Exchange team seeking helpdesk data


One of the areas we know can be costly for our customers is the cost of having a large helpdesk staff to investigate and resolve issues reported by users. We've done an extensive scrub of MSIT's helpdesk data (pivoted by root cause rather than symptom) and have identified several areas where we can improve in future releases of exchange. For example there are a couple of key NDRs that repeatedly cause problems for users and so we're working on reducing the frequency of those where possible, and where not, having better ways of helping the end user or helpdesk engineer resolve the problem.

We've completed our analysis of MSIT's data, and now we'd like to crosscheck that information with helpdesk data from other organizations to ensure that we aren't designing a product only for ourselves [:)]. The key information we need is:

  • Preferred: Helpdesk call data specific to exchange & outlook end-users, with volume information (e.g. # of calls for each issue + length of each call), organized by root cause (example: size restriction configured incorrectly on connector resulted in NDRs)
  • Acceptable: Helpdesk call data specific to exchange & outlook end-users, with volume information (e.g. # of calls for each issue + length of each call), organized by symptom (example: user received 5.2.2 NDR)

So if you are willing to share your helpdesk data with us (please filter out any personally identifiable information first though!), we would really appreciate it – email us at exblown AT Microsoft DOT com if you're willing, and we'll work with you to figure out the data format (excel or CSV is preferred).

What do you get in return? The chance to have a clear and direct impact on the next release of exchange and um... our undying gratitude? [:)] Seriously though, although we know this will probably entail some work for those who participate, we really encourage you to do so, I can't tell you how many folks inside the product team are chomping at the bit to have more data on what are the pain points for helpdesks. When we have a more complete picture of what we're going to do to solve these problems, we'll also post it here.

- KC Lemson

Comments (15)
  1. Please, please don’t forget we are not all running massive organisations with large support staffs and loads of scripting wizards.

    Don’t forget either that SBS is very much tailored to the US market. SBS and does not work very well in Europe or for small businesses distributed around the world. Different countries => different legal systems  => multiple forests => NO SBS.

    So we are busy deploying Exchange on single servers.

    Don’t forget the users of your product who don’t have any helpdesk software and cannot respond to this request.

    I’m not quite sure how I could participate, perhaps with an ongoing checklist of things I’m spending unnecessary time on, but you’d have to put up a website and allow a sort of round table-type input where we could add weight to existing issues and add new ones.

  2. KC Lemson says:

    Carol – we would absolutely love it if you emailed us your top 5 or 10 list of what you hear most commonly, and gave us an idea of how much time you spend resolving these issues.

  3. bday says:

    I don’t know if this is really an Exchange issue or just stupid user edumacation. We spend a lot of time explaining why in Outlook Cached Mode they won’t see new users or DL modifications in the GAL 0.094 seconds after they make the changes. Explaining how Exchange generates an OAB and Outlook downloads it once a day (unless configured differently) gets tiring. :)

  4. KC Lemson says:

    BDay: oy… tough one. I can totally see why that would be expensive for you guys but the only solution I can think of is to include some kind of "Last updated: " in the addressbook UI to give people a hint as to the freshness. Thanks for the comment though, we’ll think about this some more.

  5. tprice says:

    I would echo bday’s request about the GAL.  

    A "last updated" item in the address book UI would be nice so the users know if they have that day’s version of the GAL

    A "Get Latest GAL" button would also be nice so you can force Outlook to get the current version if they _are_ running an old version.

    Thomas Price

    IT Dept.

    TEAM

  6. Rob says:

    I think Exchange has always been a valuable product in every version I’ve used, but I find it rather mind-boggling to ask the same users who spend money on the product (and all the related products like Windows Server, Outlook, Forefront for Exchange, and premium CALs) to also do the tedious legwork for Microsoft.

    Maybe a slightly larger carrot than "when you pay us for the next version you’ll like it more" would motivate us?  I’m perfectly willing to accept a 50% discount on the next version.  Or maybe some free vouchers for the techs collecting all the information on their continuing education?  A voucher for any one of the MCITP EMA exams would inspire me.

    But I’m busy enough with my own projects to bother helping you guys make more money without any compensation.

    *crossing my fingers on those vouchers, though*

  7. Robert says:

    tprice: Doesn’t Outlook have a Get Latest Gal button of sorts? Tools, Send/Receive, Download Address Book.

    I agree on the lack of compensation. I’ve got 7000 mailboxes and a busy help desk full of data I’d be willing to share for fair payment. Let’s see… How about a shirt?

    Preferred: Polo. Navy. XXL.

    Acceptable: T-Shirt. White. XL.

  8. charles says:

    1) I find not being able to use AD Groups for "Exchange General" -> "Delivery Options" to be a real hassle.   I want for new HR hires to get access to a set of mailboxes by just adding them to a group instead of going to each mailbox and MANUALLY adding them.  When you have thousands of users manually doing anything is a problem over time.

    2) When a user’s mailbox is marked deleted from Exchange, Exchange should then go DELETE ALL SECURITY DELEGATIONS related to the deleted user that are still inside the mailboxes of others.  That is just good, responsible housekeeping.  Instead I end up chasing and fixing ghost SID’s.  I was just flabbergasted that Exchange didn’t do it for me.  This is supposed to be an enterprise product.

    3) When our users get over 10,000 calendar entries things start to go whacko.  They won’t get meeting requests or what not.  There should be A) an easier way to delete old calendar entries, B) increased scalability for Outlook / Exchange to handle larger numbers of them.  I know it is crazy, but some of our managers actually consider their calendar items as "data" and want to save years of them.

    4) A better way to report on mailbox delegations would be nice.  We bought a product called Symprex to do it – but I consider it kind of a hack.

  9. bday says:

    A "Last Updated" and an easier to find "Update GAL" would be awesome in the UI!

    Here is another issue. I don’t have the exact metrics on it, but in the last couple months I would easily guess we’ve had close to a dozen tickets have come it. Bear with me here, it takes a bit to explain.

    We have a rather large AD environment, 14 domains, 135 DCs (way too many, need to streamline), >100 AD sites. All of Exchange 2003 is centralzied in one AD domain, one AD site, and we have about 30,000 mailboxes at present time.

    The Exchange topology generator only returns a list of 10 GCs which can be used by clients. Given my supergalactic mathematical abilities, I believe "14 domains > 10 GCs" to be true. This leaves at any given time 4 domains who’s users cannot self-edit DLs, Delegates, and other items because Outlook is using a non-home domain GC for its operations. This also means we are overloading GCs by directing thousands upon thousands of users to single GCs within certain domains because the topology generator only discovered and published one GC in some domains.

    I’ve been through all of the KBs, all of the EHLO blog entries, read all the workarounds, done all of the best practices with AD site links, worshipped the mail gods, made offers of exquisite tequilas, etc…

    Unfortunately all of the present workarounds can fix one thing, but break another feature in the process. Our users are getting quite testy and seem to get awfully bothered by having to ask the IT employees to edit their DLs for them.

    Help! :) I’ve been told before on this blog that even 2007 SP1 doesn’t change this behavior, is it true? Our environment needs more than 10 GCs to be returned, and further more the ability for the topology generator to discover GCs beyond one AD site-link hop away from the Exchagne centralized site. Our site structure is very hub and spoke so we have many clients 2 hops away from Exchange from an AD site structure perspective. Sometimes we have Exchange AD Site –> Main AD Hub Site –> Regional AD Hub Site –> Client AD Site

    Thank you!

  10. KC Lemson says:

    I would be *thrilled* to send a shirt or two to anyone who shares their data with us. We actually have some super cool shirts from the e2k7 beta, although we don’t have every size left (most of them are tshirts though, we rarely do fancier ones like polos – that’s the kind of thing our marketing team does, not the engineers ;-)… So if you send data in, send us your shirt size (and gender, some of our styles have women’s versions) and address too. I also have some "vintage swag" from old versions of exchange i’d be happy to share.

    Everyone else: thanks for the comments on helpdesk pain points.

  11. KC Lemson says:

    Rob: The vouchers for exams is also a neat idea, I’ll see if that’s something we might be able to do. I definitely can’t do discounts on the product though, sorry.

  12. Andy Grogan says:

    KC, would love to share our data with you, just need to get the go ahead from the "powers that be" so to speak. We take about 3339 calls a month and I would say 8% are Outlook / Exchange orientated – although nothing that I would say is "juicy" – Exchange behaves very well – however there are always the folks that find the "interesting" features in Outlook.

    Cheers A

  13. KC Lemson says:

    Andy – great! Email me at kclemson AT microsoft DOT com.

  14. Jason says:

    Are you still looking for data?  We have ~3,000 mailboxes with very large limits in place and can provide some good information if MS is still interested! :)

  15. Tom B says:

    Big thing that is hot issue BACKUP and restore KC i sent you an email i will awit your response. I have some very good data.

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