Access Anywhere

By Michael Caton  |  Posted 2006-07-24 Print this article Print

Also helpful is Outlook Web Access ability to automatically delete out-of-date requests. Anywhere access

Thematically, Microsoft is pushing the idea of anywhere access to Exchange data, and access from Windows Mobile-based devices is a big part of it.
We would have liked to have seen support for other mobile platforms, but with Exchange Server 2007, companies will get the ability to synchronize their users e-mail, Calendars, Contacts and Tasks with Windows Mobile devices. Microsoft is licensing its ActiveSync technology to mobile device manufacturers so non-Windows Mobile devices can access Exchange data. To test this capability, we used Exchange and the ActiveSync application on a Windows Mobile-based phone over Cingulars network. We had no problem transferring information, but we did notice a couple-minute lag between the time a user sent a message from Outlook Web Access and the time that synchronization from the mobile phone successfully brought down the message. On a related note, users can remotely wipe a lost or stolen phone using a tool in the Options interface in Outlook Web Access. The other part of the anywhere-access push in Exchange Server 2007 is the products unified messaging features. Unified messaging provides users with phone-based access to their e-mail and Calendars, while also allowing Exchange—with its new message lifecycle management features—to become the means of access to (and the system of record for) voice mail. Azaleos BladeMail appliance simplifies MS Exchange e-mail. Click here to read more. Speech Server is the engine that drives user access and manipulation of e-mail and Calendars. Frankly, however, were not sure that many companies will bite. Unified messaging hasnt exactly been an unqualified success, largely because accessing text-based data from a phone is cumbersome, even with speech recognition. The ubiquity of wire-line and wireless Internet access, as well as dropping prices on mobile clients, will likely push voice access of messaging data further to the fringe. However, Microsoft may be able to successfully drive the per-port license fees that PBX vendors charge for voice mail-to-e-mail integration. Managing it all

On the administrative side, the Exchange MMC (Microsoft Management Console) interface has been revamped to streamline common tasks, and Exchange has a new command-line interface based on the Microsoft PowerShell (formerly code-named Monad) that should improve the efficiency with which administrators execute common management tasks. The MMC interface now organizes management across three panes—a better organized tree structure on the left, a form and reporting pane in the center, and an action and filtering pane on the right. We found the net result to be fewer clicks when navigating the tree and simpler forms when it came to managing organization details, such as users and groups. How cluttered this interface will end up when Microsoft Live Communications Server and other server-based tools extend the Active Directory schema remains to be seen, however. Companies that have to seriously enforce compliance and pass audits will need to look for more robust and network-aware applications, such as Orchestrias Active Policy Management, but Exchange now has adequate tools for creating some basic e-mail policies. We were able to establish cross-group e-mail Exchange policies as well as set up retention rules for users and groups. The MMC feature that we immediately appreciated the most, however, is the interactive status and report element that appears after starting and completing an action. At minimum, it gives an administrator a way to easily see that he or she transferred a user mailbox to the right server. The Exchange Management Shell is a much needed addition and one that will simplify and speed many routine and repetitive tasks. In addition to the basic command-line execution of tasks, the Exchange Management Shell supports scripting, which allowed us to write scripts and answer files that performed basic tasks such as adding users and managing groups. Microsoft has a group of sample scripts available on TechNet that will give administrators a sense of the Exchange Management Shells scripting capabilities and syntax. Roles of a lifetime

One of the first things administrators will notice when installing Exchange is the ability to segment it according to server roles, such as Bridgehead, Client Access or Unified Communications Server. One role, the Edge Server Role, is designed to serve as an e-mail preprocessing server for filtering spam and viruses. Microsoft officials have talked about companies deploying servers with this role at the network edge, which has the one plus of providing a way for users to leverage their Outlook Safe Sender list at the filtering layer. However, wed be cautious about running Exchange on the perimeter given Microsofts poor track record at providing timely security updates and an overwhelming volume of malicious e-mail aimed at the Exchange platform. We think Exchange needs to be behind a gateway appliance running a hardened operating system. Indeed, some gateway appliance vendors have such a broad view of e-mail traffic that they have the ability to diagnose attacks and propagate rules to appliances well in advance of anti-virus vendors. Next page: Evaluation Shortlist: Related Products.


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