24 Hour Exchange Server Support
I run DTI Data’s 24 hour Microsoft Exchange Support Hotline. While I often jokingly refer to it as our “suicide hotline”, that is close to the truth. When that phone rings at 2 AM I know someone is having a serious Microsoft Exchange problem. I am often asked why we offer free phone support for Exchange. Most people expect there to be a hidden charge or some other hitch, in fact last night I got a call from the UK and the gentleman asked if the number was a premium line, one that costs money to call.
I explained to him like I explain to everyone that our business model is simple. In our experience (which is pretty vast) most Exchange errors are fatal. If you have had a dirty shutdown, jet engine errors or problems with transaction logs being corrupted or out of order, chances are you will have to restore from backup. ESEUTIL and ISINTEG do not really repair anything, they truncate parts of the database that appear to be in error, whether it is duplicate or illegal keys, page file header corruption, etc.
That is why we are so adamant about backing up the priv, priv1 edb and stm files before running any Microsoft Utilities!
So if most Exchange issues that are serious enough for a system engineer to call us are going to require a restoration of backup, how does that benefit us? Well unfortunately not all Exchange backup programs work all the time. After all Exchange is a database that is almost always active and there is always a chance that the backup will fail. That is why it is critical for users to check the backups at least monthly.
Now we get to the heart of the matter. Most engineers that call have had a serious Exchange issue, they have run utilities and that hasn’t worked, I’d say that at least 70% of the calls I get also have tried to restore from backup and it failed. SO if an admin is in need of Exchange Server Data Recovery, who are they going to send it to? Probably the company that answered the phone in the middle of the night and helped him get back up and running! That is why we offer free support, it’s a good business plan to spread good will and brand your company name as being customer oriented. DTI is very serious about customer service. Whether its a laptop hard drive recovery or a multiple hard disk RAID array, everyone is going to know that we are giving them the best we can.
The Most Common Exchange Server Failure Support Calls
Answering the emergency line for all these years has given me a lot of insight into common Exchange problems. While there certainly are plenty of things that can go wrong with an Exchange server, you would be surprised at how often I hear the same scenario of Exchange Server failure. Below are the most common calls that I receive from the support line.
Anti-Virus Deleted or Quarantined a Transaction Log
By far the most common call over the years has been the transaction log was quarantined by Norton, AVG or Panda. Lately this problem hasn’t been so apparent since there is so much good information about Exchange and anti-virus, but looking at the last 3 years this is by far the most predominant failure. The fact is you shouldn’t let any program have the ability to modify any component of Microsoft Exchange Server.
Information Store Has Reached The 16 GB Limit
Another historically rampant problem that has smoothed over recently is the priv or priv1 edb file size limitation. The Internet has also helped by educating admins about the 16 GB limit. Many didn’t know that the file size incorporated both the priv1 edb AND the priv1 stm file in its limitations. Once the size gets hit, the Information Stores can’t be mounted. There are plenty of websites (including our Exchange Forum) that posted the 1 GB temporary fix to the problem. This and Microsoft increasing the size to 72 GB has made this scenario less prevalent than say a year ago.
And now for the worst problem of them all…
Exchange Server Has Had A Dirty Shutdown
The big daddy problem of them all, a dirty shutdown is a very bad situation. This is the problem that I hear more than any other Exchange failure. A dirty shutdown happens whenever the Information Stores have not been closed in the normal manner. During the winter this is usually due to power surges or outages. Last week I took close to fifty calls from the Ohio area that had power problems leading to data recovery.
It is critical that your servers have UPS systems, battery backups, whatever you can do to help shut the Information Stores down properly during a power crises. If your server has had a dirty shutdown, exchange data recovery will be in your future if you don’t have a solid Exchange disaster recovery plan in place. A dirty shutdown is a disaster by definition. It often leads to jet engine errors, duplicate or illegal keys or worse. Keep your files backed up, and just as important: test your backups and recovery plan often!