The Microsoft Exchange email server package uses five different protocols to aid communication with email clients. That variety is great because it offers flexibility that means you are not trapped into just using the Microsoft Outlook software as your users’ email client. However, that range of services means investigating connection problems can be a very complicated process.
Fortunately, you can use an automated tool to check connectivity from your email client and also check that all of the connection services are running properly on your Exchange server. Using a connection checking service takes all of the work out of fixing connection problems and gets your email server running properly in no time at all.
Microsoft Remote Connectivity Analyzer
Microsoft has created a free online tool to help you check all aspects of your connections that are needed for a range of Microsoft products. The available checks for your email system are laid out on the first, default tab of the utility. The tool is called the Remote Connectivity Analyzer. You can check all of the services that should enable your Outlook clients to discover the server automatically. The tool also includes bare SMTP, POP, and IMAP services and it includes two tests for Exchange servers.
The Connectivity Analyzer lets you confirm that your Exchange server is communicating correctly. If users still can’t connect, then you need to check on the settings of their client and the tool includes those checks as well.
The Remote Connectivity Analyzer includes four test modes on the Exchange tab:
- Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync Connectivity Tests
- Microsoft Exchange Web Services Connectivity Tests
- Microsoft Office Outlook connectivity Tests
- Internet Email Tests
The testing platform is Cloud-based and so accessed through your browser.
Microsoft Exchange Web Services Connectivity Tests
If no one can connect to your server, or if you are in the final stages of setting up Exchange, you will first need to make sure that there is nothing wrong with the underlying connection services that should be getting your servers communicating with the outside world.
When you get to the Remote Connectivity Analyzer site, select Synchronization, Notification, Availability, and Automatic Replies in the Microsoft Exchange Web Services Connectivity Tests section of the screen.
The Exchange Web Services (EWS) tests run a series of mail client connection attempts using test user account credentials, so you need to give the tester user account login details in order to run the check.
Enter the details of the test account in the input form of the tester.
You can enter the email address of the test account for Domain\Username. The tester can use two different methods to connect to the server. An Autodiscover method is built into the Outlook client software. If your users are having difficulty connecting to the Exchange server, it could be caused by a problem with this feature. Try the test the first time on the Autodiscovery option. If the test fails, try another run, but use the option to write in the Exchange server’s URL.
After filling in the form, you have to type in a verification code, by copying a word that appears on the screen. Click on the Verify button to validate the verification code and then click on Perform Test at the bottom of the screen.
The results screen tells you whether the test connected successfully and if not, where problems were encountered. You need to click on Expand All in order to see the full text of the results. This information will include recommendations of actions to take if errors were encountered.
You can choose to run the test again with exactly the same parameters, or click on Start Over to go back and change some of the settings before starting another run. You would choose this option if you ran an Autodiscover test and then wanted to go back and run a test with a given server URL.
Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer Tool
If the tests run by the Remote Connectivity Analyzer all run smoothly, but your users still can’t connect to the Exchange server, you need to test your email client access from within the network. The Microsoft Connectivity Analyzer is a downloadable utility that you can run from one of your office’s PCs to check the network connectivity from that node through to your Exchange Server.
You can get the tool through the Remote Connectivity Analyzer website. Click on the Client tab in the main body of the site. This is the fourth tab. Scroll down the screen to the More Tools section and click on Install Now.
Allow the file to download by clicking on the Install button in a dialog box that appears. This tool is in the form of a Wizard and it will guide you through a test of your network. The initial screen presents you with a list of problem statements.
These options are:
- I can’t log on with Office Outlook
- I can’t send or receive email on my mobile device
- I can’t log on to Lync on my mobile device or the Lync Windows Store App
- I can’t send or receive email from Outlook (Office 365 only)
- I can’t view free/busy information of another user
- I am experiencing other problems with Outlook (English Only)
- I can’t set up Federation with Office 365, Azure, or other services that use Azure Active Directory
The Wizard will adapt its testing strategy according to the option that best describes the connectivity problem that you are experiencing.
In each option, you will have to provide the username and password for a test mailbox. You can give the test user email address as the username. The following screens will depend on which of the problems you opted for. The results screen should highlight where there is a problem in your network. This might be an issue outside of your Exchange server, such as a faulty DNS record.
Test your email system
If you are experiencing problems with Exchange server connectivity, there are many points of failure to look for. An initial test may reveal that your Exchange server is set up correctly so you will need to investigate the email clients accessing the server and the networks that they connect through.
Just like any category of communication software, your Exchange server works on standard protocols that should be compatible with any other compliant implementation. However, as a systems administrator, you are probably already well aware that sometimes, one element in the chain of cooperating programs fails to load. Or sometimes it isn’t tied into the automated processes and a broken link in the chain stops everything working.
Start by confirming your Exchange server set up and then work your way out to other elements in the connection. The automated tools described in this guide should help you get to the root of the problem and get your users back on email.