Documenting an Exchange Server 2010 Environment : Benefits of Documentation

3/14/2011 6:16:47 PM
Although many of the benefits of Exchange Server 2010 documentation are obvious and tangible, others can be harder to identify. A key benefit to documentation is that the process of putting the information down on paper encourages a higher level of analysis and review of the topic at hand. The process also encourages teamwork and collaboration within an organization and interdepartmental exchange of ideas.

Documentation that is developed with specific goals, and goes through a review or approval process, is typically well organized and complete, and contributes to the overall professionalism of the organization and its knowledge base. The following sections examine some of the other benefits of professional documentation in the Exchange Server 2010 environment.

In today’s world of doing more with less, the intangible benefits of good documentation can become a challenge to justify to upper management. Some key benefits of documentation include the following:

  • Collaboration— Producing the documentation to support a good Exchange Server 2010 implementation requires input from departments across the organization. This teamwork encourages deeper analysis and more careful review of the project goals. With better base information, the project team can make more informed decisions and avoid having to go back to the drawing board to address missed objectives.

  • Historical records— Implementation projects are composed of several different stages where goals are identified and key decisions are made to support them. It is important to make sure these decisions and their supporting arguments are recorded for future reference. As the project moves forward, it is not uncommon for details to get changed because of incomplete information being passed from the design stage onto the implementation stage.

  • Training— Life is ever changing. That might sound a bit philosophical for a book on technology, but when it comes to people, we know that some of them move on to other challenges. And that is when good documentation will become an invaluable tool to provide information to their replacement. This is equally true for the executive sponsor, the project manager, or the engineer building the Exchange server.

Knowledge Sharing and Knowledge Management

The right documentation enables an organization to organize and manage its data and intellectual property. Company policies and procedures are typically located throughout multiple locations that include individual files for various departments. Consolidating this information into logical groupings can be beneficial.


Place documentation in at least two different locations where it is easily accessible for authorized users, such as on the intranet, in a public folder, or in hard-copy format. Also consider using a document management system such as Microsoft Office SharePoint Services 2010.

A complete design document consolidates and summarizes key discussions and decisions, budgetary concerns, and timing issues. This consolidation provides a single source of information for questions that might emerge at a later date. In addition, a document that describes the specific configuration details of the Exchange server might prove very valuable to a manager in another company office when making a purchasing decision.

All the documents should be readily available at all times. This is especially critical regarding disaster recovery documents. Centralizing the documentation and communicating the location helps reduce the use of out-of-date documentation and reduce confusion during a disaster recovery. It is also recommended that they be available in a number of formats, such as hard copy, the appropriate place on the network, and even via an intranet.

Financial Benefits of Documentation

Proper Exchange Server 2010 documentation can be time consuming and adds to the cost of the environment and project. In lean economic times for a company or organization, it is often difficult to justify the expense of project documentation. However, when looking at documents, such as in maintenance or disaster recovery scenarios, it is easy to determine that creating this documentation makes financial sense. For example, in an organization where downtime can cost thousands of dollars per minute, the return on investment (ROI) in disaster recovery and maintenance documentation is easy to calculate. In a company that is growing rapidly and adding staff and new servers on a regular basis, tested documentation on server builds and administration training can also have immediate and visible benefits.

Financial benefits are not limited to maintenance and disaster recovery documentation. Well-developed and professional design and planning documentation helps the organization avoid costly mistakes in the implementation or migration process, such as buying too many server licenses or purchasing too many servers.

Baselining Records for Documentation Comparisons

Baselining is a process of recording the state of an Exchange Server 2010 system so that any changes in its performance can be identified at a later date. Complete baselining also pertains to the overall network performance, including wide area network (WAN) links, but in those cases it might require special software and tools (such as sniffers) to record the information.

An Exchange Server 2010 system baseline document records the state of the server after it is implemented in a production environment and can include statistics such as memory use, paging, disk subsystem throughput, and more. This information then allows the administrator or appropriate IT resource to determine at a later date how the system is performing in comparison to initial operation.

Using Documentation for Troubleshooting Purposes

Troubleshooting documentation is a record of identified system issues and the associated resolution. This documentation is helpful both in terms of the processes that the company recommends for resolving technical issues and a documented record of the results of actual troubleshooting challenges. Researching and troubleshooting an issue is time consuming. Documenting the process followed and the results provides a valuable resource for other company administrators who might experience the same issue.

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