade clients to a new version of Office, I recommend that you install the x86 version of Office to provide the best compatibility with add-ons and third-party products. Some customers think they need to install Office x64 on Windows x64 operating systems, but that's not the case. See 64-bit editions of Office 2013 for details on when it makes sense to install Office x64.

If you're an Office 365 customer, I strongly recommend checking out using the Office 2013 ProPlus software deployment that's most likely part of your Enterprise license. This version of Office 2013 can be installed on up to 5 PCs, iPads, tablets, etc. and is always up-to-date since it's a cloud-managed service.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Fix for ASP.NET 4.0.30319.0 - 3005 Event message: An unhandled exception has occurred on Exchange 2013

I noticed after installing Windows Updates the following warning in the Application Event log of all Exchange 2013 SP1 servers (abbreviated for clarity):

Event 1309, ASP.NET 4.0.30319.0
Log Name:      Application
Source:        ASP.NET 4.0.30319.0
Date:          5/3/2014 9:31:25 AM
Event ID:      1309
Task Category: Web Event
Level:         Warning
Keywords:      Classic
User:          N/A
Event code: 3005
Event message: An unhandled exception has occurred.
Event time: 5/3/2014 9:31:25 AM
Event time (UTC): 5/3/2014 4:31:25 PM
Event ID: 20e50da04e9745e1a73bf21fa1dbb509
Event sequence: 2
Event occurrence: 1
Event detail code: 0

Application information:
    Application domain: /LM/W3SVC/3/ROOT/owa-3-130436082719776031
    Trust level: Full
    Application Virtual Path: /owa
    Application Path: C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\V15\ClientAccess\owa\
    Machine name: EX2013-1

Process information:
    Process ID: 6068
    Process name: w3wp.exe
    Account name: NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM

Exception information:
    Exception type: MapiExceptionIllegalCrossServerConnection
    Exception message: MapiExceptionIllegalCrossServerConnection: Monitoring mailbox [] with application ID [Client=OWA] is not allowed to make cross-server calls from [] to []
   at Microsoft.Mapi.CrossServerDiagnostics.BlockCrossServerCall(ExRpcConnectionInfo connectionInfo, String mailboxDescription)
   at Microsoft.Exchange.Data.Storage.MailboxSession.ForceOpen(MapiStore linkedStore, Boolean unifiedSession)

Request information:
    Request URL: https://localhost:444/owa/proxylogon.owa
    Request path: /owa/proxylogon.owa
    User host address: ::1
    User: contoso\SM_ce56bab178eb42fda
    Is authenticated: True
    Authentication Type: Kerberos
    Thread account name: NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM

Thread information:
    Thread ID: 15
    Thread account name: NT AUTHORITY\SYSTEM
    Is impersonating: False
    Stack trace:    at Microsoft.Mapi.CrossServerDiagnostics.BlockCrossServerCall(ExRpcConnectionInfo connectionInfo, String mailboxDescription)
   at Microsoft.Exchange.Data.Storage.MailboxSession.ForceOpen(MapiStore linkedStore, Boolean unifiedSession)

The text highlighted above steered me toward the Exchange Health Monitoring Mailboxes, so I ran Get-Mailbox -Monitoring and got the following results:
Name                      Alias                ServerName       ProhibitSendQuota
----                      -----                ----------       -----------------
HealthMailbox9a621ae8e... HealthMailbox9a62... ex2013-2         Unlimited
WARNING: The object Exchange System Objects/Monitoring
Mailboxes/HealthMailbox9a621ae8e6f341638c0c2161affa7645 has been corrupted, and it's in an inconsistent
 state. The following validation errors happened:
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
HealthMailbox1cd7a25f1... HealthMailbox1cd7... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailboxde79dfaa0... HealthMailboxde79... ex2013-2         Unlimited
WARNING: The object Exchange System Objects/Monitoring
Mailboxes/HealthMailboxde79dfaa09604ffd8578527c2d3ffab1 has been corrupted, and it's in an inconsistent
 state. The following validation errors happened:
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
HealthMailbox5e5bf093c... HealthMailbox5e5b... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailbox79f8d5d0e... HealthMailbox79f8... ex2013-2         Unlimited
WARNING: The object Exchange System Objects/Monitoring
Mailboxes/HealthMailbox79f8d5d0e02443d2a6acdc60bd0a026e has been corrupted, and it's in an inconsistent
 state. The following validation errors happened:
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
HealthMailbox693969aae... HealthMailbox6939... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailboxab01377ba... HealthMailboxab01... ex2013-2         Unlimited
WARNING: The object Exchange System Objects/Monitoring
Mailboxes/HealthMailboxab01377bae994825ba08d083552e196e has been corrupted, and it's in an inconsistent
 state. The following validation errors happened:
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
HealthMailbox7561b21db... HealthMailbox7561... ex2013-2         Unlimited
WARNING: The object Exchange System Objects/Monitoring
Mailboxes/HealthMailbox7561b21db2c642778177f4ab0a2be350 has been corrupted, and it's in an inconsistent
 state. The following validation errors happened:
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
WARNING: Database is mandatory on UserMailbox.
HealthMailboxb337fe270... HealthMailboxb337... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailboxfd8b0f99f... HealthMailboxfd8b... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailbox739cff7e6... HealthMailbox739c... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailboxd8337c5a1... HealthMailboxd833... ex2013-2         Unlimited
HealthMailboxa990ff65c... HealthMailboxa990... ex2013-1         Unlimited
HealthMailbox91e52135c... HealthMailbox91e5... ex2013-1         Unlimited
HealthMailboxf351943c2... HealthMailboxf351... ex2013-1         Unlimited
HealthMailbox23eb6e495... HealthMailbox23eb... ex2013-1         Unlimited
HealthMailbox1821ba284... HealthMailbox1821... ex2013-2         Unlimited
Besides the fact that some of the Health Mailboxes were missing the mandatory Database parameter, there were far too many Health Mailboxes. The easy way to correct this is to delete all the Exchange Health Mailboxes and recreate them.

Open Active Directory Users and Computers and enable Advanced View. The Health Mailboxes are located under Microsoft Exchange System Objects \ Monitoring Mailboxes. Select all of the HealthMailbox objects, delete them, and replicate AD.

Microsoft Exchange System Objects \ Monitoring Mailboxes
Now that the Exchange Health Mailboxes are gone, restart the Microsoft Exchange Health Manager service on all Exchange 2013 servers to recreate the necessary Exchange Health Mailboxes:

[PS] C:\>Restart-Service MSExchangeHM
Replicate AD again and you will see the new Exchange Health Mailboxes in the Exchange Management Shell and ADUC:
[PS] C:\>Get-Mailbox -Monitoring

Name Alias ServerName ProhibitSendQuota
---- ----- ---------- -----------------
HealthMailbox7b3ef7a60... HealthMailbox7b3e... ex2013-1 Unlimited
HealthMailbox312d14677... HealthMailbox312d... ex2013-2 Unlimited
HealthMailbox1aec3204b... HealthMailbox1aec... ex2013-1 Unlimited
HealthMailboxa04a8b769... HealthMailboxa04a... ex2013-2 Unlimited
HealthMailbox04e954fc9... HealthMailbox04e9... ex2013-1 Unlimited
HealthMailboxd20957258... HealthMailboxd209... ex2013-2 Unlimited

Recreated Health Mailboxes
Two monitoring mailboxes are created for each mailbox database in your organization: one for monitoring the health of site mailboxes and one for monitoring the health of public folders. That should resolve the ASP.NET 4.0.30319.0 warnings.