Review: Microsoft Exchange 2013 Cookbook

I’ll put my hand up here and say that Packt gave me a free copy of this book to review; hopefully this hasn’t influenced my opinion too much, but free stuff is always nice. If someone would like me to review a Lamborghini (or even a new Volvo), I’m prepared to put myself out.

The technical content of this book is very good, as you’d expect from a team that includes Michael Van Horenbeeck. It’s one of the Packt “cookbook” series, and so is not intended to be an exhaustive catalogue of features like the “unleashed” books, nor a guide to design. This book is solidly in the “how do i…?” end of the market with the pocket consultant series, only more so. Each section follows a pattern where the task is introduced, instructions are given on how to perform it with the exchange admin centre, then with powershell, along with advice on which is appropriate for a given need, then there is a section explaining how the task is accomplished in more depth, then there is a short section containing references and a little bit of further information. It starts out with installing the prerequisites, goes through all the common config requirements, explains the basics of high availability, transport rules, certificate config, RBAC and so on.

There’s no fat here. Unlike, say, the “unleashed 2013” book which repeats the same information three or four times to fill its thousand-odd pages (even when it’s incorrect!), if you blink with this book you’ll miss something important. In a more in-depth book this might be an issue, but the content here covers the common scenarios with only the occasional digression into the unusual, such as how to prevent noderunner holding a database you want to delete, or the plain weird, such as how to do autodiscover redirection.

It’s plain that pretty much everything in the book is a result of real-world experience. Again, other books are clearly just reworded versions of technet articles – this is absolutely not the case with this one. The authors have carried out all the tasks in the book (many times, I would think) and so the procedures you get are the ones you need, and will work for most common scenarios. The authors are also happy to cover community resources as well as official Microsoft ones, so there are references to Paul Cunningham’s excellent powershell tools, among others. The writing style is easy and mostly engaging, and the layout is clear and obvious. Michael Van Horenbeeck is an active Exchange and UC community member and blogger and I’m sure would be happy to answer any questions people might have regarding the content.

It’s not all sunshine, however. The authors have an awesome amount of experience and knowledge, but the book itself could use a little sympathetic editing – at times the idiom is clumsy and unclear*, and there are some howling misprints and typos – for example the command to disable admin audit logging is the same as the command to enable it, apparently. In one case, this strays from the obvious misprint into slightly murkier waters – eseutil is referred to as “repairing” a database in dirty shutdown, when the command given is for the altogether less scary recovery (recovery is correct, here…). Having said that, proofreading costs both time and money; this book is well priced and timely, and I’d suggest that those are possibly more important than elegant grammar.

If what you want is a straightforward “how to” then this book is a good price, and will cover most of what a small to medium business would want from an email system. Given that the “pocket consultant” series now runs to two volumes, and is significantly more money, this is the front runner in the market. If design or exhaustive technical detail is your bag, then this isn’t aimed at you.

*given that all I can do in any language other than English is swear and order a beer, I am clearly in a great position to criticise.

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