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Monday, October 1, 2001

Manage e-mails, exchange servers
Sumesh Raizada

TODAY career opportunities are unlimited and potential growth in some of them is beyond our expectations. Earning prospects are available for all, whether highly qualified or average, experienced or inexperienced, employed, freelancer or housewives. This has become possible particularly due to avenues available in the field of Information Technology. E-commerce and Internet-related services like e-mail, ERP, CRM etc have defined several other applications for computers, which were till now unheard off. Developing and managing these applications naturally requires professionals and hence opportunity of a bright career for them. Exchange Administrator is such a new breed of fast-growing career.

The most common application of Internet is e-mail and related services. A large section of industrial and commercial activity rests on this important utility in which messages are sent and received almost instantly, across the continents, thus eliminating constraint of time and distance. Large industrial houses have now installed local exchanges creating network of computers between different departments like manufacturing, HRD, purchase, materials marketing etc. These network also extend to vendors, distributors and sometimes to the customers, facilitating flow of important information, data and messages. Similarly, government departments, banks and insurance companies having branches at a number of locations are also interlinked through computers and a common exchange server.


Messages and data are routed to recipients and replies are sent back to the senders via these exchange servers only. Airlines, research institutions, major scientific and defence installations are all connected for faster, accurate and reliable flow of information through a common exchange server. The applications and use of exchange server in so many fields has thus necessitated the need for Exchange Administrator.

Exchange Administrators are involved in the process of design, implementation and administration of organisationís e-mail infrastructure. They also develop and maintain the software or hardware required for protection of companyís e-mail network. Job profile further includes documentation of exchange software systems, consisting of servers at various geographical locations, their configuration, backup and performance upgradation. The job is specialised and needs considerable programming and hardware skills.

E-commerce companies and ISP whose work is totally dependent on exchange servers provide promising career opportunity in this area. With the increase in demand for Internet services both among private as well as commercial users, number of ISP or their network shall also increase proportionately. As a result, requirement for exchange administrator shall also grow. These are among few professionals whose demand is increasing even under present slowdown in IT sector.

Worldwide, the most commonly used exchange severs are those of Microsoft, Cisco, Novell, etc. Therefore, Exchange Administration career requires proficiency in either or all of these exchanges. A person should be adept in handling Windows NT 4.0 server, workstation, Internet Information server 4.0, Exchange Server 5.5, Security and Firewall concepts, etc, They have to maintain internal network consisting of several nodes, provide training to client, install and configure software required for training purpose. They are required to do trouble shooting in case of any connectivity problem between client and server and are also supposed to maintain hardware. For Exchange Administrator jobs, separate degree courses are not available. However, those with Microsoft or Cisco certification programs like MCSE, SMS, etc. are most preferred. After getting certified, a professional should be able to effectively handle designing, developing, documenting, testing, and maintenance of all exchange technologies.

Basic qualification for the job is MCA, software or electronic engineering. Since e-mail exchange servers are now located in almost every industry right from manufacturing to service and marketing, those administering the exchanges apart from being qualified in handling them should also have a basic knowledge of industry in which the organisation is involved.

Those working as Windows 2000 Exchange Administrator must be capable of understanding the basics of various Internet devices, plan capacity of exchange servers as per the number of users and have knowledge of DNS, SMTP, IP security concepts, etc. Task of Exchange Administrator requires monitoring of exchange on continuous basis so as to avoid any interruption of service to users. They have to work in close coordination with co-employees and must desirably have excellent written and communication skills. Besides design and implementation of e-mail network of an organisation, Exchange Administrator should also be able to design anti-virus software and mail filtering system to protect their servers from potential threat due to outside computers. Ability to configure firewalls as per requirement and to deal with servers at different locations, in varying environment is another quality, which a successful exchange professional must possess. Similarly, Novell NetWare Administrators or MS exchange administrators are responsible for providing hardware and software support, file administration, hardware installation, etc

There are a number of institutes, which conduct MS-certified programs with curriculum on exchange servers. These institutes conduct computer-based training and provide hands on experience so as to give detailed exposure to candidates on different platforms and hardware. This provides considerable help to those who do not have previous background of networking. Course module covers exchange server administration for administering, monitoring and maintaining Microsoft exchange servers.

Exchange Administration process includes configuration of exchange server and message recipients, import of directory data from other mail systems, configuration of address list and accounts, message tracking, security, public and private information stores. MCSE certification course is basically software-based and is meant for assessing technical and networking skills of a candidate. Cisco Certified Network associate (CCNA) is another certification granted by Cisco systems to install, configure, and operate LAN, WAN and switched LAN systems. CCNP certification, which is also software-based, provides exposure on routing and switching skills.

Apart from being proficient in exchange, administrator should have a considerable command of the network operating system like Windows 2000 or NT 4.0 and e-mail client like MS Outlook. In organisations having several e-mail programs, Exchange administrators should be able to effectively use connectors and translators that enable the Exchange server to interact with other types of mail servers. Familiarity with Unix and Linux and working knowledge of databases like MS-SQL Server 7.0.is also essential.

Exchange engineers, who are senior to exchange administrators, are required to have considerable experience in application and database development. Among the necessary networking skills required by them is thorough understanding of the TCP/IP, DNS, SMTP services and network security. Awareness of network architecture, including routers, switches and hubs, is also essential for Exchange Engineers.

Exchange Professionals have an opportunity to move to other related work areas also, depending upon their skills and level of experience. Some of these areas are systems administration, database administration, applications development, network engineering, network security, and network/infrastructure architecture. These applications not only facilitate broader work perspective but also enhance their personal skills and aptitude, which ultimately helps in moving on to the senior management positions.

Though Exchange Administration is an essential function in large organisations having a large number of users at multiple locations, in smaller companies the task is usually clubbed with other jobs like network or system administration. However considering its importance and utility in present IT environment, employment opportunity in Exchange Administration is fairly vast.