5 Ways To Remotely Manage Your Exchange Server

It is two o’clock in the morning and your phone rings to tell you the server crashed, or there is some other problem that requires a trip back to the office or data center in the middle of the night. Bleary eyed, you get into your car and start what often turns out to be a really long day.

But what if you could avoid this and remotely manage your servers? That way you could fix the problem without even changing out of your pajamas and get back to a nice warm bed. Interested? I thought you might be, and fortunately there are a number of methods for Exchange admins to remotely manage their deployments.

Let’s look at the top five ways to avoid driving to the office in the middle of the night:

1. Exchange Management Console

The Exchange Management Console (EMC) is one method to manage your Exchange Server as it is now remote-capable. You essentially run a local version of EMC on your workstation and connect to a remote Exchange Server in order to manage it. It is important to note that a 64-bit host system is required, as that the EMC only runs on 64-bit system. In addition, for security reasons, only the Edge Transport server role appears for servers that have the Edge Transport server role installed – regardless of any other server roles that may be present.

2. Remote Exchange Management Shell

Exchange Server cmdlets can be remotely accessed via Exchange Manage Shell (EMS) using the PowerShell scripting language. This feature is new to Exchange Server 2010, and is powerful as it allows multiple servers to be managed as a single EMS instance from a remote workstation. The EMS is more powerful for certain tasks and also has the advantage of not being subjected to the requirement of a 64-bit host system. Organizations that have deployed Office 365 will be interested to know that EMS works with Exchange Online too.

3. Exchange Control Panel

Also introduced in Exchange Server 2010, the Exchange Control Panel (ECP) allows an administrator to remotely configure specific aspects of Exchange Server with nothing more than a supported web browser. Accessed from the http:///ECP URL, ECP functions through the firewall and is similar to accessing the Outlook Web App. Mailboxes can be managed from the ECP, including distribution groups, contacts, as well as other objects such as journaling and transport rules. While not as comprehensive as some of the available other administrative options, it does at least make quick tweaks possible with a minimum of fuss.

4. Remote Desktop Protocol

RDP, or Remote Desktop Protocol, is one of the most common protocols for remote access to Exchange Server, as well as Windows Servers in general. RDP is popular as it is commonly understood, fast and generally considered to be a secure method for remote administration. There are two options to bear in mind here from a licensing perspective: Remote Desktop for Administration and Terminal Services. The first is limited to two connections and incurs no additional licensing costs. The latter has a greater amount of versatility, but has an added cost overhead.

5. IP-based KVM

IP-based KVM (Keyboard-Video-Mouse) appliances do not utilize made-in-Microsoft technologies. These are used to wire-up anything from a single server, to hundreds of them, by connecting to their video, keyboard and mouse ports for remote management over the LAN or Internet. One advantage of using an IP-based KVM solution would be that it is not limited to Exchange Servers, but can be used for general server maintenance tasks. Moreover, companies whose servers are located in hard-to-access server closets, or data center locations, may already have an IP-KVM in place for managing them.

Obviously, the method that works best depends on the preference of Exchange admins, the deployment environment and external limitations, such physical restrictions or the presence of firewalls. The good news is that admins have multiple options to choose from in order to manage an Exchange Server – be it from down the hall, or from across the world. Even better, it could make that late night drive seem like just a bad dream.

Christina Goggi is a blogger and writer at GFI Software, a leading IT solutions provider for small and medium-sized businesses. A graduate in English, Christina's writing covers a range of security topics with a focus on security and best practices in businesses and organisations. She is a keen blogger and has a strong interest in security issues related to the monitoring, filtering and use of the Internet in organisations.