How to understand an Exchange Server 2007 NDR

by Shijaz Abdulla on 26.04.2008 at 19:52

Here’s one for users and IT support personnel who sometimes have problems understanding what exactly an email non-delivery report (NDR) is trying to convey. Messaging experts, please excuse.

In Exchange Server, all NDRs returned to the sender appear to come from the local Exchange Server of your organization and not from the remote recipient’s mail server – even if the problem is at the receiving end. If the mail is received at the remote server and an error occurs during further re-routing/relaying, then the NDR might not appear to come from your organization’s Exchange Server. The NDR is formatted in an easy-to-read email message by the Exchange server in your organization and is sent back to the sender.

So, how easy is it to understand an NDR?

At first sight of the new, well-designed NDR of Exchange Server 2007, most users and non-email administrators tend to think that the problem is always on the local Exchange Server. To add to the confusion the NDR contains the words “Sent by Microsoft Exchange Server 2007” and “Generating server: “.

Here are some tips:

  • The text marked in blue is not what’s important. It will always show YOUR organizations edge transport server – unless the error occurred at a subsequent mail re-routing operation at the destination.
  • Pay attention to the part that I’ve marked in red. The part labeled (1) is more important. It gives you an overview of what’s wrong – but need not always give you the full picture.
  • The part labeled (2) is the server on which the error occurred. If this doesn’t look like one of the servers inside your organization, the problem is most likely not at your end.
  • The part labeled (3) is the error reported by the server mentioned in (2).
  • Part (4) shows the flow of the message between various servers both within and outside your organization. All it takes is a little effort to understand what’s going on.
  • Trust your email servers :). Don’t always think the problem is at your end, even if it looks like your server is reporting the error. Make an earnest attempt and apply some educated logic to figure out where the problem lies.

The more users you train on how to read NDRs the lesser helpdesk calls you will get. I’ve seen that sometimes very simple NDRs like the following get escalated all the way to the email administrator as an “email problem”:

Your message did not reach some or all of the intended recipients.

Subject: RE: Acquisition of Yahoo Sent: 4/15/2008 11:09 PM
The following recipient(s) could not be reached:
shijaz@2hotmail.com on 4/15/2008 11:09 PM The e-mail account does not exist at the organization this message was sent to. Check the e-mail address, or contact the recipient directly to find out the correct address.

The solution? Teach the user how to type an email address correctly :).

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