Careers: Interviews
Lee Benjamin, Top-ranking International Messaging Architect and Expert in Windows Technologies, Unified Communications and Messaging, Microsoft Exchange Server Architecture Most Valuable Professional, MCT, Chairman of ExchangeServerBoston and Secretary Global Board of Culminis

This week, Stephen Ibaraki, FCIPS, I.S.P., MVP, DF/NPA, CNP has an exclusive interview with Lee Benjamin.

Lee Benjamin With over 20 years experience in the messaging industry, Lee Benjamin is an expert on Microsoft Exchange and related technologies. Since retiring from Microsoft in 1997, he has been a highly sought after consultant for enterprise and medium-sized organizations and software firms. He currently specializes in architecture, migration and upgrade advice, and product strategy/positioning for ISV's. He also evaluates and does product testing and training.

Lee is chairman of the largest Exchange user group in the world ExchangeServerBoston, and actively engaged with other groups and organizations including Culminis (now called GITCA), BostonUserGroups, WindowsBoston, and Virtg. For his involvement with the IT professional user group community, he is recognized as a Most Valuable Professional by Microsoft.

Lee is a regular speaker at industry conferences such as TechEd, Exchange Connections, TechTarget Seminars, and online webinars on topics such as data protection, compliance and eDiscovery, messaging security, mobile access, and unified communications.

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The latest blog on the interview can be found in the IT Managers Connection (IMC) forum where you can provide your comments in an interactive dialogue.


Interview Time Index (MM:SS) and Topic

:00:46:  Lee profiles his current roles and how he got into computing.
"....ExchangeGuy Consulting....I do direct client work with customers on architecture and migration....I work with Microsoft Partners on strategy, white papers....I do a lot of speaking, seminars and, courseware and special events....The other big side is the stuff that I do with user groups...."

:01:42: Lee, can you profile Unified Communications (UC), the components that make up Unified Communications, and what this means to organizations?
"....UC is an encompassing term which brings together a number of different technologies. It's more than email, messaging and collaborative applications such as calendaring and group sharing. If we start with that as a foundation and add instant messaging, group chat, audio and video, web conferencing, and voice....UC really pulls them all together. The key thing that ties all these pieces together is something called presence...."

:02:54: What specific industry solutions does Microsoft offer in this space and how can each of them benefit organizations?
"....Office Communications Server brings a lot of the other capabilities into a single product onto a Microsoft platform. We have Exchange utilizing the core messaging technology and we have OCS bringing in instant messaging, chat, audio and video conferencing, and be able to tie in both of those products. Both use Active Directory as a single repository for their capabilities so IT organizations leverage one single infrastructure. Two product capabilities that really function as one and benefit each other and that's quite useful to organizations...."

:04:32: With his long history with wide expertise in Unified Communications and Messaging, Lee provides an overview of Windows Exchange Server 2007 SP1 and Office Communications Server 2007 R2.

:09:20: Can you provide your tips on the technologies present in Exchange Server 2007 SP1?
"....The administrative interface has changed since 2003. There is now both a simplified administration console and also a scripting language...mobility capabilities continue to grow....Unified Messaging allows me to get my voice messages inside my inbox....This is the beginning of ties to Unified Communications adding additional technology onto Exchange and then into OCS...."

:15:35: Can you provide your top tips on the technologies present in OCS 2007 R2?
"....64-bit operating system....Some of the new capabilities....Attendant console (we can now have a person have on their computer an attendant console so that they can direct calls)....SIP (protocol for Voice Over iP) Trunking....Single number calling (having a single number for me to ring in multiple locations)...."

:20:14: What are your top tips for IT Pros who have to install Exchange Server and OCS?
"...Practicing in a virtual environment is very easy to do...For anything but performance testing we can virtualize. One of the best tricks out there is to clone your live environment...(isolate it from the live environment to avoid conflicts).... and test there....."

:23:30: Let's talk about managing Exchange and OCS, any tips?
"...What one really wants today is an Event log consolidation program or an Event log analyzer to tell you what are the five most important things on a particular server on a particular day that you need to deal with.....The other area that Microsoft has put a lot of effort into is the Best Practice Analyzers (these are really incredible applications)....Initially for Exchange and now for OCS and most of the Microsoft Server products...."

:28:31: What are your top lessons for Exchange and OCS architecture?
"....Understand how to scale it for your particular environment....Your particular requirement and loads are fundamental to building Exchange and building OCS architectures and servers...."

:32:00: In your work you are involved with Exchange and OCS migration. Can you share some comments and recommendations?
"...Exchange migration really is the platform you are coming from....Exchange really works best in a move mailbox scenario....Move the mailbox is relatively easy. Plan it, test it, measure it and do it....With OCS it's a little bit trickier in order to handle migration....."

:35:23: Lee comment further about Exchange and OCS upgrading.

:37:15: Can you tell us about the other parts of your consulting, training, seminars and webinars and working with partners on strategy and positioning?
"....I do a fair amount of seminars....webinars...speaking engagements at events like Exchange Connections and OCS Connections and also TechEd....Along with that I do some work with the Partner community around and on products for Exchange and the OCS world....I work with some of these organizations and help them to figure out the right strategy for that company moving forward...."

:39:52: What are your best practices for Exchange Server?
"....The best practice itself is manage it well....Use the tools and the technologies that are out there to pay attention to what's actually going on...."

:41:20: What are your best practices for OCS?
"....Manage it well.....Take your time. Do not try to implement all of the OCS technology at once or if you do, make sure you have done enough testing...."

:43:47: What are your experiences and best lessons learned from deploying, migrating, managing, and running these solutions?
"....Understand the organization, what your requirements are and how it compares to other organizations....Firewall experience....When you get into tying together your voicemail system and enterprise voice you need to work with people who are experts in that area....You need to have a very good relationship between your server administration and the architecture team and your telephone team...."

:46:45: What are the top challenges and their solutions that you hear about most in your work with Unified Communications and then specifically Exchange and OCS?
"....One of the top challenges is the firewall and understanding how protocols come into and out of the organization....Other challenges are about the economy...."

:50:06: What do you consider to be the best resources for working with Exchange Server and OCS?
"....Some of the most popular are....TechNet ( (make a cd for the car)....Community sites (blogs, Culminis, Ineta) (for getting started)...Books....Other resources (User groups, TechNet Virtual Labs)....Download (Best Practices Analyzer)...."

:57:21: Microsoft is offering hosted services for messaging; can you describe what this involves, and your advice for maximizing on this solution?
"....Hosted services (putting anti-virus and anti-spam out onto the internet as a service) versus hosted messaging (hosting Exchange mailboxes themselves)....It's going to be interesting to watch...."

:01:00:55: What are your challenges, solutions, and recommendations on interoperability between MS Solutions and other platforms?
"......Organizations need to spend additional time looking at these applications: how do they relate to the business and how are they constructed. Build up teams and technologies either in the Microsoft custom code area or looking at SharePoint. Then extend out SharePoint applications to see what fits best in the Microsoft world and building up a team of people who can build those into web platforms...."

:01:02:58: Can you share your tips on mobile access?
"....The real tips around all of these devices are really about securing these devices with policies...And we've got to keep it simple..."

:01:05:10: What should the IT Pro know about messaging security?
".....Messaging today is the high value target and Exchange/Outlook is king of the hill. The reality is that whoever is the king of the hill is going to get attacked more anyone else....We really need to protect those different pieces. Exchange builds in a lot of that capability natively and there are some firewall solutions from Microsoft and others that can help understand what those targets are and what the vulnerabilities are....Another thing we have to worry about is the volume of classic threats...."

:01:10:02: Can share your best practices on data protection?
"....Protect at multiple levels....Put auto updates on desktops and laptops...Server patches in a timely manner....Written policies on data use and data retention...."

:01:14:01: Can you share some additional ideas in the compliance and eDiscovery areas?
"....Organizations are now more responsible for making sure that certain information stays internal or is only seen by people who are authorized to see it or if it goes out external that it is encrypted, protecting against intellectual property theft....eDiscovery is in the legal arena....There are tools inside Exchange to make archiving (keeping of this information) easier, there's journaling technology to make copies of messages, there is log shipping which Microsoft uses inside technologies...."

:01:18:57: What are your recommendations around Microsoft Certification Exams?
"....Take a class, read some books, get hands-on and take your first test....One needs to know the style of test so you might not pass the first one. Study some more and retake it in a couple of weeks...."

:01:21:10: What are your top recommendations for Microsoft E-Learning?
"....Through fiscal belt tightening, training dollars are often scaled back or cut outright. Look for the other things that are out there. Look for seminars, virtual labs, user groups that are out there, any large conference....other ways to learn...Set up a virtual cluster between two cc nodes....No better way to learn it than actually doing it...."

:01:23:25: What about the future-what should IT Pros be preparing for?
"....Previously the concept of multi-forest Active Directory architectures was only of interest to the largest organizations. With the push towards hosted, organizations of all sizes will be dealing with split forests....The other major trend is virtualization...."

:01:29:15: Can you profile each of your many roles in supporting the broader IT community and why IT Pros should become involved?
"....I run an Exchange group here in Boston which has currently over a thousand registered users...ExchangeServerBoston has a very active listserv of top notch administrators....Groups can learn from other groups, learn lessons, success stories, how to find good speakers, how to tap resources...Culminis is an umbrella organization of user groups worldwide in the IT Pro arena - a sharing of organizations about user groups...."

:01:35:23: Can you talk more about IT communities, associations, and groups and their value?
"....TechEd 2009 North America is Microsoft's large conference of the year held in Los Angeles - May 11-15, 2009....Culminis and Ineta are working on 'Birds of a Feather' sessions for TechEd this year...."

:01:38:27: Where do you have the most fun?
"....Technology-wise: standing in front of a user group and talking about messaging and related technologies....Non-technology-wise: hanging out with my kids and watching them grow up...."


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