Utility SpotlightExchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer

Brad Hughes

Have you ever gotten an error message when connecting to Exchange Server that gave you little or no clue as to what the actual problem is? Perhaps while connecting RPC over HTTP, you got the response "The connection to Microsoft Exchange is unavailable. Outlook must be online or connected to complete this action," or even more likely, you got prompted over and over again for credentials with no error message whatsoever. Maybe when you tried using ActiveSync, you saw the less-than-useful "0x85010014–ActiveSync encountered a problem on the server." Well, those days are over! Now you can get help from the Microsoft Exchange Server Remote Connectivity Analyzer ( ExRCA).

ExRCA is a Web-based troubleshooting and diagnostic tool intended to identify the point of failure for Internet-based Exchange Server client connectivity scenarios. The goal is to simulate all of the activities a client must be able to perform to connect, and then isolate the exact point of failure. In many cases, ExRCA can actually point out known configuration issues and provide suggested steps for resolution. The connectivity testing across the Internet (from outside your organization) is actually performed by a Web site hosted in the Microsoft datacenter.

Currently, ExRCA includes support for the following scenarios:

  • Outlook Anywhere and Autodiscover for Exchange 2007/Outlook 2007
  • RPC over HTTP for Exchange 2003/Outlook 2003
  • Exchange ActiveSync and Autodiscover for Exchange 2007/Windows Mobile 6.1 and other Autodiscover-capable devices
  • Exchange ActiveSync for devices prior to Windows Mobile 6.1 and other third-party licensees
  • Inbound SMTP mail-flow

There are definite plans to support more scenarios in the future.

Figure 1 shows the results of an inbound SMTP e-mail test. This is a simple example where no MX records were present for the domain alpineskihouse.com. The test isolates your configuration problem and gives you the link "Tell me more about this issue and how to resolve it." This link takes you to landing pages on TechNet that are specific to each error, with more detail about the specific issue and how to resolve it. All of the TechNet content is enabled for "Community Content." So if you find a resolution we don't have documented, we encourage you to leave a comment so that others may benefit from your resolution.


Figure 1 Sample Output

There are a number of issues we are hoping to correct in a future release. Some of the major ones are

  • No ability to ignore the trust requirement for SSL when performing Outlook Anywhere / RPC over HTTP tests. Unfortunately, the Windows RPC API doesn't give us the ability to allow an untrusted certificate from our application. We're hoping to work with the Windows team to enable this for a future version of the tool.
  • The Captcha/Human Interactive Proof ( HIP) can be incredibly hard to read. In a future release, we're planning to implement the Windows Live ID HIP that's already used in Hotmail and various other Microsoft services. It should be much easier to read.
  • Navigating using the browser forward and back buttons breaks things and causes you to get errors. Some updates to the ASP.NET wizard control were included in the Microsoft .NET Framework 3.5 SP1; we're hoping to utilize some of those enhancements to make the navigation more seamless in a future release.

The Exchange Remote Connectivity analyzer is available at www.testexchangeconnectivity.com. You can watch a video that shows how to use the tool at edge.technet.com/Media/The-Remote-Connectivity-Analyzer-for-Exchange-Server.

Brad Hughes is a Senior Escalation Engineer with Customer Service and Support for Exchange Server.