Comprehensive Guide on Addressing Exchange Calendaring Issues

Rand Morimoto wrote a great article for Network World about Exchange calendaring issues.  Rand is the president of Convergent Computing, the company I work for.  His article covers lost appointments, duplicate appointments, odd delegate issues, etc.  This article is based on the real-world experience we as a company have gained working with many organizations of all sizes.

I wanted to add a few comments of my own, to follow up on to Rand’s excellent article.

Another factor that can cause calendar issues for delegates is Cached Exchange Mode, which can cause an artificial delay in updating calendar information. For example, the boss (using Entourage, which doesn’t have Cached Mode) may accept or alter the same appointment that the assistant (using Outlook in Cached Mode) accepts or alters. The default Cached Mode settings may cause a delay of up to a minute before the assistant’s calendar item is updated on Exchange. Who wins is anybody’s guess.

By the way, my recommendation is to adjust the Cached Mode latencies to 1 second using Group Policy. There is virtually no network performance impact and it solves a lot of issues, especially “perceived performance” issues.  See http://support.microsoft.com/kb/870926/%20target=.

Regarding BES, RIM is making quite a few changes recently due to inconsistency problems (especially in calendaring). BES 5.0 SP2 is supposed to make huge performance improvements so that BES IOPS are now equal to Outlook (see http://flaphead.com/archive/2010/07/24/bes-5-0-sp2-blackberry-user-exchange-2010-iops-now-equal-to-an-outlook-client.aspx). The rumor is that BES 6.0 will completely re-architect BES to use Exchange Web Services (EWS) rather than MAPI.

That said, BES changes versions as often as we change socks. I find that most orgs are WAY behind on BES versions from the current version, so they can’t take advantage of these improvements. And as with any other technology with massive changes, it will probably introduce a new set of unknown problems.

Being that calendaring issues are 99% due to client issues (Outlook, Entourage, BES, iPhone, etc.), I expect that most of these issues will go away as the clients move toward using EWS. The problems documented in Rand’s article occur because of the way the clients handle calendaring/email objects. If the client software lets Exchange handle these objects using standard EWS APIs, the problems will diminish/disappear.

Windows 7 Downgrade Rights

Downgrade rights enable customers to continue running Windows Vista or Windows XP after obtaining a Windows 7 license. Downgrading is simple, and this resource makes it straightforward for you to understand the process.


Customers must:
  • Purchase a PC preinstalled with Windows 7.
  • Accept the Windows 7 Software License Terms.
  • Perform the downgrade or authorize an Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to perform it.
  • See additional details and FAQ.
The Downgrade Process
Follow these steps to downgrade to a previous version of Windows:

  • Obtain genuine Windows XP Professional or Tablet PC Edition and a corresponding product key.  The media should come from a prior legally licensed version from the OEM or Retail channels. Additionally an end user, who is licensed separately through Microsoft Volume Licensing (VL) programs, may provide their VL media and key to their system builder to use to facilitate the downgrade on only their systems.
  • Insert Windows XP Professional or Tablet PC Edition media in the CD drive and follow the installation instructions.
  • Type the product key. If the software was previously activated, you will not be able to activate it online. In this case, the appropriate local Activation Support phone number will be displayed. Call the number and explain the circumstances. When it is determined that the end user has an eligible Windows license, the customer service representative will provide a single-use activation code to activate the software. Please note that Microsoft does not provide a full product key in this scenario.
  • Activate the software.
Also see the Step-by-Step Guide and FAQ for Windows 7 for customers.

OEM Versions of Windows 7 Eligible for Downgrade
Only certain OEM versions of Windows 7 include downgrade rights:

  • Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate include downgrade rights to Windows Vista Business and Windows Vista Ultimate.
  • Windows 7 Professional and Windows 7 Ultimate temporarily includes downgrade rights to Windows XP Professional, Windows XP Tablet PC Edition, or Windows XP x64 Edition.
  • Other OEM Windows 7 versions (for instance, Windows 7 Home Basic and Windows 7 Home Premium) do not include downgrade rights.

TechEd 2011 Welcome Video from Atlanta’s Mayor


Microsoft TechEd 2011 will be hosted in Atlanta next year, and Atlanta’s Mayor would like to welcome you in this video.

Aaron Nelson, a SQL architect in Atlanta, posted the following information about the convention center where TechEd will be held:
So how on earth can over 10,000 IT Pros fit into a single convention center in Atlanta and it not be cramped? Pretty easily actually because:
  • The Georgia World Congress Center is accessible to 80 percent of the American population in two hours or less (via car, train or the World’s Busiest Airport).
  • Or maybe that it’s easier to fly direct to Atlanta than any other place on earth.
  • The Congress Center’s Building B exhibit halls are more than twice as long as Atlanta’s highest skyscraper is high (which happens to be the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere outside of New York and Chicago). From one end of these halls to the other, the earth curves 3/4 inch.
  • As many as 125,000 people have attended a single event at the GWCC.
  • For relevance sake: that’s approx. 50x larger than the PASS Summit
  • Or… Larger than every PASS Summit and every SQL Saturday ever held, COMBINED.
  • The lobby of Building C alone is large enough to hold the Titanic.
  • Building C: entrance lobby is over 1,000 feet long, 80 feet wide and over 90 feet high
  • Titanic: 882 feet long, 92 feet 6 inches wide, and 60 feet 6 inches from the waterline to the main deck.
  • Heck there’s over 90 acres or 3.9 million square feet throughout the GWCC
Sounds like it will be quite a spread!  I just wish they gave us Segweys.

How to Apply a Default Managed Folder Mailbox Policy to All Users in Exchange 2007

Exchange 2007 provides a way for you to apply message retention settings to default and custom folders in user mailboxes.  This process is called Messaging Records Management (MRM) and is covered in pretty good detail here, so I won’t go into details on how to configure MRM.

MRM is similar to the Mailbox Manager process in previous versions of Exchange, with one notable exception — there is no built-in way to apply a Managed Folder Mailbox Policy to all Exchange 2007 users by default.  You must remember to apply the Managed Folder Mailbox Policy to new users when they are created.

I wrote a small Powershell script that will apply a Managed Folder Mailbox Policy to all Exchange 2007 users that do not already have a Managed Folder Mailbox Policy configured.  The script also writes an event to the Windows Application event log so you know it ran successfully.  Copy the script to any Exchange 2007 server and run it as a Scheduled Task.

Here’s the 5-line script, called Set-DefaultManagedFolderMailboxPolicy.ps1, wrapped for clarity:
Get-Mailbox -RecipientTypeDetails UserMailbox -ResultSize unlimited | Where-Object {$_.ManagedFolderMailboxPolicy -eq $null} | Set-Mailbox -ManagedFolderMailboxPolicy “Default mailbox policy” -ManagedFolderMailboxPolicyAllowed
$EventLog = new-object System.Diagnostics.EventLog(‘Application’)
$EventLog.MachineName = “.”
$EventLog.Source = “Set-DefaultManagedFolderMailboxPolicy”
$EventLog.WriteEntry(“Set-DefaultManagedFolderMailboxPolicy.ps1 has configured the ‘Default mailbox policy’ for new Exchange 2007 user mailboxes.”,”Information”,100)
The first line (in red) is where the actual work is done.  You can see there are three parts to this one-liner:
  • The first part gets all the Exchange 2007 (or Exchange 2010) user mailboxes.  This is useful for mixed Exchange 2003/2007 environments because MRM policies only apply to 2007/2010 mailboxes.
  • The second part filters the collection to only include user mailboxes that do not have a Managed Folder Mailbox Policy already configured (is null).
  • The third part assigns the Default Mailbox Policy to the filtered collection of mailboxes.  Note the -ManagedFolderMailboxPolicyAllowed parameter.  This parameter applies the policy without prompting the following confirmation:
Confirm

When assigning a managed folder mailbox policy with managed custom folders to the mailbox “contoso.com/Users/Jeff Guillet”, Outlook clients older than Outlook 2007 do not have all available client features and clients older than Outlook 2003 SP2 are not supported. You may use the “Set-CASMailbox” task to enable client version blocking. Are you sure you want to assign a managed folder mailbox policy to this mailbox?

[Y] Yes [A] Yes to All [N] No [L] No to All [S] Suspend [?] Help (default is “Y”):
Normally, you would suppress a confirmation prompt like this using the -confirm:$false parameter, but that doesn’t work for the -ManagedFolderMailboxPolicy parameter for some reason.
 
The remaining four lines (in blue) are used to write the event to the Application event log.
 
Save the script above as Set-DefaultManagedFolderMailboxPolicy.ps1 in C:\Scripts on the Exchange 2007 server where it will be run.  Now we need to create a Windows scheduled task.
  • Configure the task to run the following program: C:\Windows\System32\WindowsPowerShell\v1.0\powershell.exe with the following arguments: -PSConsoleFile “C:\Program Files\Microsoft\Exchange Server\bin\exshell.psc1″ -command “. C:\Scripts\Set-DefaultManagedFolderMailboxPolicy.ps1″
  • Configure the task to Run whether user is logged on or not using a service account that has at least Exchange Recipient Administrator rights.
  • Schedule the task to run daily at least one hour before the the Managed Folder Mailbox Policy is scheduled to run.

Trouble with ActiveSync with iOS4 for iPhone

As reported all over the Internet, customers are having trouble with Exchange ActiveSync after upgrading their iPhones to iOS4.  Problems range from not syncing to over utilization of Exchange servers.

Apple has been nearly silent on this issue, choosing to do damage control over it’s poorly designed antenna in the new iPhone 4.

The Microsoft Exchange Team has posted on its blog more information about these issues, which is much more than anything we’ve seen or heard from Apple.  With Microsoft’s assistance, Apple released a fix that changes the timeout value that Exchange ActiveSync connection uses to four minutes, which should be long enough for the vast majority of users.

But take a look at that Apple article.  There’s virtually no technical content or explanation that describes what the new profile does, other than saying it increases the timeout value.  To what?  From what?  What was it in previous iOS versions?

All this demonstrates how the iPhone is not an enterprise ready device, primarily because Apple does not provide enterprise-class support.  Apple could learn a lot from Microsoft.  Honesty and transparency is always the best way to provide support.