A learned approach

It doesn’t matter how much you think you know, you’ll always forget something crucial. And I kept this thought at the front of my mind when setting up a new domain and adding Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 to it. I was pretty happy about setting up the domain itself, but while I would have been content to let my own skillset carry me through the Exchange Server installation if it were just for my own use (indeed, I’d already done that before) I didn’t feel confident about taking such a cavalier approach to somebody else’s installation. Especially one that was going to involve something quite a bit more complex than mailboxes for two or three users.

A learned approach

As you’ll know if you’re a regular reader of this column, I’ve recently been looking at Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 via a free clinic on the Microsoft E-Learning website. I’d been impressed by this site and had therefore decided to buy myself the first of two Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 training collections that just happened to be on special offer. “Collection 5148: Implementing a Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 Messaging Environment” had first caught my eye. This offering consists of seven courses, plus access to a large online library. Items covered in the courses include installing and upgrading, configuring and managing, securing, managing routing, managing data storage and hardware resources, migrating users from Exchange Server 5.5, and implementing and managing client access with internet protocols. The online library was extremely comprehensive and I had little doubt that I’d never be able to get through all the content within the span of the year’s subscription I’d just purchased. The purpose of the E-Reference, as it’s known, is to provide a place to look up individual items and hopefully come up with fast solutions.

Coupled with all the other areas of knowledge available to me, such as Microsoft TechNet, Microsoft Discussion Groups and other online resources, my long-suffering friends and my own accumulated knowledge, I was fairly confident I could happily resolve any issues that might arise during the Exchange Server installation.

As with all training courses of this kind, the first elements are an introduction. As you can see from the screenshot in the walkthrough at the end of this article, the section on Installing and Upgrading to Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 consists of an introduction, followed by four main components: Installing Exchange Server 2003; Installing Exchange Server 2003 in a Clustered Environment; Installing and Using Exchange Management Tools and Utilities; and Upgrading from Exchange 2000 Server to Exchange Server 2003.

This is followed by a Summary section. From the point of view of my installation task, I was only interested in two of the main elements and I wouldn’t be spending any time looking at upgrading from Exchange 2000 Server or installing in a clustered environment. Far from decreasing the value of the course, though, I feel this is an advantage compared to going to a training company, since I could read just what I needed and didn’t have to work my way through all the sections in order.

I wasn’t doing these courses to gain a qualification in Microsoft Exchange Server 2003, but simply to gain the knowledge I needed to carry out a competent installation at my place of work. By using the E-Learning method, I could dip in and out of content at a time that suited me, and I could do so via the web from wherever I happened to be at the time, whether that was home, work or somewhere else entirely. I could also do it via Windows or Mac operating systems, which suited me just fine. The obvious drawback is that you do need to have a web connection, and you’d obviously expect to be able to access the resources once you arrived at the Microsoft website. Oddly enough, I’ve never had any problems accessing online content from Microsoft, but I couldn’t actually purchase these courses for two days because of a persistent shopping cart error that mysteriously fixed itself on the third day of asking.

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