End users can potentially realize a number of benefits with this new version of Exchange Server, although some of those improvements are tied to Outlook 2007. The biggest change is the new Outlook Web Access interface, which makes it easier to manage preferences and perform routine tasks. Outlook 2003 and 2007 users will find the new interface familiar, with some changes that improve the way information is presented. For example, the calendar view now defaults to the current day in a narrow column, with details on a selected event to the right.With Outlook Web Access Premium, the calendar has seen the most useful retooling. The Scheduling Assistant feature presents a consolidated view for user and resource scheduling and response tracking. We also liked that we could schedule an out-of-office message from Outlook Web Access. (The Scheduling Assistant feature also is available through Outlook 2007.) The Outlook Web Access client organizes option categories in the folder tree on the left side of the screen. We liked that we could place requested meetings tentatively in the calendar, something that makes sense assuming Outlook Web Access users are traveling and might not be able to process requests before a meeting is scheduled to start. We also liked that out-of-date requests can be set to automatically delete. The WebReady Document Viewing tool allows companies to specify that Word, PowerPoint, Excel and PDF documents accessed through Outlook Web Access must be viewed in a browser window, instead of detached and opened using local applications. Meanwhile, the LinkAccess tool allows Exchange Server 2007 to proxy requests for documents linked to folders. Mobile Access Microsoft introduced access to Exchange Server data through mobile devices with Service Pack 2 for Exchange Server 2003, and mobile access continues to be important in Exchange Server 2007. Exchange ActiveSync is the protocol that allows compatible mobile devices to receive new or updated e-mail, calendar items, contacts and tasks. During tests, we were able to access Exchange Server 2007 data over the Verizon Wireless network using a Motorola Q phone. (Windows Mobile-based phones natively support the ActiveSync protocol.) We especially appreciated the ability to wipe a lost or stolen phone using a tool in the options interface in Outlook Web Access. The unified communications features in Exchange Server 2007 provide users with phone-based access to their e-mail and calendars while also allowing Exchange Server 2007with its new message life cycle management capabilitiesto become the means of access to, and system of record for, voice mail and faxes. Microsoft Speech Server 2004 is the engine that drives this access to e-mail and calendars. For most corporations, this component will likely be the most expensive to implement because of the need to integrate with the PBX or VOIP network, as well as the additional license costs associated with the enterprise client access license. Michael Caton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out eWEEK.coms for more on IM and other collaboration technologies.
There are two versions of Outlook Web Access: Premium and Light. Outlook Web Access Light has a simplified user interface and reduced feature set. The Premium version, which eWEEK Labs tested, requires Internet Explorer 6.0 and above. The Light version supports Firefox, Safari and Opera, as well as pre-6.0 versions of IE.