Exchange 2003 keeps going down. Restarting MS Exch Info Store resolves. No idea whats causing it!

2003 SBS server.

For about 6 weeks or so now, exchange is regularly going down over night. It appeared to be happening on a regular pattern of every other night, but recently it has been more sporadic. I have canceled the ms backup and the problem has not gone away. The event logs show no errors or warnings or any indication of any issue.  But most mornings, the ms exchange information store service has to be restarted before email is available. This affects outlook and OWA.

My client is very patient, but I suspect will soon start getting somewhat irate that i cannot resolve this issue for him, but there is apparently no indication as to what is causing this and I cannot work out how I'm going to trace the root of this issue and fix it.

I'd really appreciate some help troubleshooting this please.

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First thing to do is make sure that the backup is running and working correctly. This server may have a critical issue so you want to be certain you have a good backup as often as possible.

What's the size of the Exchange databases? Exchange 2003 defaults to a limit of 16GB. When this limit is reached it dismounts the database. You should be seeing messages in the log about this though. You can increase the limit manually to 75GB.

Increased Mailbox Size Limits with Exchange Server 2003 SP2

Turn up the Diagnostic Logging on the MSExchangeIS and related services. This should give you more information in the logs. You will want to revert this once you fix the issue.

Also might want to run eseutil /mh after the next failure and see if the database is in a dirty or clean shutdown state.

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Are there any event log entries related to this issue?
I suggest you run a full online backup - this may error if there is a problem with the database.
If it works, it will clear any log files that have been held - assuming you do not run circular logging.
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eMicrosAuthor Commented:
Thanks for your replies.

When this problem first started I didnt notice any event logs for it, but having checked the application log its full of exchange errors now, and it is complaining that the store has outgrown its limit and is being dismounted. It was set to 48gb and the store is now around 55gb, so i have increased it to 70gb and will see if that resolves.
Moving forward (and this has been in the pipeline for some time), this info store needs to be reduced in size. Some users have 10gb - 15gb of email. There are 10 active users on the server and i want to set their mailbox quotas to be 2 or 3gb to encourage housekeeping, but first off the client wants me to archive all the mail before they go through an excercise of deleting old stuff.  Whats the best practice here?

As you can see, I'm really not an exchange expert and really appreciate the help and expertise offered here.
eMicrosAuthor Commented:
Postmaster : what is this full online backup and noting my previous reply, do I need to do one?

If you care about your data then yes you need to be running a full online backup regularly. Most Exchange environments will do this daily.

By online it means you backup the Exchange database with an Exchange aware backup program. NT Backup is capable of doing this.
Sorry another point is with circular logging. Again if you care about the data and recovering the Exchange data don't use circular logging - run backups regularly.
eMicrosAuthor Commented:
Oh, we do that every night using NT backup! I thought you were going to tell me of some arcane exchange wizardry that improves performance or some such :)

eMicrosAuthor Commented:
I dont purposefully use circular logging, so I'm assuming I'm not doing so ...
Circular logging is sometimes used when very large logs will be generated (eg moving to a new server) but some people leave it on. If active, and the database fails, you lose everything that happened since the last backup.
Log files allow you to recover the database and then replay what has happened since.

If you have identified size as the issue - well done. This gets you going again.

A special backup can be run that does "brick-level" backups = separate mailbox backups.
If your backup software cannot do this, then I suggest you use ExMerge.
It will allow you to take a full copy of each mailbox and write them to separate PST files.
There are plenty of web articles about this tool.
You can confirm you are not using Circular logging via the ESM > Select Server > Right click the Stroage Group > Select Properties > make sure the circilar logging check box is disabled.

You can confirm that your backup is working via the properties of the mailbox store in ESM under the database tab there is a section called Time of Last Full backup. That should be the time of your NT Backup if its setup and working ok.
eMicrosAuthor Commented:
Thanks guys.

Im aware of ExMerge, and will use that to backup all the mailboxes before the big purge. Ill check circular logging also, dont think its gong to be enabled but ill check.

Will be in touch , just giving it time to fail to check that it no longer is.
eMicrosAuthor Commented:
Ok, the issue is now resolved in terms of exchange no longer goes offline, since updating teh size of the store as previosuly mentioned. So thank you very much!

I'm trying to address the underlying issue which is really important, which is to archive off the email and then set quotas on the mailboxes. The overnight backup usually fails because theres just too much to backup overnight to rthe NAS drive, it doesn't complete before the staff come in in the mornings and swap the NAS drives over. The exchange data is nearly 60gb alone, and then theres all the documents folders too ...

I've been trying to use exmerge to backup all to individual PSTs but the biggest file it will create is 2gb and some of these mailboxes are 15gb! I've noted that i can actually sue exmerge to archive the data in date ranges, thus creating a PST from the old data and removing it from exchange. Perfect! Only i'm scared top do it because I don't know what date ranges are going to keep within 2Gb and I'm worried that exmerge will just carry on removing email from exchange although the PST has maxed and is useless. Certainly when i've tried exmergin the complete mailboxes, the 2Gb limit is hit but it carries on processing then eventually reports the process was a success, when it clearly wasn't !

Is there a version of exmerge which will create larger than 2Gb? I've read up and can see there is a 2Gb limit for PST files, but this no longer the case in general with outlook so suspect it is an issue witrh exmerge? Is there an alternative to use? I don't know how i'm going to go about archiving 12 users into multiple <2gb chunks when the size of the data within the date range is not visible too me.
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