Product Reviews

Real-time Exchange Monitoring

Want to know what's happening on your Exchange server? Spotlight will show you.

Every once in a while a product shows up on my desk that simply has a one word description—Wow! Spotlight on Exchange 1.1 was the latest to receive that response from me. It doesn't do anything several other tools together won't do; it isn't even the prettiest looking girl in school—it simply does what it says it will do well.

Product Information

Spotlight on Exchange 1.1, starts at $1,195/server
Quest Software
Irvine, CA

For more Exchange tools, see "Keeping Exchange Running" in the May 2002 issue.

Quest Software's Spotlight on Exchange 1.1 provides real-time monitoring of your Exchange 5.5 server. It is one of several tools that Quest offers that monitor Windows NT and 2000, SQL Server, Oracle and other servers in real time. Each looks similar to the others and provides a real-time snapshot of what is happening on the target servers.

Installation of Spotlight on Exchange 1.1 is straightforward enough, but you will need the Exchange service account name and password when configuring the product. If you are monitoring more than one Exchange 5.5 server, the service account password will need to be the same for all of them—a bit of a problem in some organizations. Because Spotlight relies upon DLLs and other files shipped by Microsoft, the station on which you install the software also needs to have the Exchange 5.5 Administrator program installed, though it never has to be started.

Editor's Note: At press time, we had a chance to install a late beta version of Spotlight on Exchange 2.0. In addition to supporting Exchange 2000, the new version features separate displays for the main Exchange 2000 performance areas, IIS, Storage Groups, and Directory Services, allowing the administrator access to even more status information. The new version continues to support Exchange 5.5 as well, and allows you to restore multiple connections and monitor many servers simultaneously. From our initial look, it seems that Quest has taken an already-excellent product and made it even better.

Once you invoke Spotlight for Exchange you are presented with complete status information on all of the key areas of Exchange. The Connections portion of the screen lists connections to the server by different client types (MAPI/RPC, IMAP4, POP3, and others), Internet Mail Service and Message Transfer Agent queue status, Information Store storage usage (PRIV.EDB, PUB.EDB and the transaction logs), Directory Database performance, as well as NT/2000 memory, disk and CPU utilization for the system and Exchange.

Not only can you get an overview of what is happening, if any part of the system exceeds a pre-defined threshold, the status will change to a warning or alert. You can, at any time, drill down further to look at more detailed statistics. On top of that, you can monitor more than one server in the same console, provided your user account has the appropriate permissions. If you are used to Windows 2000 System Monitor (or PerfMon for you NT4 folks), Spotlight provides a view and drilldown capabilities that most of us would only wish for in these Microsoft tools.

Spotlight on Exchange
Spotlight for Exchange 2.0 includes separate monitoring for major areas of Exchange 2000 functionality such as Directory Services. (Click image to view larger version.)

Aside from the requirement to have the same Exchange service account on all monitored servers, the user interface is a bit different from other Windows-based tools. It includes a black background with green, yellow, and red colors (which change in real time as conditions dictate) on monitored elements to advise you of any problems. While it does not take long to get used to it, the appearance is somewhat unexpected. I'm not sure if the presentation is good or bad—just different. It looks cool, in a great video game kind of way, but takes just a bit of getting used to after working with MMC for so long. All in all, this product should be in every Exchange administrator's arsenal.

About the Author

Damir Bersinic, MCSE, MCDBA, MCSA, MCT, is an independent consultant, trainer and author.

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