Outlook Response Times Very Slow when selecting messages and opening - depending on file size - not bandwidth related (directly)

Posted on 2005-03-04
Medium Priority
Last Modified: 2008-01-16
Hi all.  I have several remote branches that are complaining about slow access.  I got a first hand look yesterday.  Let me start with network configuration so you have facts -
-This remote site has 256 Frame connection - bandwidth meter for all PCs read above 200kbs.  This is low, but not the slowness they are complaining about.
- PCs are at least 2GHz in speed and 256MB RAM
- Various versions of Outlook are being run - anywhere from Outlook 2000 (no SP) to Outlook 2003.
- Back at our centralize derver environment we are running Exchange 2000 Enterprise with several clients (180 locally) running fine.
- All PCs are running Symantec Corporate real time file scan
- Not all PCs in the office operate like I'll describe below, but it is the majority.  

My problem is that when a user is in the Outlook inbox and clicks on a message - the application will take a variable length of time to respond based on the message size (including size of attachment if appliable).  So if I click on the message (while in inbox view) I will wait 3seconds for standard text only message to 10 seconds for a message 20K insize and 30+ seconds for 500K (and obviously several minutes for a 2 MB files which are common).  This click is simply to select the message - not access it.  Even if I have preview turned off I have a lag.  

Now if I click to open the message I have to wait times a little longer than previously mentioned for a new window to present itself on screen.  And if there is an attachment, when I click to open that it takes the same time duration again.  This means that to get to an email with an attachment I have 3 time windows of LAG.  It may be 10 minutes to get to see what is even in an email.  If I close the attachments and the emails and try to re-enter them - same result.  If I save the attachments locally - opening the local files is performed without delay.  So it appears to be within the Outlook application.  Internet speeds and page rendering is great (for a 256 connection) and other software functions are without delay.

I do have workstations that work 'normal' at the same location.  The only slowness would be the initial download of the message from the Exchange Server.  After that, clicking on the messages and opening attachments work within normal operating speeds and is highly responsive.  

At first I thought this maybe a issue of all of the mail messages for the 'slow' clients remain on the server and every click has to go a verify content (over the 256 Frame).  I do not know how to verify this or if this is possible.  I also think that NAV may play a role in this, but all PCs in the office have identical configurations so that is a puzzle to me.  

We are not opposed to sending Outlook 2003 (or version service packs to the remote offices), but I don't like guessing at solutions.  I like to know root cause.

Any advice is welcome.  Thank you for your time.  

Question by:fischerted
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LVL 13

Expert Comment

ID: 13462416
I feel this is one of 2 things causing this:

1.  A 3rd party add-in installed and attached to Outlook
2.  NAV is continuously scanning emails

First, on an affected machine, have Outlook closed.  Go to Start, Run, type in:
       Outlook /safe        hit ok or enter

This will open outlook without any add-ins running and with default settings.

If that works, then close Outlook, re-open Outlook normally and click Tools, Options, Advanced Options, Add-in Manager and uncheck suspicious add-ins.  Also, click Com Add-ins (on same screen as Add-in Manager) and uncheck anything in there.  Then narrow it down to the individual culprit from there.

If that doesn't help, disable NAV and test.  You may even have to disable it, take it out of startup, and reboot the machine so you know NAV hasn't even started.  If that still doesn't help, uninstall NAV and test.

LVL 21

Accepted Solution

traval earned 1000 total points
ID: 13463300
Any chance the machines that are working without the noticible lag at the remote office are all Outlook 2003?  If so it's probably because they are running with Exchange Cached Mode.

Author Comment

ID: 13463375
Thanks mark-wa and traval for your responses.  We will be trying the suggestions over the weekend.  

The clients are not Outlook 2003.  I was fortunate to fly up with the CEO yesterday, but i was on her schedule so I couldn't work very long on the problem.  The workstations had three different Outlook versions on them:  Outlook 2000, 2002, 2002 SP2.  There isn't a single body in IT that was here when the workstations were configured and shipped so we don't know origins or ghosted versions.  However, one practice that was used here in the past is remote installs of applications (over 256K that had to hurt).  So we are going to go ahead and install Outlook 2003 on one of the machines and see if that alters anything Monday.  

I do have this problem company wide.  That means that several remote offices either had bad configurations, installs, or something anything that I have a big problem.  Our level 1 folk have just written this off for months as low bandwidth, but there is something more.  Like I said before, I like to understand the problem at hand before just buyng new office/outlook licenses.  
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LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 13463493
I think that your problem probably is a bandwidth problem, there's simply too much traffic generated between the Outlook client and Exchange Server for the pipeline you have to handle it.

Running Outlook 2003 in cached mode normally cuts down on the traffice and the reliance on the server constantly being available and instantly responsive.

Running Exchange 2003 with RPC over HTTP would improve this even more, not sure if you want to go to the trouble of this route.

Configuring remote users for POP/SMTP on their mailboxes and running thru that rather than the Exchange service would be blisteringly fast compared to now but you would loose the share-able functionality of the exchange mailbox because they would be using PST files.

Author Comment

ID: 13511775
Thanks again Traval.  

We tried suggestions.  Add-ins turned up nothing oppressive and NAV wasn't the culprit.  

Level 1 support altered people's mailboxes to .PSTs and (once downloaded) all response time was great.  The desktops are not configured to utilize .OSTs so I suppose that menas that all traffic, every click in outlook, was tranferring back and forth over the 256K line.  

If we configure outlook exchange mode to utilize a 5 minute send and receive sync with OST, is that a good design until I increase bandwidth?  I am also investigating IMAP - any thoughts on that?  So PST works blistering fast, but we lose the online mail for backup and OWA (obviously).  So I am trying to use OST kind of as a 2003 Cache mode by forcing syncs.    Please contribute your thoughts.  
LVL 21

Expert Comment

ID: 13512671
It's kind of a balancing act, trying to determine how often to sync.  

Even if you haven't received any new email nor made any changes at the client, synching is still going to take about 10-30 seconds, during which time Outlook can be sluggish or even non-responsive.  So this would make you want to not synchronize very often.  Some people even set it to synchronize only when Outlook opens, closes, or the user clicks Send/Receive to manually synchronize.

But the tradeoff is how quickly you need to see incoming email, send outgoing email, get or send invites, etc.  If it's urgent that you are aware of incoming email, or changes to other employees calendars in something close to real time then you need to synchronize more frequently.

In fact, I've got my laptop set to synch every 5 minutes just like you mentioned,  and I don't find it too annoying, so starting with that and adjusting either way as needed would probably work.  You definitely want to get all the sharing and backup benefits that Exchange provides.  Be aware the first time you configure the OST file and sync it, your mailbox will be empty, so you should import the data from your PST file into Outlook (the OST file actually) and then it will take a while to sync from there to the Exchange Server.

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