Archive for the ‘SharePoint Services’ Category


Introduction

Guess I am like the cobbler’s kids who didn’t get their shoes when everyone else did.  I am the last of my clients, save one, to migrate off SBS and onto Windows 2012 R2 Standard.  I thought you could benefit from some of the issues I ran into, and solved.

Here’s my scenario.  Have a Hyper-V server running SBS 2011 as a virtual machine.  Created a new virtual machine and installed Windows 2012 R2, did updates.  Unfortunately, it sat for several months while I finally got a few days to do he migration.  More about that later.

Long ago, I migrated email and SharePoint to Office 365, so I had disabled services and IIS application pools on SBS.  My starting point was to fire them up again in order to remove them.  I did not want AD to migrate with all of those extra objects.

Removing Exchange Server 2008 R2

This did not start off well.  When I launched EMC, it failed to connect to the SBS server.  I ended up putting it aside for a few days but came back to it.  I had tried to guess or remember which services should be started, but I seemed to have failed.  I also only started the Exchange-related application pools.  I easily tracked down an article describing which services start automatically, fired them up, and enabled those that should start manually.  BTW it describes all of SBS services.

That did the trick, and EMC successfully opened.  But I knew that in order to uninstall Exchange, I had to remove the mailboxes.  Fortunately, I had a small number of them.  And to make it easy, I used Exchange PowerShell commands to do this.

Get-Mailbox | Disable-Mailbox
Get-Mailbox -Archive | Disable-Mailbox -Archive
Get-Mailbox -Arbitration | Disable-Mailbox -Arbitration

First, please note that my scenario had with SBS – a single mailbox database and server.  That is why there are no qualifying parameters on the commands.

If your first thought is to use EMC to remove mailboxes, CAUTION!  That method removes both the mailbox AND the user from AD.  If you do want to remove some users and their mailboxes, do that but otherwise use Disable-Mailbox.  There is a Remove-Mailbox command but it also removes both user and mailbox.

So what the first command does is get a list of mailboxes which are piped to the next command.  The second does the same thing but gets the archive mailboxes.  You will then not be surprised the third command gets the arbitration ones.

I tried just getting archive and arbitration mailboxes, but the id names were too long to display in their entirety, so piping was essential.  And easier. And faster.

I then tried to uninstall Exchange but got two failures.  The first block came from Trend Micro Worry Free Advanced that it was using the database and the second was the Offline Address Book in Public Folders.  I uninstalled the messaging agent for Trend Micro but getting rid of the OAB was harder.

First I tried to simply delete the public database but it was not empty (I knew that from the OAB warnings).  I then tried to create a new, empty one to mount but then Exchange would not let me create a second one.  So under Tools, I chose Public Folders and expanded the tree and selected OAB then the firs entry and deleted that.  It was the only entry I could delete.

Luckily, I was then able to uninstall Exchange.

Removing SharePoint

Could not have been easier.  Just uninstall from Control Panel.

Back to Windows 2012 R2

I had already joined the domain and installed Active Directory Services, so I was ready to promote it to a domain controller by starting the configuration on that role.  Just added to the existing domain and it just worked.

I needed a few more roles on this new server, and then trouble started.  I tried to add both Remote Access and Windows Update at the same time and the installation failed.  Separately they also failed.  Again and again.

I cheeked for updates and found plenty and installed and rebooted.  Still no luck in adding roles or features.  I finally found this article which pointed me to a fix.  Note that I modified both policies that it refers to.  After the gpupdate, installation of roles worked fine.

I had not run into this issue before with 2012 R2, so I think it is related to both the GPO settings from SBS 2011 and that AD is at 2008 R2 levels and cannot be promoted until SBS is removed from the domain.

But this puts me well on my way to being where I want to be.

Now I just have to move Worry Free Advanced and get client machines set up under Windows Essentials role.


What is SkyDrive Pro vs. SkyDrive?

SkyDrive Pro is not to be confused with the free SkyDrive you can get at live.com.  What may be confusing to you is that they have similar names, and you might even use the same login name and passwords to access each of them.  But that is just co-incidence, much in the same way that the user name and password you might use to log onto your bank account and a news web site might be the same but those sites have no real relationship to one another.

So what is SkyDrive Pro?  It is a 25GB storage space that you get to via Office 365, but unlike he “Team Site”, this is a personal site just for you and based on your user logon to Office 365.  All the things, or at least most of them, that can be done on the team site – like creating libraries, lists, etc. – can be done on the SkyDrive Pro site.  But the data you store there is visible and accessible only by your logon.  (There is a way to store data so that all other Office 365 users in your organization can see it, but will discuss that shortly).

 SkyDrive Pro 2013 in the Office 2013 Suite of Programs

There is an important difference about SkyDrive Pro from the Team Site besides exclusively belonging to you.  There is an Office 2013 program, SkyDrive Pro interestingly enough, that does two things:

SkyDrive Pro 2013 makes a local copy of your Office 365 SkyDrive data so you can access it even when you are not online. SkyDrive Pro 2013 automatically synchronizes the data between your local copy and Office 365.  Update it in either place and the changes are replicated.

And yes, if you were wondering, you can use SkyDrive Pro 2013 on multiple computers.  Let’s say you are using it on your office and home office computers.  You update the local copy on your home office computer, and that replicates to Office 365 in the cloud.  That in turn replicates from Office 365 to the local copy on your office computer.

 Setting Up SkyDrive Pro 2013

If you already have Office 2013 Professional Plus installed (from Office 365, e.g.) then SkyDrive Pro 2013 is already installed on your computer.  You might want to pin this program to your task bar for easy access.  In Windows 7, click on the Start menu, then All Programs, scroll down to Microsoft Office 2013 and expand it, right click on SkyDrive Pro and click on Pin to Task Bar.  In Windows 8, swipe to the lower right hand corner of the screen to bring up Charms, choose the Search Charm, and start typing “SkyDrive Pro 2013.”  As soon as it appears, right click on it and at the bottom of the screen, choose Pin to Taskbar.  Return to the desktop.

On the taskbar, click on the SkyDrive Pro 2013 icon to launch it.  The first time it runs, it will prompt you to synch files for the first time.  You may be prompted for a URL of the library to synch to, or that may already be filled out for you.  If it is filled out already, just click on Sync Now.

If you are prompted for a URL, then close the window and perform the following steps instead:

  1. Open Internet Explorer or FireFox or Chrome.
  2. Go to http://portal.microsoftonline.com, 
  3. Log onto your Office 365 account.
  4. On the horizontal navigation bar at the top of the next page, click on SkyDrive.
  5. When the SkyDrive site opens, click on Sync at the upper right just below the user name.

SkyDrive

You should see a small window open asking to Sync Now.  Select that.  Subsequently, a second small window may open asking you to choose an application in which Microsoft SkyDrive Pro appears.  Click on it and then click OK.  Briefly another small window may appear informing you that your computer is contacting the server, and finally another window that sync is preparing, then finally that it is ready and you can view your files.  Click Show my files to do so.

Subsequently when you click on the SkyDrive Pro icon, it will open the folder from your local hard disk.  You will note the location of this folder is C:\Users\<profilename<>\SkyDrive Pro where <profilename> is the name of the user profile you are logged on as.  Generally it will be your log on name and sometimes with the domain name added.

o365-2

Please note on the screen shot above both SkyDrive and SkyDrive Pro appear.  That is because I set up a personal SkyDrive account in addition to having an Office 365 account.  They are not the same thing even though the names are similar.  It is as though Drop Box had one account for personal and another named Drop the Box for something else.  Jeez.

Sharing Data with Others in Your Organization

Notice in the screenshot above “Shared with Everyone” folder.  Open that and place a file or folder there, and anyone can access it.  Otherwise, the files are private to your log on.  Pretty simple, eh?

 What is the SkyDrive Pro Folder?

What SkyDrive Pro 2013 does is create a local folder in the path specified above, and it also sets up an automatic synchronization between that folder and the SkyDrive SharePoint site in Office 365.  Recall that the SkyDrive site in Office 365 that you see when you log on to the portal is private!  It belongs to your Office 365 log on exclusively.  Coupled with SkyDrive Pro 2013, it does a bi-directional synchronization to SkyDrive Pro folder on your computer.  In other words, if you add, change or delete anything in the SkyDrive Pro folder on your computer, those changes are automatically replicated in the SkyDrive SharePoint site in Office 365.  Likewise, if you add, change or delete anything in that site, it is automatically replicated to your computer.

Note that you do not have to be connected to the Internet to access files, or add files, to the local SkyDrive Pro folder.  Once you are connected, replication in both directions takes place without you having to do anything.

This feature makes it perfect when you are using more than one computer: say your office computer, your home computer, and your laptop computer.  Set up SkyDrive Pro on each.  If you make changes on your laptop while traveling, for example, once you connect to the Internet, those changes are replicated to Office 365.  And Office 365 in turn will replicate them to the home and office computers.

 The SkyDrive Pro 2013 Folder

When you click on the SkyDrive Pro icon on the taskbar, or from File Explorer under Favorites, or by browsing to the folder location.  The contents of the folder will appear as in any other folder on your computer.  However, SkyDrive Pro adds a crucial piece of information.  An icon will appear just before the file or folder name.  The icon will be one of the three following ones:

  1. A green check mark.  This indicates the file has been successfully synchronized to Office 365.
  2. A circle with two curved arrows inside.  This indicates that the file is awaiting synchronization to Office 365.
  3. A red circle with a white “X” inside it.   This indicates there is an error synchronizing to Office 365. It is either a file type that cannot be uploaded to SharePoint, in which case you should not put it in SkyDrive Pro folder, or the file name is invalid.  Invalid file names contain characters like “%” or “&” and several others that are invalid in SharePoint.  Or the file name has consecutive “.”  Myfile..ppt, for example, is valid in Windows but not in SharePoint.  Change the file name to allow synchronization.

You can see the icons next to the file names on the screen shot I posted above.

 Using SkyDrive Pro

The first thing you should do is move all of your files in My Documents to SkyDrive Pro, then abandon completely storing or accessing anything from My Documents.  If you save documents on your desktop, do the same thing: move them to SkyDrive Pro and cease using your desktop for storage.  If you save your documents to another location, well you get the idea.  You can open My Documents, any other folder, and also SkyDrive Pro folder and simply drag things from one place to the other.

When you are saving a document, say from an email attachment or from an application like Word or Excel, simply browse to the SkyDrive Pro folder and save it there (or to a subfolder there).

 Why Go Through All that Trouble?

Just to state the obvious, it is NOT more trouble to save or access things from SkyDrive Pro than from any other location.  There is a modest, but simple, effort required to move everything from other locations to it though.

Consider these benefits:

  •  If something catastrophic happens to your computer – lost, stolen, hard disk crash, accidental erasure, etc. – you don’t lose any of your files.  A copy is at Office 365 and readily restored to any computer.
  • You can keep your files current and accessible on multiple computers you use.
  • You can access your files while traveling with no Internet connection.
  • You can rest assured that Office 365 is backed up, redundant and robust to protect your data.
  • SkyDrive at Office 365 supports version control, so if you screw up a file, you can readily restore the previous version and save the day.
  • If you don’t have any of your computers with you but have access to one, you can still get to all of your files by accessing them through the Office 365 portal.  And if that computer doesn’t have Office 2013 on it, you can use the Office Web Apps or Office on Demand at any time.

A Few More Things

You have an icon in the systray for SkyDrive Pro and another for Microsoft Office Upload Center (the latter is an orange circle with a large up-pointing arrow).  When files are synching, the SkyDrive Pro icon will have a green moving bar underneath it.  Hover your mouse over it and a popup will show how many remaining files are waiting for synch.  Open Upload Center to see any errors in uploading, such as unsupported file types or invalid file names.  File names must conform to SharePoint file name rules, so certain characters valid in Windows file names will not work in SharePoint.

Saving files, or opening existing files, from Office and other applications is quite simple and easy.  To open a file, for example, click on the SkyDrive Pro (or similarly named) icon under Favorites or open the SkyDrive Pro folder from SkyDrive 2013.  Browse to the file you want and click to open it.  To save a file, follow a similar strategy

Files are synched to Office 365 only when a file is closed after updating or adding.  Don’t depend on synching a file that remains open for days at a time.  A good example might be a QuickBooks file.  As long as you close it after daily use, it will synch to Office 365.  A better strategy might be to set up QuickBooks to backup the file on an automated schedule to your SkyDrive Pro site.  Once the backup is complete, it is synched to Office 365, giving you a local and a cloud-based backup.

You may recall that if you go offline, say taking your laptop or table while traveling, or because your Internet connection is down, you can make changes to your files on the local SkyDrive Pro folder and once connected to the Internet again, those changes will be replicated onto Office 365.  But here is a caution if you are using Office 2013 SkyDrive Pro (Office APP) on more than one computer:  If you make changes on one of those computers to the folder and don’t go online to synch them but instead make changes to the same files or folders on another computer, you will create a synch error or worse cause an overwrite to the changes on at least one of those computers.  In normal operation, I consider this unlikely, but sure as I write this someone will do it.

If you are using a Windows tablet device, such as a Surface Pro, remember that your local copy of your folder is going to be as large as the online store.  Since these table devices are solid state disks (SSD) and generally 32GB or 64GB for all your storage, including the OS and program files, you might run out of room.  In that case, consider moving older or seldom-used files to your Office 365 team site libraries.

Summary

SkyDrive Pro is a personal SharePoint site for each Office 365 user.  Coupled with Office 2013 SkyDrive Pro, a local folder under your user profile is used to store data which is automatically synched to the SharePoint site.  Used in place of My Documents, or some network share, it is an excellent and vastly superior way IMHO to have online or offline access to your files, to have automatic cloud backup, and access to them on multiple computers or simply through an Internet connection and browser when your own computer devices are not available.


Scenario

You have configured incoming e-mail for your SharePoint site (see my earlier post on how to do this) and have assigned an e-mail address to your list or library.  Incoming e-mails have been posting as you expected, then all of a sudden they don’t.  What’s up with that?

Things You Probably Check

If you are like me, here is what you might check for:

  1. In Central Administration, is inbound e-mail configured properly?
  2. Does the dropbox folder still exist, and it’s path match what you specified in #1 above?
  3. Are permissions on the dropbox folder correct?  The dropbox directory must have the following permissions assigned to it:
    • Network Service: Full Control
    • System: Full Control
    • Administrators: Full Control
  4. Is other incoming e-mail working, and if not, what is disrupting Exchange performance?
  5. Another thing I checked was the job status in SharePoint Central Administration.  I was looking for the Timer job for in-coming e-mail, and clicked to run it now.  No luck of course.

If you make it through all of those without discovering anything, the next thing to do is look in the dropbox folder.  I always use \inetpub\mailroot\drop, but your path may be different.

The Fix

When I browsed to that folder, I found a bunch of .eml files.  These were the attachments from incoming e-mail that were supposed to have landed in (in my case) a document library.  It’s as though they arrived at the airport but were being detained by customs agent, but no particular reason why.  And this post does not hint at why, either. But here’s how to spring them from confinement.

Simply run SharePoint configuration again.  Click through the default settings on the wizard and let it run.  I had the dropbox folder open, and I will leave it to you to imagine my pleasure at seeing, during Step 9 when the timer was being configured, to see all the waiting .eml files simply disappear.  Once the wizard completed, I opened the site and document library, and there they were, as expected.

Hope this helps and if anyone can help provide the cause, please share it with us.


Now that you have the basics of how to create a volume on an iSCSI target and mount it for use, let’s explore some reasons for doing so.

Server Storage

The simplest case I will present is a single SBS server.  There are several important data stores for SBS:

  • Exchange Server
  • SharePoint
  • Shared folders
  • LOB or other data that is used by SBS members

When you first install SBS, these are all going to be located on the OS drive.  Using the SBS console, you can migrate them to another drive location.  In the case of LOB data, which is set up independently, you no doubt can chose the drive on which to locate it.

You could start with disks installed on the server in a traditional fashion.  Maybe the drives are 500GB, 1TB, or larger drives.  Your Exchange requirements might be modest, say 15GB.  You estimate that SharePoint files are likely to grow to 20GB in the next six months to a year.  Shared folders might start at 20GB but could go up or down depending on what migrates to SharePoint, for example, and what other growth you anticipate.

You can use one drive for Exchange, one for SharePoint, one for shared folders, and one for LOB data.  But perhaps your server can’t accommodate that many drives.  And it certainly might not accommodate them as RAID 5 or 6 volumes and be independent of each other.  What are the choices?  Well, you could  use one physical disk, no RAID, and create several volumes and use different ones for different data types.  Or perhaps use several drives to create a RAID set and and allocate volumes on it.

Now that you have several volumes on your drive or drive array, sized to accommodate the data you anticipate, what happens if you start to run out of space?  If you have a partition management software tool, you could expand the size of the allocation if there is more free space on the drive(s), or shrink another partition if that were possible and then increase the size of the desired one.  Or, if you have the space available, create another larger partition and move the data to the new one.

Using iSCSI targets is similar to this approach but without the drawbacks and pitfalls of locally attached drives.  First, your storage platform is robust and will have RAID enabled drive support.  Since mountable drives are created from an available pool of space, you can start with the most reasonable size for each disk you need.  Later, you can, on the fly, create a new iSCSI target that is larger or smaller, move or migrate the data to it, disconnect the original target and then delete it.  It is far easier than partition management.

Don’t forget backups.  You can create an iSCSI target and mount it on the SBS server and then configure backups to this drive.  Need another destination?  Very simple.  You get the idea.

Virtual Machines

You probably know from reading some of my other posts I am a fan of virtual machines.  I like the idea of running SBS as a Hyper-v machine; the same box can support test machines, client machines used for remote access, special LOB servers, you name it.  In a virtual machine environment, iSCSI shines.

Start with the drive on which you store the .vhd files.  These can be on a locally attached or a iSCSI drive.  I use iSCSI because I can allocate a right-sized disk in a matter of minutes and have it available on the host server.  Once the virtual machine is created, I can allocate and attach additional iSCSI targets to meet the needs of that vm.

Consider that you might want to test some new software or application, such as a web site, SharePoint feature, or LOB application.  Create a virtual machine and allocate the disk space it needs.  If it turns out to be incorrect, or once your testing has been completed, it is a simple matter to delete the iSCSI targets and return the disk space back to the available pool.

Note a potential disaster recovery scenario.  If you were to lose the host server, the .vhd for the virtual machines would still be on the iSCSI target.  Simply use them to create a virtual machine on another host, and you are back up and running.

Testing

Admittedly, I stole some of my own thunder when talking about virtual machines, but the testing environment is perfect for iSCSI.  Just allocate a target, use it and then delete it once the testing is done.

But it is not just for server and server-level software that iSCSI is useful in testing.  Suppose you want to test from your desktop.  Guess what.  Windows 7 has the same iSCSI initiator, and you can download one for XP.  That means you can create disks, use them and subsequently delete them at the client desktop as well as at the server.

Ad Hoc Uses

I have also used iSCSI targets for quick, one time efforts.  I wanted to update the OS on a laptop for a friend, and I wanted to end up with a clean install but make sure I didn’t lose anything important.  The trouble was that my friend couldn’t tell me what was important…. So I removed the laptop drive, connected it to my desktop with a USB drive connector, copied it completely to an iSCSI target I created, put the drive back in his laptop and installed the new OS.  There were a few things to go back and retrieve, but once he was satisfied I simply deleted the drive.

I will often be called upon to change something at an installation.  I usually create an iSCSI target, do an appropriate backup (sometimes it is just copying files, other times, a more holistic backup), then make the changes.  Getting back to the original state if something goes wrong is neat and tidy; so is the deletion of the disk once I am done.

Less Common But On My Wish List

Recall from Part I that the SCSI commands to read and write data are sent over the network to the target device.  Theoretically, it doesn’t matter whether the network is local or very WAN.  Practically, it is how long it takes for the commands and data to get back and forth.

Here is where I think cloud backups might go for some types of transaction-sensitive data.  Suppose you have a database that gets updates continuously from user transactions, web traffic, etc.  If that data were stored on an iSCSI target, remember that the data and commands to read and write it travel across the network.  Now imagine that the iSCSI target machine, when it gets a write command, also sends that command with the data to another iSCSI target, a mirror, that is remote, i.e., the cloud (public or private).  The difference is that the local target can respond back to the server that the write is complete, but there are no such time constraints on the write to the cloud. The iSCSI target would have to create a queue of writes and execute them in order as they complete asynchronously to the writes it completes locally.  This is not unlike playing a log file against a database.

Because only writes need be executed across the WAN, this is a very efficient operation and with broadband speeds continuing to increase, such a scheme because a very practical continuous backup procedure.

No solution like this is commercially available that I know of, and it would not be appropriate for every application.  Nevertheless, you heard it here first if it does come to pass.

I hope this gives you a flavor of the convenience and wide range of uses that iSCSI provides. In Part III I will discuss the costs and purchasing of a unit.

 


One day, it may come as a huge surprise – and shock – to you when you open Exchange Management Console and see this screen:


If you open Exchange PowerShell, you will get the same error.  What’s more, Remote Web Workplace (RWW) and OWA stop working as well.

So what happened, and how do you fix it?

The answer to the first question has two parts.  What is causing the error is that the Default web site has stopped.  Why it has stopped is the second part of the first question.  To fix the problem, all you need to do is to restart the Default web site.  In order to do that, you have to understand why it stopped in the first place.

A possible cause is that a new web site was created and started whose bindings conflict with the Default site.  A way to unknowingly have this happen is to create a new SharePoint web site in Central Administration and not give it unique bindings.  You can spot this from two different places:

  • IIS Manager – If the Default web site is stopped, try restarting it. If it starts correctly, then for some reason it stopped, and with it restarted, your Kerberos error should disappear.  If it didn’t start, and the reason is a port conflict, then follow the instructions in the following sections of this post.
  • SharePoint Central Administration – From the main page, Application Management, click on Manage web applications.  The default applications are SharePoint Central Administration v4 (for SharePoint Foundation 2010) and SBS SharePoint.  If you have another, check the port and make sure it is not port 80.

Of course, it is possible that you modified the bindings on the Default web site and it is not using port 80.  This is not at all recommended.

If starting the Default web site fails with other than a port conflict, you will have to determine that error and correct it.  If it is because of a port conflict, follow these steps:

  1. In IIS Manager, expand the server, then click on Application Pools.  Make sure all the application pools are started.  If not, try starting any that are stopped.  If they start correctly, proceed.  If not, check for the error that is preventing them from starting and try again.
  2. Expand Sites in IIS Manager. Click on each site and in the right had Actions Pane, take a look at the bindings under Browse Web Site, or better still, click Bindings…. under Edit site.
  3. If you find a binding that has no host name and uses port 80 for a site that is not the Default web site, stop that site.  You can stop the site from Manage Web Site in the Actions pane.
  4. With the conflicting site stopped, try starting the Default site again.

If this solves the problem, you can then focus on the conflicting site.  How did it get there in the first place?  A common culprit might be SharePoint Central Administration if a new site were not properly created.  Or someone attempted to add a public web site but didn’t configure the bindings properly.  I am creating a separate post for how to set the bindings for a public web site in SBS.

 


This morning, a client called to tell me that their incoming e-mail had stopped over the weekend.  They could still send e-email, though. Probably like you, e-mail is their bread and butter life line to their customers and their vendors.  Maybe like you as well, they prefer to wait until their hair is on fire to do anything; active monitoring is not something they are interested in.

The server showed no reals signs of distress.  All services were up and running.  I could telnet on port 25 to Exchange.  The recent entries in the event log looked pretty normal.  My first symptom that something was amiss was that I could not connect to remote web workplace. IE did not error out in any way, it just sat for about 15 minutes waiting to connect.

As I was starting to dig deeper, one of the users forwarded me a NDR he received when he tried to send himself a message from his private account to the domain account.  The error code in the NDR was 452.4.3.1 insufficient system resources.

That proved to be the essential clue.  I looked at the drive where the Exchange data was stored, and it had only a bit over 5GB remaining.  The thin space was not so much caused by a growth in the Exchange stores but by some accumulation of junk in other folders.  Fortunately, there was a ton of empty space on a 1TB drive on the system.   I moved both Exchange and SharePoint data to that drive; user data was already there.

Since backups were only three hours stale, and they had not received incoming messages for more than 24 hours, I just skipped the new backup.  The moves went pretty quickly with no problems.  I am not sure I wouldn’t advise you to take another backup, just in case, but when the client is nervous…..

I hope you don’t suppose that solved the problem and starting incoming email.  It didn’t.

In order for everything to get cranked back up, some Exchange services had to be restarted.  I ended up restarting all of the services that were running, which was probably overkill, but instead of sorting out which were essential it seemed faster to do them all rather than continue to wait for incoming mail to show.  That feel of the client breathing down your neck…

Here are today’s lessons:

  1. With storage so cheap today, don’t be stingy. Give your Exchange and SharePoint data plenty of room to play.  If possible, devote a drive to Exchange.
  2. Monitor your drives occasionally. If you see a sudden decrease in available space, check to see if someone has started dumping stuff onto the drives (in this case, someone decided to use a server drive to do a full backup of a laptop.  When the person has admin privileges, what’s one to do?
  3. If you have smallish drives, go buy some new bigger ones. A 2TB drive on the commercial side is around $200 or less, and more standard ones under $100.
  4. Better still, invest in iSCSI targets. While you cannot use USB drives for Exchange data, you can with an iSCSI target.  You can provision a new drive in a few moments, attach it to your server (or anything else), and you are off and running.  Literally.

It’s true that an iSCSI target device is more expensive than USB or internal drives, but the increased versatility and flexibility is really worth it.  But let me calibrate more expensive for you.

I have had great success with a particular vendor, and their product line goes from a one drive unit up to an eight drive unit, and you can daisy-chain two of them together.  The software is essentially the same across all of the physical platforms, so you get all the benefits no matter what capacity you choose.  At the upper end, their eight drive units cost between $1400 and $1800 street price, depending on whether you choose rack mount or standalone and whether you get a first or second generation processor.  You then have to throw in the drives (a lot of companies resell them populated, but I prefer to buy my own drives and shop for the best deals; installing them is a trivial affair).

I am planning a post on iSCSI, so if you are not familiar with it, stay tuned for the details.  When I first encountered it, I thought this stuff is way too complex and esoteric and expensive.  It is not.  Especially if you have any thoughts about using virtual machines.  If I want to create a virtual machine, I can just create a new iSCSI target, attach it to the host, and then provision the machine on it.   But I will explain more later.


Especially for small businesses, enabling incoming e-mail for SharePoint lists and libraries is a powerful if somewhat overlooked feature.  Before I gripe a bit about how Microsoft has handled doing this, I will share with you some general ideas about how to use incoming e-mail to solve real business problems.

  • Customer or vendor queries and requests. Set up a document library to receive incoming e-mail from outside senders. From the external web site, or by some other means, make this e-mail address available for customer/vendors/etc. to contact the business.  Set up a work flow on the library to initiate, and follow up, on action taken.
  • Keep track of sent e-mails. Use the library incoming e-mail address in the bcc field of outgoing email.  That creates a store, essentially, of the appropriate correspondence.  Views on the library can be created using the e-mail from, to, and other fields making this a powerful way to aggregate correspondence across multiple senders.
  • Use outbound e-mail to trigger tasks. You can’t enable incoming e-email for task and project lists, but you use work flows on a library, for example, to create a task when an incoming e-mail is received.
  • Incoming e-mails in team discussions. Use incoming e-mails from customers, vendors, partners, etc. to create discussion lists. So way much better than emails, as all of the parts of the threads are there for everyone to see.  Add  a column like status, couple that to a work flow, and you can use that to communicate back the sender, age off discussions, create views that highlight urgent topics, etc.

Think about coupling your accounting system to a document library by using an incoming e-mail address for it on purchase orders or sales orders.  I guess I have no end to ideas, but I am confident that each of you will be able to extend a list were I able to write down all of mine.

Now to my tiny rant.

Perhaps that is why enabling it for the internal web site, and then for each individual list or library, requires a bit of heavy lifting for the average user, and that goes doubly for SBS 2011 with SharePoint Foundation 2010 and Exchange 2010.  I do not understand why the SBS team has not created a wizard to both enable incoming email on the site and then to enable it for each list or library.

Perhaps it is just a fallout from non-SBS environments where administrators will want to exercise more control over how mail flows.  By contrast there is a single way to do this is SBS.  to illustrate this point further, note that when you enable incoming e-mail in SBS, you are prompted to install the IIS SMTP service but must not in SBS.  Now that should be crystal clear for everyone.

I raised the issue in a post to the Microsoft SBS forum that there was no documentation on incoming e-mail for SBS 2011, much less a wizard.  One of the responses was from Susan Bradley, aka SBS Diva and then lo and behold, this post appeared:

How to Configure Email Routing to SharePoint in SBS 2011 Standard

Well, thanks to the team for this posting.  I can assure you it works.  I now have as my mission some alternative ways of doing this, and hints and suggestions of ongoing effort.  Stay tuned while I no doubt shoot myself in the foot many times trying to validate my concepts with actually having it work, not screwing up the works while doing so.

I will repeat this message again and again.  One of the best reasons to upgrade to SBS 2011 is SharePoint Foundation 2010.  The interaction with Office 2010 hands you potent business applications that you can craft with little effort, enabling incoming e-mail aside.  I am on a mission to understand just how much and report back to you.  If you have some comments or ideas, I invite you to share them with us.