How to Turbocharge Microsoft Exchange Server Performance

In today's digital economy, e-mail has become a veritable circulatory system, delivering that lifeblood for organizations of all sizes: information. With continuously increasing messaging loads, sluggish Microsoft Exchange Server performance can put a drag on employee productivity, customer service and responsiveness to market opportunities. Here, Knowledge Center contributor Lee Dumas explains five steps you can take to tweak, configure and customize Microsoft Exchange Server for optimal performance.


Microsoft Exchange Server is a complex infrastructure to manage. Although Microsoft Exchange Server can be complex, there are some simple steps that can be taken to greatly improve system performance, keep downtime to a minimum and considerably reduce help desk complaints about sluggish e-mail response times. Let's examine five simple steps you can take to tweak, configure and customize Microsoft Exchange Server for optimal performance in your organization.

Step No. 1: Offload spam and antivirus processing

Today, as much as 80 percent of e-mail messages received by an organization are considered spam. Many organizations run anti-spam and antivirus products in-house, in some cases using several layers of defense and solutions from multiple vendors. This approach not only increases the overall cost of managing the messaging system, but can lead to problems associated with deploying malware signatures or even basic operating system updates and configurations. This complexity can actually decrease security, not increase it.

The advantages of running antivirus and anti-spam services in the cloud are undeniable. Third-party service providers that specialize in messaging security can protect customers more cheaply and effectively than organizations can typically do it themselves.

These companies have invested large amounts of money, not only in research organizations and software, but also in the infrastructure to handle huge volumes of e-mail messages. In some cases, they even provide business continuity and disaster recovery services in the event of a catastrophe.

The biggest benefit of moving antivirus and anti-spam services to the cloud is the reduction of required bandwidth for SMTP traffic. Since e-mail is filtered by the service provider, the number of e-mail messages delivered to an organization's network is dramatically reduced. This reduction often allows organizations to delay or cancel upgrades to network links and retire server hardware no longer needed to filter out spam.

Step No. 2: Move the search load from the server to the client

With the release of Exchange 2003 and Outlook 2003, Microsoft introduced "cached mode" for clients, which allows users to maintain a local copy of their data while being synced with the Exchange server. This is often confused with offline mode or PST mode where e-mail is simply uploaded and downloaded at preset intervals. Cached mode allows a user to be connected to the server in real time, while still using the local copy of their data to read/send e-mail and have access to accurate free/busy data.

Using cached mode eliminates the load on the server for reading and replying to e-mail messages since that work is done by users' workstations. There are some downsides with deploying cached mode, namely around security. For example, data is residing on systems over which IT departments may not have full control. Consider using some sort of encryption technology to keep this data safe in the event that it is lost or stolen.