Today we are going to review another tool from Lepide Software called Lepide Exchange Reporter (LER) and this tool provides several built-in reports to an exchange administrator and during this review we will check the deployment, initial configuration and the reporting capabilities of the tool.
We always have the IT guys (Managers, IT Administrators, Operations) looking for reports to validate the environment, analyze the growth of certain components such disk space and mailbox usage, system utilization and so forth. Unfortunately, Exchange Server does not have built-in report capabilities and a simple report may take a considerable amount of time from the administrator where the default tools are PowerShell and logparser for example.
Installation process and initial configuration
Lepide Exchange Reporter is easy to install and the entire process takes just a few minutes, and it does not require any decision making during the entire process.
There are a few prerequisites that should be validated before installing the tool, as follows:
· SQL is required to install the Lepide Exchange Reporter database and the versions supported are 2000/2005/2008/2008 R2 and it can be installed locally or in a remote server
· Outlook is required for some reports and it is easier to understand the requirement based on the Exchange Server running on your environment, the following list will help you out.
o Exchange Server 2000 requires Outlook 2000 or higher
o Exchange Server 2007 and 2010 required Outlook 2003 or higher
· If you are running LER on a Server you can install it on Windows Server 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2008 R2; if you decide to install on a workstation then you can use Windows XP or 7
You may be wondering how about Exchange Server 2013, Windows 2012 and Windows 8… Well, I spoke with the friendly support team of Lepide and they confirmed that those versions are on their roadmap and they will be updating their documentation to accommodate the new Operating Systems.
One last thing before installing the product is to make sure that you install the Web Server on the server being used by Lepide Exchange Reporter and select the features Logging Tools and HTTP Logging under Web Server role to avoid any pop up afterwards.
After installing the product and opening it for the first time the administrator will have a wizard to add the first Exchange Server into LER, the same procedure will be performed for any new Exchange Server. The wizard is a straight forward process and basically it will ask for credentials to access Active Directory, Exchange Server, SQL Information (server name and database) and in the last page (as shown in the figure below) the administrator has to define the Message Tracking Location and IIS log file location.
When adding additional exchange servers in the tool we can use the same SQL Server and Database. Note: if you are specifying a new database a dialog box will ask for confirmation before creating the new SQL database.
Console overview and basic settings…
LER provides an easy interface for the administrator, where on the first page we can check all server properties listed on the right side after selecting a server from the list on the left side. In that summary page we can schedule reports, manage databases and define scans on the servers, the same information can be accessed using the toolbar or using the menu that is also available.
Lepide Exchange Reporter will gather information from the servers based on a schedule where the administrator has to define the frequency, type of scan (incremental or full), running time and credentials to run each task. We can define a schedule on each server properties page or we can click on the Schedule tab (as shown in the figure below) to have a global view of all schedules in place and manage all of them from a central location and also check additional information about the last and next run.
After checking the deployment and initial set it up of Lepide Exchange Reporter it is time to check the reports out and I was impressed with the quality of the reports.
From the main page, we can see four main report sections, which are E-mail Flow, mailbox folders, OWA reports and General Reports. Each of those categories have tons of reports available and the administrator can narrow down the results by defining a time range and in some cases even the mailboxes that will show up in the report.
I tested several reports during this review but the most interesting for me were the ones located in the General Reports area where I found Traffic per domain, Traffic comparison by type, OWA Usage Growth, Mailbox size growth, Information Store growth, e-mail flow. Another area that took my special attention was the one related to E-mail Flow where we can track down messages by user, receiver, sender, date, e-mail subject and even browse messages at user level, cool feature!
In the figure below we can see the Mailbox Size Report where a graph with the top 10 mailboxes are shown and also a list of all mailbox and their sizes are listed in the second part of the report. Bear in mind that I got this report in a few seconds without running a single cmdlet.
In this second report we can see the traffic comparison by type where the organization can validate the mail flow with the Internet versus local.
After checking the reports you may be aware of the capabilities to export those reports and using LER we can export any report to PDF, word and HTML formats just hitting save button on any given report, the user can also print the report directly which is really nice.
After discovering the reports available the administrator can define an Exchange Server as relay server within the tool initial page and manage report schedules to send the reports automatically, the administrator has 8 categories and more than 40 reports to configure in the current version.
Lepide Exchange Reporter has it all! LER will bring to any size organization tons of useful built-in reports and that will save hours of the exchange administrator time. The tool supports automation of reports which is a great feature and allows even non-Exchange IT members to manage the tool.
For the first time customer, the installation process requires some improvements specially in the documentation and pre-requisites but I hope that using my hints at the beginning of this review you will be able to skip those minor issues.
In summary, my rate for Lepide Exchange Reporter is a 4 out of 5 and it is a great tool to have in any company running Exchange Server.