back to article The torture garden of Microsoft Exchange: Grant us the serenity to accept what they cannot EOL

It is the monster which corrupts all it touches. It is an energy-sucking vampire that thrives on the pain it promotes. It cannot be killed, but grows afresh as each manifestation outdoes the last in awfulness and horror. It is Microsoft Exchange and its drooling minion, Outlook. Let us start with the most numerous of its …

  1. anthonyhegedus

    Situation normal for Microsoft

    Microsoft 365's labyrinthine admin menus only make life slightly easier. Try to find where to unblock a sad user who tried to send 300 marketing emails in one go - of course, it's in the "Office 365 Security and compliance" page (note they haven't changed the name to Microsoft 365 yet here), under "threat management" and "review".

    It's no longer under "protection" and "admin center" in the Exchange Admin Center (old version, the new version doesn't reference it).

    It's not under "threat management" and "Dashboard"

    It's not under "Microsoft 365 Admin centre" anywhere.

    They really go out of their way to make their software as difficult as possible to administer. And yes, when you get used to it, if it hasn't suddenly changed, it's just a matter of remembering where to go. But all this smacks of 'work in progress' and 'built out of something that evolved badly'.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      NHS email

      The incompetence of the NHS in all things IT is illustrated by the adoption of O365 for NHS email.

      With 1m users, you would think that we might have enough scale to employ some competent engineers that could roll our own servers / clients with some proper security.

      Instead what happens is vacuous senior NHS numpties are seduced by consultancies who ream the NHS for tens of millions of pounds a year for providing a basic email service.

      I do admire Microsoft for having created the illusion of security.

      1. hoola Silver badge

        Re: NHS email

        Microsoft pretty much pushes Office 365 as the only option and it is just a matter of time before the few on-prem full installations end but with special support arrangements.

        But what are the alternatives, and by that I mean enterprise class, with commercial support that people can use?

        There are the dog ends of GroupWise with Microfocus

        Lotus Notes.

        Then smaller things like Zoho etc but are they appropriate at these sorts of scale?

        To a certain extent there is only one realistic alternative and and as more businesses adopt subscription-base O265 (now M365) and that is G-Suite.

        Is that any better?

        It is just another cloud solution running on someone else's severs provided by a pretty much unaccountable tech giant.

        1. FrozenShamrock

          Re: NHS email

          Microsoft has been wanting to do away with on-premises Exchange for years and will no doubt keep pushing that way. I worked at MS Exchange support some years ago and a customer called in saying they had run the trial of running a hybrid Exchange in the cloud and on-premises and decided they didn't like it so they wanted to pull everything back and asked for assistance. After much internal communication it was determined MS didn't have any way for that to happen; once you linked to O365 you were linked. The customer was told they would have to figure it out on their own if they wanted out. That was five years ago, I'm sure they are far more customer friendly about it now and make leaving their cloud very simple. (sarcasm)

    2. 0laf Silver badge
      Flame

      Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

      @anthonyhegedus

      Oh aye your post with bells on. There was an El REg story not that long ago where there was a webiste dedicted to listing all the 365 admin consoles and there were about 185 of them.

      If the number wasn't bad enough MS has mutiple lifecycles of consoles administering 75% of the same stuff whilst all shifting in and out of fashion or existence.

      How did things get his bad where 'good' development feels like an entire ecosystem of critical systems not just built on shifting sand but built on shifitng sand in a toddler's sandpit.

      Then away from the admins think about the millions of man hours lost everytime MS decides to do a featuer update along within moving all the user controls around.

      Then think about those of in governance trying to stop peopple breaking the law moving data around whilst MS pumps out messages to my user saying "why not sign up to this piece of random filesharing shit".

      Arseholes!

      1. dermots

        Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

        Message tracking used to be so simple. "Did a message from this sender arrive in the last 3 days?" should be trivial to answer on the spot. Now you have to make a request and wait for it to decide to answer you some time later... Grim.

        1. Diogenes8080

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          EXO message tracking will give you a quick response on anything up to 10 days ago. After that, you are in "post a request and we might get an answer today" territory - which is something you would do if you are looking for a long-standing problem, or want to know if the latest phish is from a regular correspondent.

          Now if you were complaining that EXO message tracking is not real-time... which would be a near-impossible goal for any cloud solution, let alone something the size of O365. Even on-premises solutions normally have a latency of a minute or so. What annoys me about all of O365's tracking, exploring, hunting and scripting alternatives are that the results are variable, and do not say "this is up to 5 minutes ago", "up to an hour ago" or whether the results you are seeing are not in fact inclusive of the last day and a half.

      2. Robert Carnegie Silver badge

        Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

        I misread "365 labyrinthine admin menus" ... or maybe I didn't.

    3. blah@blag.com

      Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

      "They really go out of their way to make their software as difficult as possible to administer"

      MS have always done this, ditto most gigantic software chuckers. I've often reflected this is deliberate, it means ordinary mortals can't hope to get to grips with it. It fosters an industry where training and certification are a must-have and those certified become keepers of the holy flame. It creates an IT enviro where everyone holds their knowledge to themselves as much as possible to retain respect/status/salary and you get cliques holding fast to their little "essential" empires while generating a siege mentality in everything they do. How often have you come across someone describing the IT dept at their company as unresponsive, "the dept of NO", divorced from the business, etc, etc ?

      Open Source is not the solution to everything but imo it does foster a more collaborative work flow and work style. Try explaining that to manglement though where all they care about is size of budget, headcount and how they can backstab everyone else.

      I am so glad I'm not in IT any more.

      1. anthonyhegedus

        Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

        The trouble with open source software is a lot of the UI in open source software is inconsistent. Look at LibreOffice with it's unfathomable mail merge (not that MS is much better). Look at how annoying thunderbird is. Linux on the desktop looks OK but is full of software which would flummox most people. Maybe it just requires more hard work. But nobody has come up with something like Exchange which, for the user, just works.

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          Look at how annoying thunderbird is.

          I think it is a lot less annoying than Outhouse and I've been using it for the last 16 years.

        2. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          Exchange != Outlook.

          You might as well be saying how much easier it is to BROWSE the web with IIS rather than word.

          The "User" should never touch Exchange and honestly couldn't care less. Most of the time is the comment is "We have to use Exchange because we prefer Excel over ... and Outlook comes with Office and we want the mail client to come with a built in calendar so we can schedule meetings. So you have to use exchange"

        3. mickaroo

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          I was using Evolution EWS with great success.

          Until our company went to 2FA and everything went pear-shaped...

    4. Potemkine! Silver badge

      Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

      Microsoft 365's labyrinthine admin menus only make life slightly easier.

      If so you would be pleased by CISCO's GUI.

      I've never seen so obscure graphical interfaces. They tried and succeeded to make it unusable without help.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

        In my opinion, all of telecom is like this. We have a man dedicated to an extremely outdated Alcatel-Lucent product and despite being very familiar with the software, it takes hours of work and script just to do the most basic of tasks. Submenus inside submenus, and some of it can't even be scripted at all. He has taken to using AutoIt to click for him in cases where he needs to batch update something that cannot normally be batch updated.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          Sounds like the UI on most MFDs I have to work with. Nothing that bad can come around by accident.

        2. Strahd Ivarius Bronze badge

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          I am pretty sure that I know this "product".

          If it is the one I am thinking of, the worse part was that when modifying some settings you had to to it twice: once from the web or java interface, and once by telneting to the system...

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

          Don't. Just don't.

          Then their no-one-could-even-use-this-unless-they-bought-the-hardware software is protected to a ridiculous level with individual component licensing. Components that are, as I say, useless unless you've bought the hardware from them. Maybe they're trying to protect their revenue for resold equipment. But for DWDM? Really?

          A Certain Large Vendor That I'm Sure You Didn't Mention Up There installs their DWDM management software with a VM that itself generates VMs that it then installs. Sort of -10th generation CI/CD. I think the vendor has 2 or 3 people who actually understand it.

          Magical "O/S hardening" on their OLT/ONT management platform by a shunned Chinese vendor that makes it near to impossible to login to the underlying Linux (to, you know, update it) unless you use a generic login, FFS.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Situation normal for Microsoft

      https://xkcd.com/2432/

  2. Kevin Johnston

    Ah...Exchange Admin

    Having been involved very peripherally with Exchange for many years I have watched with 'Cannot look away car-crash horror' at the way even the simplest activities have morphed from clumsy to odd to WHY? as the versions changed. I have even had the luxury of official training course where the Instructors themselves have shaken their heads at some of the decisions such as processes which were complex, then got a GUI, then a GUI update to show the Powershell equivalent command, then having the GUI removed and only permitting the Powershell command (including very long hex strings for critical values).

    Dear Exchange Admins...You have my sympathy

    1. Anonymous South African Coward Silver badge

      Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

      Dipped my toes into the Exchange waters with Exchange 2003...

      Most of the time it was a solid product and did its job well, except for the incessant spam.

      I did a dry run install on a spare server once... and it was a real pain. You have to follow the install procedures in a specific order, or you'll create problems for yourself later on.

      It is not something you can just install and continue as usual...

      I was glad when the company decided to outsource the manglement of Exchange to somebody else... and last year we finally moved it into the cloud.

      Exchange manglement is no more my worries and stress... it is somebody else's.

      Even Win10 and Server201x keeps on changing the UI and elements, and it seems that Android is also starting to pick up on this nasty inconsiderate trend.

      I miss the days of OS/2 when everything was the same between versions.

    2. Naselus

      Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

      If you can admin it via Powershell commands, it's really not so bad. The GUI admin stuff is increasingly aimed at first-line admins and is deliberately quite gimped so that you can't screw things up too much.

      Of course, that means doing actual Exchange admin work now requires an advanced level of powershell use. But MS have openly said that they want that to be the future of serious IT administration anyway.

      1. Peter2 Silver badge

        Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

        Well, in fairness to Microsoft it's a lot easier to muddle through when you have no idea what you are doing with the GUI than a CLI so I can understand the desire to move more towards a CLI; i've often fixed problems caused by people doing things that they shouldn't have been doing and feverently wished for the days where you had a CLI that you could only use if you know what you were doing that would exclude the clueless from playing with things that they don't understand.

        For better or for worse though this is no longer possible; while this was the case prior to the internet these days you can go online and find a helpful video telling you that if you have a Dedicated Ethernet Line then you should type "del *.* /s /f" at an elevated command prompt and a certain number of people would probably do it.

        1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge

          Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

          What doesn't help is that the PowerShell CLI for administrating anything is a mass of inconsistent and mysterious syntax.

          Playing with ADFS, you have

          Set-AdfsRelyingPartyTrust -TargetName "name-of-my-app"

          but

          Get-AdfsRelyingPartyTrust -Name "name-of-my-app"

          So it's TargetName for setters, and Name for getters?

          And, of course the documentation is excellent /sarc

        2. Mike 137 Silver badge

          The MS way ...

          "... in fairness to Microsoft it's a lot easier to muddle through when you have no idea what you are doing with the GUI than a CLI ..."

          This has been the basic approach of MS since the year Dot - make it trivially easy to do really simple stuff the MS way without guidance. The downside has always been that it makes doing not so simple stuff your own way really hard.

        3. sev.monster Bronze badge

          Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

          "Well, in fairness to Microsoft it's a lot easier to muddle through when you have no idea what you are doing with the GUI than a CLI"

          I disagree. Microsoft 365 and Exchange are a tornado shitstorm disaster of conflicting design choices and odd to nonsensical UI organization. Have you seen the "new" Exchange Admin Center?

          CLI is infinitely easier. Their PS modules don't even follow their own best practice and have questionable design themselves (why do so few MSOnline cmdlets accept positional arguments and only take hashes instead of UPNs??) but even then they are still easier to use. I would not be able to do my job in a timely manner without them. Did you know it is impossible to change UPNs for hybrid domain-joined users without the cmdlet? Aside: And even then the original UPN will still be applied as a proxy address even if you don't want it to?

          Let me put it into perspective. If you want to do email traces in 365, you can go to:

          • Office 365 Security & Compliance
          • Microsoft 365 Security
          • Exchange Admin Center (old)
          • Exchange Admin (new)
          And ALL OF THEM HAVE DIFFERENT INTERFACES AND FEATURES. The entire 365 portal and all of its apps are like this. At least the cmdlets do not change nearly as much... *looks at Az module...*

          But regardless of which is easier, do note that it takes 5 or more minutes for my fully automated script to log in to all the admin modules I need in PowerShell, and I have 10+ pinned tabs for all the web-based management centers that I need on a weekly basis. In either case it is absolutely ridoculous.

          You can't see my coat since my terminal environment does not support images or clothes, but just imagine that I am putting mine on.

          1. Peter2 Silver badge

            Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

            I disagree. Microsoft 365 and Exchange are a tornado shitstorm disaster of conflicting design choices and odd to nonsensical UI organization. Have you seen the "new" Exchange Admin Center?

            The 365 one? Nope; we're still on prem.

            A consultant manager tried to move everything to the cloud, I won the day by pointing out that he was proposing to leave the physical server & backup in place for being the DC, for file storage, required internal applications and the print server and we already owned the exchange server licenses so moving to the cloud would be a cost with no saving attached.

            He did manage to sell the bosses on Office 365 licenses instead of VLK's for new PC's with the obvious long term intention of eventually getting everybody on 365 and then transitioning to exchange since at that point we'd have already had the licenses.

            Alas, a month into the pandemic we had a really major and ruthless cost saving drive eliminating any spending that wasn't an absolute requirement, and since the 365 licenses were incapable of being used on RDC due to the licensing and could be terminated immediately then sadly and regrettably they didn't make it and simply had to be replaced with VLK's for anybody working remotely due to licensing issues.

            ;)

        4. Franco Silver badge

          Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

          "Well, in fairness to Microsoft it's a lot easier to muddle through when you have no idea what you are doing with the GUI than a CLI so I can understand the desire to move more towards a CLI"

          There was a long standing rumour that the move to PowerShell/CLI from Exchange 2007 onwards was a deliberate choice because of how trivially easy it was for people who didn't know what they were doing to break Exchange 2003. 2003 had massive market share, even in small businesses because of how popular SBS 2003 was.

          Doesn's excuse some of the awful design choices though. For example, seeing as someone earlier mentioned message tracking, who thought it was a good idea to display results as an image in the GUI? If you want to be able to search or sort results based on email address (which I usually do unless it's a quick confirmation of send or receipt for someone) then it's in to PowerShell.

      2. LDS Silver badge

        Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

        Exchange went down the sink exactly when they decided to built administration over a large bunch of PS scriplets instead of a coherent API called directly by the UI - but they had to find a way to justify all that .NET costs.

        Now every task run can fail somewhere inside a powershell script, and return incomprehensible errors somewhere and leave everything into an unpredictable state. Of course everything is much, much slower than it needs to be.

        1. sev.monster Bronze badge

          Re: Ah...Exchange Admin

          I love the error in the 365 admin center that reads: Exchange has encountered an unknown error. Exchange has encountered an unknown error.

          It is always repeated two or more times, and in order to see the actual error you have to use Get-MsolUser and decrypt the sometimes-XML sometimes-strings inconsistent mess that is the Errors attribute. I actually had to write a script to do it for me because it takes to long to do by hand.

  3. Mike 137 Silver badge

    It's not that hard either, but...

    "It’s not that expensive to build a team to go through every place in your code base where packets are handled ahead of authorisation"

    Nor is it that hard to devise a parsing mechanism that ensures plain text parts of emails are readable. The MS default of HTML email suggests that plaintext parts are generated by stripping out the tags. However, they never seem to have caught on that an {newline} immediately following a tag should also be stripped out. Consequently, most plaintext parts contain (and always have contained) huge amounts of vertical white space making them a right pain in the posterior to read.

    Fixing this would be really basic regex, but MS seem never to have been able to handle it, so there's no mystery about their inability to identify and fix pre-authorisation packet handling, which is a whole lot harder.

    1. Tom Chiverton 1

      Re: It's not that hard either, but...

      He who parses HTML with regular expressions now has two problems.

    2. Charlie Clark Silver badge

      Re: It's not that hard either, but...

      Fixing this would be really basic regex,

      Actually, fixing it would be to generate directly (in parallel). E-Mails don't need full HTML support so it's easy to use something other than HTML to markup the text so that **both** plaintext and HTML can be generated. The funny thing is that Outlook does support plaintext conventions like __italic__ and **bold** and dividers ***, so it's doing most of the work already.

      Wot? Lose all those painfullystakingly crafted "designs"!? you cry.

      Absobloodylutely, the sooner people get back to think about what they need to say and not how to make it look the better.

      1. Mike 137 Silver badge

        Re: It's not that hard either, but...

        @Charlie Clark

        "Actually, fixing it would be to generate directly (in parallel) ..."

        Dead right. You're obviously a thinker, but I suspect thinkers cost too much for the MS bean counters to justify. What we have (as in the case of the infamous "ribbon") is folks who believe they're thinkers but haven't switched on the necessary equipment.

  4. DJV Silver badge

    "if Microsoft did things well"

    I am still using a Microsoft Internet Keyboard Pro - it's well over 20 years old (had the keycaps replaced once from the similar non-Pro version so that I can now see letters on the top of the keycaps once more). This device is probably one of the best things they've ever made!

    Unfortunately, it may be the ONLY best thing they've ever made - when it comes to their software - all they seem to build is absolute shite of the highest shiteness!

    1. EricPodeOfCroydon

      Re: "if Microsoft did things well"

      And mice. My daily user is a wired MS optical mouse circa 2001. I think it will outlive me.

  5. Alan Bourke

    If there was an alternative to Outlook

    that even began to approach it in terms of functionality I suspect it would be all over corporate desktops. But there isn't.

    1. DougMac

      Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

      Its not necessarily Outlook.

      Its Calendaring. That is what everybody wants, but nobody else has any decent response to it.

      There are some fringe 3rd party calendar solutions, but they are mostly here's something, do these 10 steps to set it up and hopefully it never changes/breaks again.

      People could live with 3rd party email clients, mail setups, but they can't live without a working calendar, and the one built into Outlook/Exchange works too well compared to anything else out there.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

        Still I see lots of idiots mailing "are you all free from x to y for a meeting" when they could just use the bloody Outlook to check calendars - and avoid then the "reply all" telling they are OK...

        But there are also other useful features like delegating or giving access to a mailbox with people still using their own, different users. When you want assistants access an executive mailbox while still being able to track what they do is essential. It's not so easy to replicate with plain IMAP/SMTP.

        1. Charlie Clark Silver badge

          Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

          Yes, but it is doable. Outlook is about 10% functionality and 90% cruft or shit. It's got some of Microsoft's most annoying "me too" features poorly copied from other software: a shit search; a "conversational" view where you quickly lose the will to live, etc.

          And then there's the server with its unholy marriage of a mail server and Sharepoint: for your own sanity do not look behind the curtain.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          @LDS - Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

          You're missing the scenario where users book fake mettings just to show themselves unavailable in oder to be able to catch up with their work. Or when you see the person's calendar is busy but you hope the meeting you organize is more important than the other one. I wouldn't call this idiocy, it's just current practice in an environment overwhelmed by meeting requests.

        3. DevOpsTimothyC Bronze badge

          Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

          It's not so easy to replicate with plain IMAP/SMTP.

          Are you sure you're not meaning POP there ?

          It's one of the easiest things to do with IMAP as the mail is left serverside. You can either have multiple credentials to a mail box, with maildir format on linux / unix you can map one mail box to be a folder of another mailbox. Most mail clients allow for multiple accounts too.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      @Alan Bourke - Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

      And it will never be. Ever! Outlook and Word are the essence of Microsoft monopoly, you may replace enything you want in the enterprise but you can't and you won't touch the two little monsters. One you have one of the two deployed in the organisation it's game over, there's no wat back.

      Microsoft knows very well there's zero competition in this field and this is why they don't bother spending time and manpower to make it better.

      1. deadlockvictim Silver badge

        Re: @Alan Bourke - If there was an alternative to Outlook

        I would argue that Excel is important than either of those two.

        Whole industries, every 4th person and every manager relies on Excel to organise their data.

        And God help you if you have to inherit someone's monster application built in Excel.

    3. bazza Silver badge

      Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

      "If there was an alternative to Outlook that even began to approach it in terms of functionality I suspect it would be all over corporate desktops. But there isn't."

      Outlook's functionality is good, and there's nothing as good as it these days.

      It's not the best there's ever been. I've heard of IBM Profs set ups in the 1980s (probably within IBM itself) that would allow you to arrange a meeting with people around the world. It would auto-schedule the meeting according to where the attendees were coming from, allow for the travel time, and book their airline ticket and hire car.

      I've not even seen Outlook / Exchange be able to find a room automatically...

    4. tojb

      Re: If there was an alternative to Outlook

      Er, gmail works better and also has chat, calendar, linked but separate various other functionalities

  6. Binraider Bronze badge

    Maybe the long worn out line that US agencies that want to retain the ability to spy on their own via backdoors, should finally concede that leaving the door open is a bad idea.

    Other mail servers are available. God knows why corporates are bribed into MS over and over.

    1. bazza Silver badge

      It's because there's way more to office life than mere email... Anyone can do a dumb email client; getting calendaring right is hard. So hard in fact that there seems little time left over to look for security issues...

  7. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

    Four words to summarise what I've ranted about for years...

    I rest my case.

  8. sbt Silver badge
    Pint

    Drooling minion...

    Have a pint for this excellent literary journalism/commentary. More please!

  9. Cheshire Cat
    FAIL

    And how about the way Microsoft IMAP support is broken

    I spent a happy few days proving that Microsoft Exchange is truly broken when it comes to IMAP support.

    It seems that, if a message contains a meeting request, then downloading via IMAP will silently modify the message to strip the meeting request and replace it with a link to the OWA meeting instead! After all, can't have those pesky 3rd-party mail-and-calendaring tools working now can we?

    In addition, if they find a MIME-wrapped message then they can automatically re-wrap it in lovely tnef format for you, coincidentally breaking your mail client.

    Both of these behaviours can be disabled; but only per mailbox, not as a default, and only via some tortuous (undocumented) powershell.

    During this process, I phoned up the MS Support people (stupid move, I know, but we pay for them and I have to show I tried). The minion I spoke with insisted Microsoft Exchange did not do this, even when I presented him with the powershell code to fix it, and the steps to duplicate it.

    Exchange 365 is an absolute nightmare to administer when you've come from something as simple as Dovecot under Unix.

  10. Danny 5

    Wait.... what?

    You obviously don't know the first thing about Exchange and should therefor really refrain from commenting on it.

    Setting up, administering, maintaining and recovering Exchange is extremely easy. Powershell gives admin administrative tools far beyond anything that monitoring can offer and the robustness of the software guarantees it'll usually keep running till the end of day. All you have to do it make sure the environment is kept up to date, another extremely easy process. The only gripe us admins had over the years is the loss of the console, although the EAC is a fine replacement.

    Please tell me this is satire.

    1. FrozenShamrock

      Re: Wait.... what?

      I agree, I ran Exchange starting from 5.5 through 2013 for a number of different entities and found it reliable and usually robust. I liked the move to using PowerShell, although I agree with some comments that there is too many inconsistencies in it. Overall, I found installing, managing, and upgrading on-premises Exchange to be fine. I will say that I am glad to have been out and gone before it all moved to the cloud and had to be run through O365. THAT, is a real royal cluster.

    2. Philip Storry

      Re: Wait.... what?

      Having used most versions of Exchange since Version 4.0, I'd disagree with you. Exchange has at least one serious architectural issue.

      Setup is certainly easy, as is day to day administration due to its integration with (or reliance upon) Active Directory. But Exchange has always had issues with its storage systems. In the early versions they were fragile and slow, and in the current version they're just slow.

      The other product I've used for email was Lotus Notes. Which is much maligned, but has an excellent storage system. I've managed servers with over 1200 mailboxes on them and there were no performance issues. We migrated the users from those servers to Exchange, and newer and more powerful hardware managed the same number of mailboxes - but only because of cached mode in Outlook. If we turned that off, it couldn't cope. For reference, Notes does no caching.

      That's been my experience with Exchange at every step of its life - the storage is the weakest point, and is a considerable weakness.

      Microsoft have had 25 years of development, and gone through at least one major redesign of the storage system, and yet it's still not good enough. I still have my phone's Outlook app ping to say there's a new email and then the email arrives a short while later in Outlook on the desktop. It's a small and constant reminder that the Exchange storage system is not up to scratch.

      In most other respects Exchange is fine. Not brilliant, but fine.

      (Oh, and with regards to PowerShell - yeah, administration via PowerShell can be lovely. Though I'd still like to have words with the twit that decided on its typing system. The bane of any work beyond the basics is almost always that you'll end up dealing with loads of data types that should be interoperable but aren't - like AD group members and Exchange Distribution group members. I swear if I took a profiler to some of the scripts I've written they'd spend most of their time storing $_.Name as a string so that I can do a comparison without getting a type error! It's not insufferable, just annoying. And partly a problem because Microsoft's own teams can't agree on some kind of standard object type for users, groups, group members and so forth across their systems. Still, it keeps us all employed!)

      1. Ken Moorhouse Silver badge

        Re: Having used most versions of Exchange since Version 4.0

        Where's the 10x upvote button then?

        ===

        Observations about Notes: No caching maybe, but my understanding is that replication can be troublesome with distributed topologies.

        I think the main issue that a lot of people had with Notes was the interface not conforming to Microsoft standards (sic/oxymoron) which in any event have now been thoroughly shredded.

        1. Philip Storry

          Re: Having used most versions of Exchange since Version 4.0

          Thanks!

          I should probably note that Notes did do some caching of design elements - the definitions of views and folders mostly, but possibly also some forms. All view/folder data and documents were fetched on demand though.

          I'm not going to say that Notes couldn't have trouble with replication, but I never saw much. I worked with it for 15 years, across four employers - one of which was a small consultancy . So I saw a lot of Notes infrastructures, ranging from small standalone servers to multinational behemoths. Just like AD or other systems, a lot of it is down to the planning and topology. Get that wrong and you're going to have issues...

          As to the interface, well nothing is perfect. I may prefer composing an email in Outlook, but I prefer working with the calendar in Notes. Both have their pluses and minuses. If Outlook could have a proper tab system, it'd be so much better!

          As for "Microsoft standards" - the one that seemed to get the most complaints in Notes was the use of F5 for locking the client. F5 is the refresh key, right? Actually, no. F9 is the refresh key. It recalculates in Excel, refreshes fields in Word, and fetches mail in Outlook. Only in Internet Explorer and Windows Explorer was F5 the refresh key. It should have been F9...

          Am I saying that anyone who complained about F5 was secretly wasting all their time browsing the web? Well you might think that, but I couldn't possibly comment. ;-)

  11. tojb
    Thumb Up

    Still better than TEAMS

    Exchange/outlook might have its flaws but it is still a better means to manage online collaboration than MS Teams :-D chin up MS exchange devs!

  12. Chicken Marengo
    Gimp

    Torture Garden?

    The Torture Garden was a great fun club, anyone know if it’s still going?

    As for the article, well Exchange, slightly less torture than a spiked butt plug, maybe?

    Gimp icon for reasons obvious to anyone that knows/knew The Torture Garden

  13. deadlockvictim Silver badge

    Progress

    I believe that Exchange was a fine server around the turn of the millennium.

    For me the first problem with Microsoft (and many other vendors) is the constant need to have a new version to sell.

    It must be continually developed and that often means new features, a bugfix when necessary and rarely a re-write. Add to that Microsoft's obsessive need to have everything as backward compatible as possible. And the Microsoft takes all of the hardware gains as reasons why it can expand the feature-set. You, the end-user, obviously don't mind (read: can do nothing about) Microsoft robbing your new system of it's new hardware advantages so that the new MS product runs just the same.

    The second problem is Satya Nadella. His obsession with moving everything to the Cloud means that the focus of Microsoft's attention in da Cloud. Is Exchange running slow, requires too much attention or breaking down too much? Exchange Online is (well, appears to be) the solution to your problem and you can fire a few of your sysadmins since they could barely manage Exchange. How good can they have been? Never mind, all that matters is that we allow you to lower your TCO. So, it's a win!

    1. Philip Storry

      Re: Progress

      I'm going to throw a counterpoint in here...

      The fact is that a lot of companies rarely update their email system. I know - I worked in messaging for over 15 years. Email is a fantastic tool that companies take for granted. But it's also low on the list of budget priorities for most companies.

      In that regard, Microsoft's obsession with the cloud is a good thing. Far too many companies have old, unpatched Exchange Servers. They're not interested in keeping them current because the impact of a failure in patching is high and the perceived benefits are low.

      Why is this? Well, there are plenty of people out there with Exchange Server on their CV who have never so much as run eseutil, let alone know how Exchange works. All they've done is manage mailboxes and distribution lists, and maybe turn IMAP/POP3 on/off and do some mail relay configuration. This is important because those people will find an Exchange upgrade a major project - one which they may not be prepared for. Worse, with each version of Exchange Microsoft likes to make small changes that mean that experience with a previous upgrade is not necessarily as useful as you might think... Basically, a specific Exchange Server version has a low TCO in the middle of its lifespan but very high overheads at the start/end that most businesses won't want to meet. That encourages a "leave it alone, it's too important to fiddle with" attitude, both in the technical and management staff.

      If there's one product that Microsoft has which is perfectly suited to being replaced by the cloud, that product is Microsoft Exchange.

      (Or SharePoint. SharePoint has similar problems, now I come to think about it!)

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