Tech Line

Sayonara, Spam!

How to deploy Exchange 2003's Intelligent Message Filter on a front-end server that has a back-end cluster.

Chris: Our organization, like everyone else's these days, is doing our best to battle spam. We have a spam filter in place, but we want to try Microsoft's Intelligent Message Filter to supplement and help out our filter. We are using an Exchange cluster (two-node active/passive), and from doing a little research, apparently IMF is not supported in a clustered environment. We also use a front-end server, but I can't seem to find any information regarding installing the IMF on a front end.

Any help you can provide is greatly appreciated.
— Mark McGill

Mark: Good question. Actually, you’re in luck because running IMF on an Exchange 2003 front-end server is supported. When I first saw your question, my first reaction was “In theory, this should work.” Of course, in IT the words “in theory” often get us into trouble. Since I already had an Exchange 2003 active/passive cluster in my test lab, testing my theory just required staging an Exchange 2003 front-end server.

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IMF does require Exchange 2003, so you'll need it installed on your front-end server. For help with the initial configuration of an Exchange 2003 front-end server, Microsoft’s "Exchange Server 2003 and Exchange 2000 Front-End and Back-End Topology" guide should help.

Once I had the front-end server installed and configured, I checked its SMTP mail forward capabilities by sending it some great spam e-mail. I sent along a few classics like "You’ve been approved for a new mortgage," "Verify your Paypal account," and, of course, "You’ve won the lottery!" I didn’t have to be too creative here, as I just took some nice spam that my Outlook filter had already collected. When I sent each message, it was properly forwarded by the front-end server.

Next came downloading and installing IMF on the front-end server. You can find help with the deployment and initial configuration of IMF by visiting the IMF home page at The Exchange "Intelligent Message Filter Deployment Guide" that can be downloaded from the IMF homepage provides a very good overview and easy-to-follow deployment steps for deploying the IMF. In particular, pages 17-19 should provide everything you need to configure IMF on the front-end server. After installing and configuring IMF, make sure to download the latest signature patterns at

Once configured, to my dismay I was able to see that I was no longer winning the lottery a couple of times a day, nor was I receiving any of the great unsolicited stock tips! So while the Exchange Intelligent Message Filter Deployment Guide doesn’t explicitly state "Here’s the setup for front-end servers," you should find its generic deployment procedures to be all you need. I hope this helps!

[Chris Wolf has just released Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress) and welcomes your virtualization questions for this column. —Editors]

About the Author

Chris Wolf is a Microsoft MVP for Windows --Virtual Machine and is a MCSE, MCT, and CCNA. He's a Senior Analyst for Burton Group who specializes in the areas of virtualization solutions, high availability, storage and enterprise management. Chris is the author of Virtualization: From the Desktop to the Enterprise (Apress), Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley), and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).learningstore-20/">Troubleshooting Microsoft Technologies (Addison Wesley) and a contributor to the Windows Server 2003 Deployment Kit (Microsoft Press).

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