Archive for the ‘eMail’ Category

Entry Level eMail Admin

April 10, 2009

I was asked an interesting question today by a helpdesk technician….

I think I am a great helpdesk support tech, but I would really like to make a change and move up the ladder to become an entry level email admin, what should I do?

Wow!! The first step here is to recognize where you want to go – and this tech had it nailed!! If you are in this position – this first step is a biggie!

After further discussion I found that this person already had identified why they wanted to go into email administration, why they felt they were competent enough, and  what they wanted this to lead to.

The technician felt that email was looked at in the company as high priority application (despite it not being a core business application) and this person wanted the corporate visibility and close customer interaction that this would give them. Further, the technician realized that there is more training freely available for things like email administration then more highly customized applications so they felt they had a better shot at growing their skill sets.

The technician had been fielding outlook related tickets for some time and had begin to read more support articles on the web. Having already achieved a computer related associates degree and working on a MIS degree, the tech felt that they could comprehend things beyond the basic outlook issues.

The end goal for this tech was far beyond email administration though. The tech was looking to get into enterprise architecture (which is drastically different then basic email administration) – but the tech was thinking that with the support calls they were taking interacting with groups all over the company, it was easy to assume that an email admin would gain insight into these other areas.

Impressed as I was at the ambition, I was skeptical of the question…. I had never been approached in this way before for such candid advice. Happy to be in a position to give the advice though, I thought carefully and started with the basic response about how to learn the technology. I then setup some follow-up time to make sure that this person was going to be successful in their long term goals. I wanted to post the advice I gave here for others to use. First the basics of learning the technology, I’ll post on the other stuff after I actually deliver the advice!

The first bit of advice was simple – go get a book, a VM, and some time!!

Starting to read about and play with these things is always the first step. Understanding the tools and the concepts behind using them begins to even the playing field when approaching a new technology. Think about when you learned to drive – the first thing you did was to get a book and take a class about driving (or maybe your parent took you into the car and gave you some one on one instruction). The first step here was understanding what the tools were (guages, pedals, gear shifter, etc). The second step was to take a car for a spin!! Yeah it was thrilling to get behind the wheel – a danger to society – but it was in a safe environment with people watching over you or at least controls in place to prevent a disaster. Step three? Well you practiced!! You practiced driving, you re-read the manuals, and you asked questions of your parent or instructor about how to actually drive and what to do in different situations (4 way stop, 5 way stop, etc).

Learning a new server product is not a lot different – and should be approached in a similar fashion. If you jumped behind the wheel of a production email system today you would be a threat to society – if you jumped behind the wheel (or administration tools) of a virtual test environment – like a controlled driving practice – you would be less of a threat and more likely to learn something. Add to this some knowledge about what the tools are called (what are the guages to look at in the email system? What pedals make email go slower and faster? How do passengers get in and out and do they need to buckle up or can you buckle up for them?) There are loads of questions that the books will give you instant insight to. This is why starting with a book or a class from no knowledge is critical. This is also why starting in a test environment is critical. Applying that basic knowledge from the books is easy to do incorrectly (yes – push the gas pedal but not THAT hard). 

With a healthy dose of book/class knowledge and some real time investigating the different components of the email application, such as:

  • How does email come in and out of the system
  • How do users access the email from their desktops, laptops, and mobile devices
  • How are spam and virus messages captured
  • How are mailboxes added/removed from the system
  • How are resource/shared mailboxes and distribution groups handled
  • How are size limits, email addresses, etc configured

A savvy technician would be ready to spend some time with a production system working on basic tasks with confidence. This confidence is the key, a team of email administrators and architects would rightly be weary of letting just anyone touch the system, but being able to demonstrate an understanding of these basic components – a tech could easily convince a more senior administrator that they are worthy of an opportunity to learn more.

Obviously there are more things this tech is interested in learning from me, and we are planning to chat again late next week – I’ll post again after we chat….

Pacific Northwest UC Doers User Group Meeting – 4/29

March 27, 2009
Wednesday April 29, 2009 from 5:00pm – 7:00pm
Microsoft Campus
Building 41 – Townsend Room
(Corner of 156th Ave. NE and NE 31st St.)
Redmond, Washington

The Pacific Northwest UC Doers group is still going strong!! Fourth Quarter in a row and we are going to move to the Microsoft Campus for a little while. We have had the last few over at the gracious McKinstry offices (Thanks you so much, we hope to return to your offices soon!!).

This meeting will be held on the heals of the INTERACT 2009 conference so there will be loads of great people to meet and things to talk about. More info to come soon!

If you have something to discuss, have a presentation you’d like to give, or have things you’d like to see on this quarter or a future quarter’s agenda – drop me a note and let me know! I could talk all day, but I’m sure the rest of you have more interesting things to talk about!

Please rsvp via email to or on Upcoming

ok, now time to grab the kids and head to Oahu – see you all in a week :)

Moving POP3 email to Exchange Online

November 25, 2008

The guys over at the Microsoft Online Services blog recently released a PDF guide for migrating from a POP3 environment to an Exchange Online environment. After reading through the pdf, I found that the basic overview did well to cover the steps necessary to migrate (handy in fact considering I was in the process of planning a migration for a customer)… 

Given that Exchange Online has just barely been available to customers, it is impressive that there is really this much guidance already. There is a Solution Accelerator for planning your move to Microsoft Online, the IPD guide (Exchange Online – Evaluating Software-plus-Services) I talked about earlier, and various blogs and websites like discussing the ease of use, the Microsoft Exchange Online Forums, among others

The cost thing is something to consider, my friends over at Ferris Research have commented on the expense, and I am working on a calulator to compare the full costs of MS Exchange Online vs. the other possible solutions (Exchange on-premise, another hosted service, etc) that I should have completed shortly and will be happy to share.

Microsoft Online – Summary

November 13, 2008

Microsoft Online is definitely a good addition to the Microsoft suite of offerings. The administrative interface and AD-sync options allow customers to engage with the solution easily and for those smaller organizations really take the leap to shared uniform messaging without the bother of an internal shared network. With that as a starting point, organizations can grow into a dedicated offering where mailbox sizes and customization is at offered and will cater to much more complex customers. My earlier reviews of the sign-up process, setting up a new domain space, Accepting inbound email on Exchange Online, Creating Users, Accessing email, and service requests are all a place to get more information.

One area that is skipped in most of the Microsoft offered planning excersises is how to grow from Exchange Online Standard -> Exchange Online Dedicated -> Exchange Server On-Premise (or Exchange Server On-Premise – remotely managed). The roadmaps seem to skip this and the marketing material seems to focus on migrating the other way for smaller customers.

Microsoft’s roadmap is fairly clear, Directions on Microsoft has reposted this graphic on their site…


Getting access to the system is reasonably straight forward. Microsoft announced with the initial announcement at their partner conference a number of customers who are moving toward the system, so it will be interesting to see how their enterprise level feedback does or doesn’t change the user login/authentication experience.

My friends over at Ferris Research think the Microsoft Online may be too expensive, what do you think? For the services that are being offered? Is Microsoft’s $15/month too much? The Google Apps offering is much cheaper and with Cemaphore’s Mailshadow offering or Zimbra’s new Hosted offering which is starting with a .edu target audience, there is going to continue to be a lot of competition in the space….. That said, the full suite (Exchange + Sharepoint + OCS) is compelling.

Ryan over at MS seems to have more time than I to put together screen shots and post them to his blog. If you want to see more of the technical details, I recommend going over to his blog, Microsoft Online Technical Discussions & Information and checking it out. The team has also put together a blog, titled Microsoft Online Services. This blog has more details on all of the goings on and answers questions that everyone seems to be having… yes there is activesync (so you can connect your iPhone), yes you can connect with Entourageyes there are two offerings – dedicated & Standard…. btw, my day job is helping you decide which is right for you, so don’t hesitate to email me to help you with this decision :)

You don’t need to take my word for it though…. Have a read through the IPD guide. I had a few friends help write it and did the peer review on it (similar to the peer review I did for EHS), but more formal I guess.

UCDoers Meeting Recap

July 31, 2008

The last UCDoers meeting was great!! Per Farney and Greg Taylor from the Microsoft Certified Master’s program came and gave us the run down on the program. They left us with a deck, but sadly no recording of what they said, I guess you have to attend to get the details.

The meeting didn’t stop there though….

SQLSoft stopped by and gave the attendees $250 off any MS class. This was great of them to do. We have asked them to come back and keep giving attendees FREE stuff!! They agreed of course :)

We had a discussion about the difficulties of prioritizing implementations of new products as an IT organization. With MS releasing all of these things at once to save Marketing dollars, how are IT departments to properly prioritize which products are implemented first? Sharepoint, Exchange, OCS, Windows 2008, SQL 2005, the list goes on and on… We plan to make this a standing discussion and encourage you to come participate in it.

Some future topics we are looking at is the continual clustering and disaster recovery planning (not just mailbox servers, but blackberry servers, CAS, OCS, etc, etc)

McKinstry did confirm that they will host the next couple of events. Did I mention they have a wine bar, a driving range on the roof, a full gym, etc, etc, etc These construction companies know how to spend their money!! All of the UCDoers meetings will be the last wednesday of every month 4-7pm so get it on your calendars now and keep your eyes on my blog, the website, or the Exchange group on Yahoo groups!!

If you are planning on attending, please send a note to so that we can ensure there is enough food, drinks, giveaways, etc!!