Installing Exchange 2013: A Basic Overview

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The process of installing Exchange 2013 using the guided GUI is pretty straightforward, provided you’ve taken care of the prerequisites, prepared for gotchas (about which, more later) and planned your deployment carefully.

For the purpose of capturing the process, I created an Amazon Web Services based test environment (similar to the one described here) consisting of a domain controller, an Exchange 2010 server and the server on which Exchange 2013 was installed.

All servers are Windows 2012 R2 and the domain functional level is Windows 2012.

So, the scenario is that you’re installing Exchange 2013 into an existing Exchange 2010 SP3 organization and all roles have been selected.

 Before running Setup.exe on your target host you should make sure the following is true:

1.) Microsoft Office Filter Pack Ver 2.0 is installed

2.) The service pack for the Office Filter Pack is installed

3.) Media Foundation is installed (to support the Unified Communications API) – to install, from a Powershell session run the following as admin: Install-WindowsFeature Server-Media-Foundation (note: a server reboot is required).

4.) Microsoft Unified Communications Managed API 4.0 is installed

5.) Windows 2012’s firewall has been configured to allow all inbound traffic from domain members as described in this blog post (this is done to prevent a known issue in which, after installing Exchange 2013, Remote Desktop connections are denied because of a modification to the firewall rules ).

 

Once all of the prerequisites have been satisfied, you can run Setup.exe.

 

The first screen provides an overview of your installation options:

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By clicking Next, you’ll be taken to the License Agreement page:

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You can choose to either use – or forego – Microsoft’s recommended settings

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Next, you’ll choose what server roles to install. In our scenario, all components are selected. Note that in Exchange 2013, server roles have been simplified quite a bit as explained in detail in this Technet article.

 

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As with previous versions of Exchange, you choose the target folder for the application binaries.

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One of the new elements of the setup process is choosing whether or not to deploy Exchange 2013’s anti-malware features. In our scenario, we’re choosing to disable this feature (because another product is in-place).

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Next, the setup process will verify that the installation prerequisites have been satisfied.

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In my installation, I neglected to install the Unified Communications API and received this error message:

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Once that was taken care of, clicking “Retry” moved the process along.

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Now the setup process begins to make actual progress.

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There are 15 steps (details dependent upon the roles selected earlier in the install process).

Note that, as explained in this Technet article, the two building blocks of Exchange 2013 – Mailbox and Client Access – have assumed responsibility for all of the platform’s operational components.  The installation process reveals parts of this design.

1.) Organization Prep

2. – 3.) Copying files

4.) Installing language files

5.) Restoring services (stopped during step one)

6.) Language file installation

7.) Installing Management Tools

8.) Mailbox Role: Transport Service

9.) Mailbox Role: CAS Service

10.) Mailbox Role: Unified Messaging

11.) Mailbox Role: Mailbox Service

12.) CAS Role: Front End Transport Service

13.) CAS Role: Client Access Front End Service

14.) Finalizing Setup

15.) Completion

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Once setup is complete and your server has reset, you can begin managing Exchange 2013.

 

Exchange 2013 introduces admins to the Exchange Admin Center which replaces Exchange 2010’s Exchange Management Console.

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The default URL is https://your-exchange2013-server-name/ecp

The first time you logon, you may be redirected to OWA.  To work around this, try the following URL from the console of the Exchange 2013 server:

https://your-exchange2013-server-name/ecp/?ExchClientVer=15

In a future post, we’ll review navigating the EAC and performing basic administrative tasks, such as migrating users between databases.

CAS Arrays (important, and not as hard as you think)

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An often overlooked part of building a new Exchange 2010 or 2013 instance is the creation of a CAS array.  If you do a bit of Googling on the subject you’ll find a lot of information, much of it confusing, which gives you the impression it’s a Herculean undertaking.

In fact, the key elements of CAS arrays can be described quite simply:

1.)  CAS arrays provide failover for Outlook clients by abstracting the servers within your Exchange organization

2.) Outlook obtains server information from the database a user’s mailbox resides on- this is defined by the DB’s RPCClient setting (which is shown within Outlook at the following location):

Outlook Server Settings

 

 

 

 

 

3.) To view all mailbox databases’ RPCClient setting, issue the following Powershell command:

Get-MailboxDatabase | select name,rpcclientaccessserver | ft -auto

4.) To set a mailbox database’s RPCClient property, use this syntax:

Set-MailboxDatabase Database-Name -RpcClientAccessServer cas-array-name.your-domain.com

Now we can bring all this together into a scenario.

The RPCClient setting is an active directory object which, by itself, does not provide a load balancing function.  That’s best done using a hardware load balancer such as a KEMP (Windows Network Load Balancing is also an option but not as robust, in my opinion).

So, keeping that in mind, the first thing you should do is create a DNS name/Host A record for your cas array; let’s say cas-array.mydomain.com to keep it simple.

Next, you assign this name to your mailbox databases by issuing the Powershell command listed above:

Set-MailboxDatabase “Your Database Name” -RpcClientAccessServer cas-array-name.mydomain.com

Third, you should assign the IP address you assigned to the Host A record cas-array to a virtual IP on your hadware load balancer (virtualizing access to two or more CAS servers within your org).

Now, any users created on (or moved to) the databases with the cas-array.mydomain.com RPCClient property will have this name as their server setting within Outlook.

Which means that should you lose a CAS server, Outlook users will still be able to perform normal mail functions.