Exchange admins & PowerShell

imageMany people I encounter in the field of Office 365 or Exchange have an infrastructure background. That is, they know a lot about their product(s), how to make it work (or don’t), how to manage, deploy or troubleshoot, etcetera.

Then there is, the let us call it, the reality check of the cloud era, with a roller coaster of cloud-originating developments. This requires a different management focus for these products, resulting in products architected for scale, and introducing configuration and management instruments primarily designed to be ready for automation and operate on scale as well. PowerShell support in Microsoft products is such an instrument.

The introduction of PowerShell required folks with an infrastructure background to develop a new skill: instead of clicking buttons in an interface, they should also become a PowerShell practitioner. Not necessarily wizard level, but at least they need to know their way around when managing their environment using PowerShell, reading and interpreting scripts provided by Microsoft or other vendors prior to usage, or even make changes to make those scripts fit for their own environment.

Writing scripts is another matter. This requires a tad different mindset, where you make repeatable tasks repeatable (time-saving), less prone to error (job-saving), and reusable by your coworkers or even the community who may need to perform the same task. Of course, everybody also expects your scripts to be generic (no hard-coded elements), robust and resilient, adding 90% more code (a bit exaggerated, but you get the idea).

What most of administrators struggle with, is making the connection between managing the product using PowerShell, and how to start using PowerShell to develop their own set of scripts or tools to automate tasks their environment. Administrators wanting to learn such skills will usually find is great books about the product, and great books on learning (generic) PowerShell. Of course, existing scripts found using their favorite search engine can also be a great starting point, provided somebody already developed it for the task you are trying to accomplish.

With the Exchange Server 2016 administrator in mind, Exchange fellows Dave Stork and Damian Scoles tried to bridge that gap with their book, Practical PowerShell: Exchange Server 2016. It uses some practical Exchange-themed examples, how to approach the problem, and how to go from running a few cmdlets in sequence to developing small scripts which operate against one or multiple servers. Also, while this book aims at the on-premises Exchange administrators, the skills learned are not lost when the organization moves to Exchange Online as these scripting skills are compatible.

Knowing how difficult it can be to transfer knowledge to paper from my own experience, I think Dave & Damian did a respectable job. The timing of the book release is also interesting, as the product which introduced PowerShell to so many of us, Exchange Server 2007, is going End of Life soon, on April 2011, 2017 to be exact. Realizing PowerShell has been around now for so many years, there is no excuse to get your PowerShell skills going, unless you want to share the faith of dinosaurs.

More information on the book, including a sample chapter, is available at https://www.practicalpowershell.com.

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