Implementing NNTP Newsfeed using Microsoft Exchange 2000
OK, so you have decided that you want to allow “Public” newsgroups into your organization - are you really sure??
Let’s mention briefly what newsgroups are all about; Newsgroups are used as public forums for many topics. They are useful sources of information and they allow you to interact with people who all share a common interest in a particular subject.
Your organization may benefit from allowing your users access to the public newsgroups. One option that is available is for you to give all your users an NNTP client (i.e. Outlook Express, Gravity etc). However, with this option you really have no control over which newsgroups your users subscribe to and what content they are being exposed to. Because of this restriction, many companies have blocked the use of NNTP through their firewall.
To avoid losing control of the newsgroups your users see, there is the option of using Exchange 2000 as the NNTP client. Once we have setup Exchange to collect the relevant newsgroup information your users will be able to access the newsgroups via their MAPI client (i.e. Outlook).
Having Exchange manage the newsgroups as the NNTP client has a number of benefits; you control what newsgroups come into your organization, who can see them, who can post messages into them, and when they synchronize with the Internet.
So how do you setup Exchange to give you access to these newsgroups? Well the first step is to make sure that you have access to a source for the newsgroups. For this article I am using a service provided by a company called Newshosting (www.newshosting.com). Newshosting specializes in providing newsfeeds and they have a number of packages available to suit all budgets. They set my newsfeed up very quickly and I managed to start pulling messages down in no time at all, so if you want a quality newsfeed service check out their web site.
When you subscribe to a newsfeed, you will normally be provided with the name of the server to pull the news articles from, a username and a password.
OK, so you now know what the host name is of the server that holds the newsgroups. Now you need to setup Exchange to host the newsgroups using the Exchange System Manager to configure the NNTP service. Once Exchange is installed on a machine that machine is ready to host newsgroups, but if we want to pull newsgroups from another source additional configuration is required.
If you take a look in the in the Protocol section in Exchange System Manager you will see a container for NNTP. Inside the NNTP container will be the Default NNTP Virtual Server that Exchange creates during installation.
What you will need to do is configure the NNTP server with a newsfeed which will give you the ability to connect to another NNTP server and pull down the newsgroups and messages.
If you select the Default NNTP Virtual Server object, you will notice the Feeds option appears in the right-hand pane (see diagram below).
So let’s get a feed configured.
1. Right click over Feeds, select New > Feed.
You will now be asked to provide the FQDN or IP Address of the server that you will be pulling your newsfeed from (below).
Now you will be presented with a dialogue box regarding the type of feed you want to setup. In most cases you will configure your newsfeed to act as a “Peer” because you will be pulling the newsgroups from a news server not pushing.
The following dialogue box is where you have to configure the direction of the feed. If you want your users to only read newsgroup postings then select “Inbound Feed”. If you want your users to be able to read and have their responses sent up to the newsfeed server you must select both “Inbound Feed” and “Outbound Feed”.
The next dialogue box specifies what point in time you want to start pulling messages from. So for the sake of this article, I am going to start pulling all messages from August 7th 2002 that was posted after 4:33pm.
The next dialogue box is probably one of the most complicated. Here you need to specify which newsgroups you would like to bring down. Be sure to remove the default set newsgroup (* - asterix) or you will pull down all newsgroups. Here you are able to use wildcards in the names to bring down a range of newsgroups with name similarities.
2. Simply click the Add button and enter the name of the newsgroup you would like to pull down. In my example below I want to pull the newsgroup called Microsoft.public.test and then proceed to pulling down all the newsgroups starting with Microsoft.public.exchange2000
3. Once you have specified all the newsgroups you would like your users to have access to, click on Finish.
So now the newsfeed has been created, but we still need to do a bit more configuring. If we click on Feeds in Exchange System Manager you should see the new feed that has been created appear in the right-hand pane.
4. If you right click on the newsfeed that has just been created and select properties the Properties dialogue box for the feed will now be displayed (below):
You can subscribe to additional newsgroups by clicking on the Subscription tab, you can also schedule when the newsfeed will be synchronized by clicking on the Schedule tab.
www.newshosting.com provided me with a username and password that I must use to authenticate with their server, so I must click on the Security tab and enter the username and password.
When you have finished configuring your newsfeed, I would personally recommend you stop and start the NNTP Virtual Server just to make sure that the settings actually take effect.
OK, so now you’ve configured your Exchange server to pull newsgroups down from the newsfeed server, it’s just a case of waiting for the newsgroups to appear.
Once your newsfeed has pulled down the newsgroups, you should see the newsgroups listed in the Newsgroup container in Exchange System Manager.
With regards to your users, when they go into Outlook they will be able to see the newsgroups listed under the Internet Newsgroup section of All Public Folders (below).
There you have it; you’ve created a newsfeed to your Exchange server. Your users can access the newsgroups as if they were public folders and you don’t have to worry about your users accessing newsgroups with undesirable content.
I must again mention that if you really want a good quality newsfeed service I would highly recommend you contact the folks at Newshosting ([email protected]) they will be able to provide you with the service you require to get the most out of newsfeeds.