Tales from the Trenches: Exhausting Exchange

The “easy” part of installing new software isn’t always what it should be.

For you to appreciate this tale, I have to mention that to get your hands on technical help where I live (in Central Africa) is difficult. Internet links are poor and trying to browse TechNet from the busy Microsoft site is next to impossible. I was employed as a network administrator for the first GSM cellular phone company in Zambia. I put up a Windows NT Server 4.0 network quite easily and suggested to my manager that we needed Exchange Server 5.5 for our messaging. When I told him the cost, he simply said, “Forget it. Subscribe with an ISP for an email address.”

A week later, members of the board of directors flew in for a meeting. They wanted to use email. The managing director met me in the corridor. “Ah, there’s my IT guy! Where is email? They want to use email!” Happily, the purchase of Exchange 5.5 was approved then and there; the board would be meeting again in two weeks.

I had done the installation of Exchange Server before and thought to myself, here’s another chance to show off my skills, as I had done when putting up the network.

I sat at my desk, inserted my Microsoft Exchange CD, and awaited autorun. I made my selections and started installing. Suddenly, I encountered a problem. At the time, I thought, “oh, one of those things.” Little did I realize my nightmare was just beginning.

I looked at the already-installed software to check what could have caused this abnormal abort. My experience told me that I’d have to stop all anti-virus software for certain installations to succeed. I therefore disabled Norton AntiVirus and tried again. Same problem. Minutes turned into hours, hours into days. The project had turned into a horrible nightmare. I now had three days before the next board meeting.

I knew my job was on the line. I had recommended an expensive piece of software, and now I couldn’t install it, nor could I figure out why. I had installed Exchange before—installing was always easy! It was the configuration that usually required thought.

It was then that I decided to get on TechNet Online, no matter the expense. I didn’t care how long I would have to wait to download a page from this busy site. After what seemed like a lifetime, bingo, the answer appeared before my eyes: Do not disable your anti-virus software. Uninstall it, install Exchange Server 5.5, then reinstall the anti-virus software.

I now had Sunday to work on the configuration and creation of mailboxes. Monday arrived, and I was a hero. If they only knew...

About the Author

Paul Y. Kalumba, MCSE, MCP+I, writes from Zambia, Central Africa.

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