Getting Help and Information When You Need It

Getting Help and Information When You Need It

We all run into problems from time to time and finding the right place to get the answers is always difficult, one of the great things about Exchange and pretty much all of the other Microsoft products is the great communities that they have, so in this short article I would like to guide you through some of the resources that are available to you.

Lets start with www.msexchange.org, actually you probably know about it because your reading this article, the articles are excellent, but did you know about some of the other resources that this site offers, for example, there is the Message Board, you can visit the Message Board (http://forums.msexchange.org) and post your questions and you will more than likely get a ton of great responses, msexchange.org also has Discussion List (http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=exchangelist) that you can sign up for and have the messages delivered directly to your inbox, and you can also send your questions to the discussion list as well, the msexchange.org website also has an RSS feed available now, more about RSS feeds later.

Newsgroups

Newsgroups have been around for a long time and a lot of people try to avoid them like the plague, the reason for trying to avoid them is the fact that a lot of newsgroup are completely un-moderated and the content of the newsgroups does not always reflect the intended subject, Microsoft has and is, doing an excellent job in ensuring that their public newsgroups receive very little inappropriate postings.

Using the public newsgroups gives you the ability to interact with your peers who will more than likely be able to answer your questions for you or at least point you in the right direction, the newsgroups are frequented by other Exchange administrators, Microsoft Product Support staff and Microsoft MVP’s.

Microsoft MVP’s are a special breed of people, they volunteer their time to help other with problems they encounter with Microsoft products, MVP’s are not Microsoft employees and offer their time voluntarily to help others, and are a great asset to the Microsoft community (http://mvp.support.microsoft.com)

There are two ways that you can access the Microsoft public newsgroups:

  • you can access them using an NNTP client such as Outlook Express
  • you can access them using the web interface.

In order to access the Microsoft public newsgroups using an NNTP client, simply enter msnews.microsoft.com as the server name, you do not need a username or password to read and post messages to the Microsoft public newsgroups.

To access the Microsoft public newsgroups via your web browser simply click on this link:
http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/community/newsgroups/default.asp

Now you know how to get to Microsoft’s newsgroups here are a few tips to keep you safe and get your question answered:

  1. Do not post any messages to the public newsgroups using your real email address, although Microsoft do their best to make the newsgroups safe from spam, the spammer can still trawl the newsgroups to find email addresses to spam.
  2. Try and give as much information as possible about the problem you are having.
  3. Check your Application Log in Event Viewer and post an errors that you think may be helpful in resolving your problem, make sure you include the actual Event ID
  4. Specify what version of Exchange your running and what service pack level it is at, and what client your using (Outlook 2000, Outlook 2003 etc)
  5. If you have tried to fix the problem, indicate what you have already done.
  6. If someone offers you a solution and it works, then post back to the newsgroups that it worked, others can then benefit from the answer.
  7. Don’t post the same message to multiple groups; this makes it very hard for others to follow the thread.
  8. A “Thank you” goes a long way; it’s always nice to be thanked for helping.
  9. Try and help others in the newsgroups if you can, that way the community becomes stronger.

Blogs, RSS Feeds and Websites

I am a Blog fanatic, I think they are a great way of sharing information with others, we have some excellent Blogs that relate to Exchange, and some of them are run by members of the Microsoft Exchange team, so what better way to get information about Exchange than from the team that develop and support it at Microsoft.

Many Blog sites also have the ability to perform an RSS feed, this allows you to get updates automatically instead of having to remember to check the Blog site all the time, all you need is a program to read the RSS feed, I use FeedReader from www.feedreader.com, but you can also get them to integrate with Outlook such as Newsgator from www.newsgator.com.

Here is a list of the Blogs and websites that I have in my favorites, look out for the RSS or XML symbol on the site, and this will allow you to perform the RSS feed:

http://www.microsoft.com/exchange

http://blogs.msdn.com/exchange

http://blogs.msdn.com/kclemson/

http://weblogs.asp.net/dlemson/

http://blogs.msdn.com/evand

http://blogs.msdn.com/Gerod_Serafin

http://blogs.msdn.com/jeremyk

http://blogs.msdn.com/mfp2

http://blogs.msdn.com/tmeston/category/1553.aspx

http://hellomate.typepad.com/exchange/

http://www.e2ksecurity.com/

http://www.exchangecookbook.com/

http://playground.doesntexist.org/

http://www.swinc.com/resource/exchange.htm

Don’t forget the Microsoft Knowledgebase; simply searching the Microsoft Knowledgebase with a set of suitable keywords may yield an answer to your question:
http://support.microsoft.com/default.aspx?scid=fh;EN-US;KBHOWTO

Here are a couple of great websites to help you with your own troubleshooting, the first one is EventID.net (http://www.eventid.net) you can enter the event id’s that you may be seeing in your Event Viewer and find out what other have to say about the problem, and what they did not fix it, the website may refer you back to a Microsoft Knowledgebase article, you can access this site for free but you get extra features if you pay the $24 per year subscription fee (and in my opinion its money well spent).

The second site is DNSStuff (http://www.dnsstuff.com), you can use this site to check that your public DNS information is correctly configured, and perform a host of other tests.

Mailing Lists

There are a few mailing lists available for Exchange, one is run by msexchange.org and you can subscribe to it at this link:
http://www.webelists.com/cgi/lyris.pl?enter=exchangelist

Three Yahoo groups exist, one for Exchange 2000 and one for Exchange 2003, and one for good old Exchange 5.5 you can join them from here:

Exchange 2000 = http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Exchange2000/

Exchange 2003 = http://groups.yahoo.com/group/exchange-2003/

Exchange 5.5 = http://groups.yahoo.com/group/MS_Exchange/

Training and Books

Well, I wrote an article sometime ago about getting training (http://www.msexchange.org/tutorials/MF008.html) and that still stands, but Microsoft has now released a number of courses for Microsoft Exchange 2003, you can find out more about the courses by visiting:

http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/syllabi/2400bfinal.asp

http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/syllabi/2011aFinal.asp

http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/syllabi/2008aFinal.asp

http://www.microsoft.com/traincert/syllabi/2009aFinal.asp

Books are something that I find really hard to recommend as everyone has a different style of book they like, but there are really only a few authors that I would consider experts on Exchange and they are listed below:

Scott Schnoll:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=Schnoll%2C%20Scott/104-1898665-7118363

Jim McBee:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=McBee%2C%20Jim/104-1898665-7118363

Paul Robichaux:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=Robichaux%2C%20Paul/104-1898665-7118363

Bill English:
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/search-handle-url/index=books&field-author=English%2C%20Bill/104-1898665-7118363

I am sure that if you visited your local book store you would find many more books on Exchange and it’s up to you to find the one that you think will provide you with the best information you need.

Well, I hope this article has given you some places to start looking for help, and reference material that you will use.

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