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The first question asked might be, ďHow do we count the total number of messages that flow through the system?Ē This question isnít as simple to answer as it might seem. The answer depends on whether one wants to count the number of SMTP connections, the number of unique messages as sent by a sender, or the number of messages (often sent to multiple recipients) that end up in someoneís mailbox somewhere. Each of these metrics is a valid choice, but in my judgment the bulk of the work is done for each successful message recipient, so I generally choose to count the number of syslog entries with both the to= pattern and stat=Sentin them. I call that measure the number of messages that the system has successfully processed, mindful that it is merely one statistic that is much more nebulous than it appears at first glance.
If we consider the format of these log entries to contain a set of fields delimited by whitespace, the first three fields contain information about the date and time when the log entry was made. This information can be parsed to track the busiest time of day for the server. In the from entry, the eighth field contains the size of the message in bytes, which we can use to find out the average message size handled by the system. On the same entry, the tenth field lists the number of recipients per message, another interesting statistic to track. In the toentry, the information in the delay and xdelay fields are of particular interest. The delay field measures the total amount of elapsed time between the receipt of the message and this particular delivery attempt. The xdelayfield, which stands for transaction delay, measures the amount of time consumed on this particular delivery attempt, which should reveal something about the current connectivity to a particular site.
A great deal more information available in the logs can be extracted for various purposes, but at this point the next step will be left to the imagination of the reader.
A similar set of information can be extracted from the logs left by any of the POP or IMAP daemons discussed in this book. Combined with other statistical information gathered with the tools described here, one can plot number of processes versus load average, connection rates versus disk activity, and so on to obtain a thorough understanding of any email serverís performance. These checks can be easily automated, and at least the most basic ones should be part of an email administratorís baselining effort.
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