Using Commvault for Exchange Server

In my first post on Commvault, I provided an overview of the platform. In this post, I will cover what Commvault can do for Exchange Server database, again at a high level.

Reducing and protecting data in Exchange Server

With the basics of Commvault covered previously, let’s dig into some details about support for Microsoft Exchange. Within an Exchange DAG, mailbox databases can be replicated across multiple servers to provide high availability. The preferred architecture for Exchange calls for the usage of commodity servers and storage, including JBOD. What I have found, is that most large organization virtualize Exchange and store databases on a SAN still. Many large organizations have invested heavily in virtualization and SAN solutions and have optimized processes around them. They have become comfortable with these technologies and most workloads are pushed to use them, even if it doesn’t make for the most architecturally efficient design. In these orgs, reducing data via deletion and\or stubbing from can provide key value them.

A common requirement is to have a second\backup copy of data that is off-application, at different locations, and/or on different storage platforms to protect against logical corruption, catastrophic loss, vendor lock-in, administrator accidents, malicious actions, malware, and more.

Protecting databases

For data protection, which include database and individual items in Exchange, CV has VERY extensive support. For example, CV is DAG aware, so you can setup a policy so certain or all databases are always backed up from a passive copy, including support to fallback to the active copy if all passive copies are unavailable. If a SAN is used, CV can backup the databases directly from it, in an application consistent way, leveraging the SAN’s hardware snapshot technology. This is done by using the VSS calls, to ensure the databases have been quiesced correctly. Once CV gets the confirmation that the VSS call was successful, the LUN that the database(s) are on are snapped on the SAN, via the native APIs. In most cases, these LUNs are then mounted directly on a CV server and the databases are deduped against the previous data from early backups and the new unique data is sent to the CV configured storage, based on the storage policy. Using this method, databases are not streamed directly from production disk over the network from the Exchange Server to the target media. This means the backup I/O doesn’t impact the servers or users. Even if Exchange is running on a non-supported SAN or DAS, a VSS based streaming backup can be utilized.

From the backup copies, which can include the existing snapshots on the SAN, the databases can be restored back to their original location, to recovery databases, or directly to the file system. Database backups can even be browsed so individual items or entire mailboxes can be restored\exported.

In my next post, will cover what Commvault does for Exchange Server and Exchange Online for item and message level data management.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and don’t represent the views of the Commvault.

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Using Commvault, by an Exchange MVP

I’ve been at Commvault (CV) for three years and have been working with Exchange for 21 years and it’s long overdue for me to write on both topics. When I was being recruited to join Commvault, I thought they “just did backup” and the recruiter did a good job of explaining the many ways Commvault does more than “just backup.” At tradeshows and when talking to customers and prospect it’s very common to hear “I didn’t know Commvault did that.” In this post, I will provide a high-level overview of what Commvault does for Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online/Office 365. In future articles, I will look at CV’s support for SharePoint, OneDrive for Business, Azure, and other Microsoft solutions. CV also supports many other application and data management features. This initial post provides an overview of the Commvault product, two additional posts will go over Commvault’s support for Microsoft Exchange and Exchange Online (Office 365).

The elevator pitch

Commvault is made up of data experts and they help their customers become experts with their data. CV has been doing backup and recovery for over 20 years, but goes far beyond backups.

CV provides data protection, replication, retention, eDiscovery, compliance management, and more. This is done using a single platform to provide data management across many areas. Unlike the many point solutions in this space, CV was developed internally on a single platform versus by acquiring technologies. Therefore, all modules work very well together and can be used with a single management interface.

The platform

Commvault can be utilized to protect dozens of applications, storage, and cloud solutions using their native APIs to provide application\database consistent backup and recovery; in many cases down to object level. CV can utilize many different vendor’s hardware, hypervisor, storage, and cloud offering to host the Commvault infrastructure and data. CV agents reduce data transmitted and stored by utilizing client-side and server-side data deduplication support. “Storage policies” define what data should be stored where if it should be deduplicated, encrypted, replicated to other locations, and how long it should be stored at each location. Data can be backed up from servers, databases, SANs, NAS, clusters, DAGs, clouds, VMs, etc. It can then be stored on JBOD, DAS, NAS, SAN, cloud, or tape; and each copy can have their own retention policy. Using these policies, data can be transitioned to lower cost storage as it ages based on an organization needs, comfort factor, etc.

In my next post, I will cover what Commvault does for Exchange Server, mainly Exchange databases. In the last post in this series, I’ll cover how Commvault provides data management for items and messages in Exchange or transmitted via SMTP journaling.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in this post are solely the author’s and don’t represent the views of the Commvault.

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Exchange quarterly updates released

On 12/17/2017 Microsoft released the latest quarterly updates for Exchange 2010, 2013, & 2016.

Exchange 2010 SP3 RU19 Info | Download KB4035162
Exchange 2013 CU19 Info| Download KB4037224
Exchange 2016 CU8 Info | Download KB4035145

There aren’t any major changes in these CUs, but here are a couple of items to call out:

  1. .NET Framework 4.7.1 support in Exchange 2013 and Exchange 2016.
    • Install CU19 or CU8 BEFORE you install .NET 4.71
    • .NET 4.7.1 will be REQUIRED with the planned June 2018 CUs, so plan on installing it after you install these CUs or the ones in March
  2. Support for Hybrid Modern Authentication (HMA) for BOTH 2013 & 2016
  3. These CUs will not overwrite TLS settings like previous CUs would

For a bit more info see this EHLO blog post: Released: December 2017 Quarterly Exchange Updates

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Microsoft Ignite 2017 – Key Sessions for Exchange

This year, which was around by 20th TechEd\Ignite, I was working the Commvault booth Mon-Thur and didn’t get to any sessions. As the field expert for most things Microsoft for Commvault (I cover AD, Exchange, SharePoint, Office 365 fully and Azure some), being in the booth to answer questions on what Commvault does for Microsoft solutions, which is a lot (microsoft.com/Commvault), at a Microsoft show was a must. But this also meant I didn’t get to attend any sessions.

So below are some link that lists some key one for Exchange Admins.

  1. By the Exchange Team https://blogs.technet.microsoft.com/exchange
  2. By “Super Tekboy” aka Gareth Gudger https://supertekboy.com/2017
  3. Find all the online sessions here also: https://myignite.microsoft.com/sessions
  4. For Tony Redmond’s reflections on Ignite https://www.petri.com/author/tony-redmond

Know of others such list? Comment and I’ll add them, if they are focused on  Exchange/EXO.

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FIXED in iOS 11.0.1: DO NOT Upgrade to iOS 11, if using Apple Mail & Exchange Online or Outlook.com

9/26: iOS 11.0.1 has been released and fixes the issue with ActiveSync with Exchange 2016\Exchange Online. See Apple article HT208136: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT208136

HTTP/2 will now work on your Exchange 2016, running on Windows Server 2016, and with EXO.

1st heard of here http://www.essential.exchange/2017/09/26/ios-11-0-1-released-eas-on-ios-fixed/, by Michael B. Smith.

Apple released iOS 11 on 9/19/2017 and AGAIN they failed to test the largest email system in the world, Office 365\Exchange Online, with their email client. Apple has had a history of issues with Exchange since iOS 2.0 and with multiple iOS version have broken feature in Apple Mail on initial release.

So, if using an iOS device, do not upgrade to iOS11 yet, if your mailbox is hosted on O365\Exchange Online, Outlook.com, or if your organization is running Exchange 2016 on Windows 2016. The common factor here is that that Office 365\Exchange Online and Outlook.com all use Exchange 2016 running on Windows 2016.

The issue is that the native Apple Mail client in iOS 11 does not support HTTPS/2 TLS protocol, which is used by Exchange 2016. It seems, that Apple Mail can receive messages, but fails to send\reply to them. The Apple Mail App uses Exchange ActiveSync and when it connects to Exchange 2016, Exchange uses HTTPS/2 TLS by default, but Mail App doesn’t negotiate down to HTTP/1.1 and the connection fails.

In Office 365, you should see this alert MC119954:
MC119954

If your organization is running Exchange 2016 on Windows 2016, you can disable HTTP/2 on the server. To do this see this Microsoft article: How to deploy custom cipher suite ordering in Windows Server 2016, which just has this RegKey setting:

To enable and disable HTTP/2, follow these steps:

  1. Start regedit (Registry Editor).
  2. Move to this subkey: HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SYSTEM\CurrentControlSet\Services\HTTP\Parameters
  3. Set DWORD type value EnableHttp2Tls to one the following:
    1. Set to 0 to disable HTTP/2
    2. Set to 1 to enable HTTP/2
  4. Restart the computer.

If your mailbox is hosted on Outlook.com or Exchange On-line and you have already updated to iOS11 your only option, currently, is to change email clients. I HIGHLY recommend Microsoft’s Outlook App (download here).

Other articles on this issue:

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FREE Microsoft eBooks! Lots of them!!!

Came across this today and had to share with others: https://blogs.msdn.microsoft.com/mssmallbiz/2017/07/11/largest-free-microsoft-ebook-giveaway-im-giving-away-millions-of-free-microsoft-ebooks-again-including-windows-10-office-365-office-2016-power-bi-azure-windows-8-1-office-2013-sharepo/

12 that cover parts of Office 365
16 that cover or touch on SharePoint
12 for PowerShell

And many others for Office 2013, 2016, and other office products and many on server products. Sadly there are ZERO on Exchange 😦

 

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Review of Practical PowerShell: Exchange Server 2016

For those that have worked with Exchange for 20 years or are new to Exchange or Exchange Online (Office 365) PowerShell scripting is must have skill. Back in Exchange 2003 and early days you could, and had to do, almost everything from a GUI. Then Exchange 2007 came out and things changed. You still had a GUI, but it had only about ~80% of the administrative features in it, which left ~20% in the new command line scripting interface, PowerShell. Those that had been using VBScript and other languages to carry out bulk task in Exchange were very pleased with PowerShell since it greatly simplified their scripts and work. Administrators for large Exchange implementation were also thrilled to have a much more powerful CLI to carry out bulk tasks. On the other hand, many Exchange admins were not happy about the lack of some feature in the GUI and were reluctant to learn “coding” or scripting to do the rest. Here we are 10 years later and PowerShell is MUST have skill for Exchange, Windows, and many other Microsoft infrastructure administrators. For administrators of Exchange Online\Office 365, this is also a must have skill since there are less feature in the GUI\web admin console (Exchange Admin Center/Exchange Control Panel) for Exchange Online then there are in Exchange 2016, currently. Office 365, or BPOS at the time, was a major driver for PowerShell and why Exchange 2007 was the 1st Microsoft server application to use it. Microsoft needed a way to easily automate task across 10,000s of servers.

The book Practical PowerShell: Exchange Server 2016 was written by Damian Scoles (Blog: https://justaucguy.wordpress.com/) and Dave Stork (Blog: https://dirteam.com/dave/) who are fellow Exchange (or technically Office Servers and Services) MVPs. They ask me in late 2016 to be a technical reviewer of the book, along with Michel De Rooij (Blog: https://eightwone.com/), and I was happy to help since Exchange has been my passion since I installed the beta version of Exchange 4.0 in 1995. There are many different books on PowerShell out there and even on Exchange PowerShell, but one thing with technology and software is that it is contently changing. This book is THE BEST PLACE to get started or to use as a refence for PowerShell for Exchange 2016 or Exchange Online (which uses Exchange 2016). If your organization is still on Exchange 2010 or 2013 this is also an excellent book, but keep in mind that PowerShell cmdlets have changed with each version so not all example will work on previous versions of Exchange.

The book starts out with the basics of PowerShell, covering key features like variables, arrays, loops, functions, working with files, and the various PowerShell tools, like PowerShell ISE. Then it moves to formatting, building your most basic scripts, what’s new and changed in 2016, and using some basic script to connect to Exchange. All aspect of Exchange PowerShell are covered across the book’s eighteen chapters, which are broken out by areas; like Mail Flow, Users, Mobile Devices, Migrations, etc. The structure of the books allows you to pick it up and jump into the chapter that is related to the area you need to learn more about. It contains countless script examples and cmdlets (I check all of them in the 2nd half of the book) that can be the basis for your own scripts and will provides ideas on how to do many things that admins might not have thought of before. Real world examples are used thought the book and it should be on the top of any Exchange admins desk.

On the https://www.practicalpowershell.com/ website you can purchase the PDF and physical copy of the book. I suggest both, I still find having physical copies of technical books beneficial since I like to flip through them looking for things and ideas and then the PDF copy is ideal for search on terms, like cmdlets, and copy and pasting code from.

GET THIS BOOK: https://www.practicalpowershell.com/

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