Microsoft Certified Professional Exam 70-224: Get ready for white-knuckle ride

You might be fooled by looking at the exam objectives for exam 70-224 into thinking that this exam is one that you can just walk right into without a good background in Exchange 2000.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.  Not only must you have a complete understanding of Exchange 2000 Server Enterprise Edition, you must also have knowledge of how the Enterprise Edition varies from the Standard and Conferencing editions—including what limitations you face with each version.  If that weren’t enough to fill your plate, and it very well could be, you should also have a thorough understanding of how Exchange 5.5 Server operates, both by itself and when it has to interact with Exchange 2000 Server.<?

Before I drill down into some specific areas you might want to think about, let’s get the basic information out of the way.  This exam is a standard 45-question exam that is made of single answer multiple choice questions, select all that apply multiple choice questions and drag-and-drop type of questions.  No surprises there.  You have 105 minutes to complete the exam with an additional 25 minutes allotted at the beginning and end for surveys and item comments.  If you are taking the exam in any language other than American English, you may want to contact your local testing center to verify how much time you will be allotted to complete it.  Now, with that out of the way…on with the good stuff!

Group confusion

Perhaps the single greatest improvement in Exchange 2000 Server over its older counterpart is the introduction of Routing Groups and Administrative Groups.  In Exchange 5.5 Server, you placed Exchange servers into sites; sites thus pretty much defined not only a physical topology, but also an administrative one as well.  This is not the case anymore with Exchange 2000 Server.  Get to know what can be done with an Exchange 2000 Server organization running in native-mode and then change up the picture by throwing a legacy Exchange 5.5 Server into the mix.  Just as Windows 2000 Server does not behave the same when it is running in mixed-mode; neither will your Exchange organization.

Could somebody connect me please?

Connectors, connectors and more connectors.  There is a handful, plus some, of connectors that you must not only know about, but also know everything about.  Routing Group Connectors, SMTP connectors, Active Directory Connectors, GroupWise Connectors.  In short, there is a whole lot of connecting going on.  Not only do connectors connect things, but they control how traffic flows across them.  Did you know that you can configure some connectors to transmit large messages at different times of the day?  You might want to check into that before heading into your local testing center.

(Pass)Port Please!

I’ll be honest here:  this is one area of this exam that you will either know or you won’t.  Port numbers of common network services are critical to know.  You will be tested on them in ways that you don’t even realize—until after the fact.  Don’t fret though, this is not wasted knowledge.   A good system admin can usually regurgitate 30 or 40 common port numbers on demand.  Knowing how firewalls, DMZs and Outlook Web Access all work together might be a good thing to look over.  If you can, set up an OWA implementation that utilizes a front-end/back-end configuration and see just what work does need to been done at the firewall.  If you are going to be allowing Internet users to access resources internal to your network, don’t forget to think about SSL.  Pay attention to how SSL affects access and plan for making changes to your Exchange implementation to make user access smoother and more satisfying.

What, no Recycle Bin?

Exchange 2000 provides some really nifty tricks when it comes to recovering mailboxes and message items that have been “deleted”.  Ah, you ask, but what do I mean by deleted?  Well, it depends on how you delete something.  Know the difference between an item that is deleted from a client (such as Outlook), a mailbox that is deleted from the Active Directory Users and Computers and a mailbox that is purged from the Exchange System Manager.  If you plan accordingly and play your cards right, deleted items and mailboxes may not be such a problem for you after all.  Should everything go completely to pot, you can always consider using an isolated recovery server in its own forest…but hey, that’s just a suggestion.

Prep Me!

Installing Exchange 2000 Server is no small feat (trust me on this), and thus it’s something you may want to practice doing.  It’s not just that there are a lot of items to think about when installing the application itself—it only it were that easy.  Exchange 2000 Server is one of those unique applications which requires a Windows 2000 Domain Controller to run.  No Windows 2000 DC = no Exchange 2000 organization.  Ah, now I’ve got your attention.  Installation preparation is a long and sometimes difficult task that requires careful planning (and plenty of it).  It might be fun to see what happens if you append that /forestprep or /domainprep switch to the end of your setup command.  If you’ve got more than one domain in your forest, it’s mandatory.

John Smith who?

If your company is like some of the ones I’ve seen, you’ve probably got an address list that contains hundreds, possibly even thousands of entries.  Not only do address lists like this take too long to load and view, they are just too difficult to work with.  One of the nice quality of life touches available in Exchange 2000 is that you can create any number of completely customized address lists and allow only the users you want to have access to them.  Need to create an address list that only shows the Marketing department, but yet don’t want it available to the Engineering department?  No problem, the power is yours…if you know how to do it.

On the other hand, you know all about replication latency issues, don’t you?  Address lists are subject to latency issues just like any other network object.  What happens when you add a new user to an address list, but other users can’t find it—even after three hours?  You have a problem to fix, that’s what happens!  Knowing how to force updates to your address lists is not only a good thing to know for this exam, but something really useful on the job.  It just might save you a phone call or two.

Public Folder Madness

Public folders are great.  I really, truly believe that.  You will too once you see how easily they can allow your entire organization to share documents.  There’s just one problem:  how are you going to maximize the efficiency of your slow WAN links if you’ve got thousands of documents in your public folder in the main office?  It’s a good thing that the folks at Microsoft thought of that before you…thus replication (with a schedule, no less) is here to solve your problems and make your day a better one.  Of course, this assumes that you know how to configure and control replication.  While you’re at it, why not toss in a full-text index as well and make your users even happier.

Disaster, what disaster?

Understanding and planning for disaster recovery is a vital part of being an Exchange 2000 Server administrator.  It’s not good enough anymore to just assume that it will happen to the other guy; the other guy is most likely you!  Trust me on this one: you will have an Exchange server that, at some time, needs to be rebuilt from the ground up.  Whether it’s Skippy the junior-admin playing with your Active Directory schema or just a freak of nature, one of your Exchange servers is going to die.  What will you do when that day comes?  Well, that depends on how well you’ve prepared by doing your backups.  You’ve got a great backup plan in place?  Great, you’re half way there!  Now you’ve only got to figure out how to get that Exchange 2000 Server back in operation.  It’s not as easy as just performing a restore from your last media set, if only it were that easy!

Take Command!

Working from the command, as painful to some as it might be, is a critical part of being able to successfully manage an Exchange organization.  As intuitive and useful as the GUI is, you most likely find yourself using some of the Exchange 2000 Server command line utilities at some point time.  Take the time now to learn all you can about the ESEUTIL and ISINTEG utilities—they may just save your job in the future.

Last Thoughts

Going into this test, it wouldn’t be abnormal to be a bit apprehensive—I was, even though I’ve been working with Exchange 2000 Server for some time now.  I’ve even found quite a few ways to break an Exchange 2000 Server, but that is the topic for another day.  I thought this test was difficult, perhaps even more so than what most people consider to be the big-dog of the Windows 2000 track:  the 70-216 exam.  I thought this exam rated up there more along the lines of the 70-232 exam, which was a real bear in my mind.

Don’t cheat yourself and go into this exam without adequate preparation.  The amount of time allotted is more than enough, and the questions are fairly short for the most part, but if you don’t know your stuff (and know it inside-out), you’re going to be in for a surprise come test day.

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