The latest version of Exchange, Microsoft’s flagship Messaging and Collaboration server was released at the end of 2006. But what does this new release offer?
Whilst it did meet with some initial criticism regarding some of the choices made by Microsoft, including being 64bit only, and the (initial) removal of public folders, it was generally well received. With the release of Service Pack 1 it has become an even better messaging system.
This article is going to take a look at the client side improvements and benefits Exchange 2007 can offer to your users.
Outlook Web Access
Outlook Web Access has received a complete overhaul. When ran in internet explorer, it offers an experience very similar to the desktop outlook client, but accessible from anywhere with an internet connection. Using the latest web technologies and relying heavily on AJAX and ActiveX, it provides a much smoother user experience then the previous incarnation.
In a browser that does not support ActiveX, such as Mozilla’s Firefox, a cut down interface is available. This lacks some of the smoothness that is apparent in the Internet Explorer version, but is still a big improvement over 2003.
Outlook Web Access 2007
With the introduction of Service Pack 1, Public folder access is now available in OWA.
Outlook Desktop Client
When working in the office, integration with the outlook desktop client is as seamless as ever. Coupled with the latest version of Outlook it offers a complete messaging solution.
When working outside the office, connectivity has been greatly improved. Outlook Anywhere (previously MAPI over RPC) has been improved to allow a much smoother experience for user looking to connect from remote locations but still get full desktop connectivity.
The new Auto Discover service means that when attempting to connect to Exchange for the first time, all users need to enter is their email address and password, Exchange takes care of the rest, meaning an end to having to supply users with complicated RPC connection strings, certificates and proxies.
Outlook 2007 using Auto Discover
Activesync has been improved to give users a much more outlook like experience on their mobile device. It continues to allow full push email functionality to any Activesync enabled mobile device, including Windows Mobile based phones and now the iPhone. It also now integrates Meeting Attendee information, enhanced Exchange search, allowing you to search your whole mailbox, rather than just local emails, and the ability to access SharePoint and SharePoint document stores.
The remote wiping functionality has been improved and now allows users to instigate a remote wipe of a lost or stolen device directly from inside Outlook Web Access.
Outlook Mobile Access has been removed completely from Exchange 2007. With Activesync now able to fulfill all the roles previously taken by OWA, the somewhat clumsy cut down web interface was no longer needed. Even if Activesync access is not available, the simple version of the Outlook Web Access interface is more than enough to allow access to your mail over a mobile device.
Whilst some of the changes in Exchange 2007 may take a little getting used to, overall it is a great improvement over the previous versions, as Exchange gets more and more user friendly. Microsoft’s attempts to make configuration simpler, and access more consistent over an array of devices and access methods, can only be a good thing for users and administrators alike.