8 Tips to Help IT Reduce, Recover from BES and Exchange Server Downtime

The many multifaceted interactions between corporate users, BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES), Microsoft Exchange servers, networks and other infrastructure can lead to system downtime and can negatively effect worker productivity, as well as cause a major migraine for IT departments, according to a recent vendor-commissioned study.

Zenprise, which offers solutions to proactively troubleshoot problems in BES and Exchange environments, contracted Osterman Research to conduct the study. Respondents include 76 IT decision makers in North American companies running BlackBerry Enterprise Servers (BES) for Microsoft Exchange with at least 500 employees.

RIM BlackBerry Pearl 8100
BlackBerry Pearl

It pays for CIOs to reduce the amount of BES or Exchange downtime their organizations experience for obvious reasons, not the least of which is that corporate BlackBerry users tend to be high profile employees like C-level executives and other managers who perform crucial job functions, according to the survey. Ninety-five percent of organizations queried said senior managers at their organization are BlackBerry users and 63 percent said middle managers use the devices, according to Zenprise.

Additional survey findings include statistics on how long it takes IT organizations on average to recover from issues affecting the BlackBerry infrastructure, as well as the impact of BES/Exchange downtime on user productivity.

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Typical IT departments experience an average of 29 minutes of downtime in their BlackBerry environments each month, the survey found. (It is worth noting, however, that downtime is often caused by issues that are unrelated to BES, such as other infrastructure problems.)

When asked how BlackBerry-related downtime affects users' productivity in corporate settings, more than half of respondents said outages lead to a one percent to 10 percent decrease in staff efficiency; 21 percent said worker productivity decreases by 26 percent to 50 percent; 17 percent said staff efficiency decreases by 11 percent to 25 percent; and four percent of respondents said employee productivity decreases by more than 50 percent. None of the organizations said worker productivity is unaffected by BES/Exchange environment downtime.

Ahmed Datoo, Zenprise's vice president of marketing, offers these tips on how to help prevent BES or Exchange downtime, as well as how to best recover from service outages.

Five Tips for a Healthy BES Environment:

  1. Ensure You Have Enough Exchange Server Capacity

    Every BlackBerry user added to your environment can generate a significant load on your Exchange server. An Exchange server that is overburdened with users and doesn't have enough capacity will cause availability problems for BES.
  2. Co-Locate Your BES and Exchange Servers

    There is a fair amount of network traffic between your BES and Exchange servers. Co-locating your servers in the same geographic location reduces risk of outages attributed to slow/unavailable network connections.
  3. Consistently Monitor and Audit Your Active Directory Infrastructure

    Changes made to permissions within Active Directory can cause users to no longer be able to send/receive e-mails.
  4. Apply Patches on Exchange Server Judiciously as Such Patches Can Break BES

    BES server requires the same version of files that can be found on the Exchange server. Patches applied to Exchange that update file versions will cause problems with BlackBerrys.
  5. Monitor Your End-to-End BlackBerry Infrastructure

    Set up a monitoring system to detect carrier-related outages or outages with the Research In Motion (RIM) network. This allows you to quickly identify whether the problem is external or within your infrastructure.

Three Tips for Speedy Recovery of BES-Related Issues

  1. Quickly Identify Scope of the Problem

    It's important to quickly identify whether the problem is impacting a single user on a given BES, multiple users on a BES, all users on a BES or all users across all BES. Knowing the scope of the problem helps focus the troubleshooting steps you will take.
  2. Develop an Early Warning System That Includes Common Problems

    Proactively monitor a variety of performance and fault indicators across the BlackBerry infrastructure. Performance often degrades over a period of time before a full-blown outage occurs. Proactively identifying these performance degradations as they occur ensures that IT can quickly resolve issues before users are impacted.
  3. Be Ready to Assemble a Cross-Functional Team to Resolve BlackBerry Issues

    More often than not, the root cause of BlackBerry issues is somewhere outside the BlackBerry server. Develop formal processes to assemble cross-functional support teams for any BlackBerry outages to ensure that problems are quickly isolated and resolved. Team members should include representatives from BES, Exchange and network teams, at a minimum, and should ideally include representatives from the Active Directory and security teams.
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