by February 7, 2003 0 comments
The new Exhange server
offers better integration with Outlook 11 and more features in web access

MS Exchange has been one of the most popular corporate-messaging platforms available. It has a few advantages to its credit: ease of set up, number of features, high level of customizability, ability to create workflow applications using simple scripting and, last but not the least, the muscle of Microsoft behind it.

MS Exchange Server 2003 is the next version of this messaging platform and is due for release sometime this year. The beta 2 is what we’ve reviewed here. Exchange 2003 is slated to run on Win 2000 Server with SP3 or above, however, some of its features are meant only for Windows Server 2003 (formerly Windows.NET Server 2003). 

The Beta 2 requires Windows Server 2003 RC2 to install. As I only had Windows.NET Server RC1 at the time, I went ahead and tried to install Titanium on it. The install proceeds to a point and then fails as RC1 does not have the .NET Framework version 1.1 installed. I obtained and installed the final Beta of .NET 1.1 on RC1 and the install proceeded perfectly. Of course, the machine should have been setup as a domain controller or can connect to a Windows.NET Server Domain for the install to complete.

The install procedure itself is almost unchanged from the previous version of Exchange. Except for one glaring thing–the support for corporate IM (instant messaging) has been removed! IM and chat are no longer a part of the Exchange Server pack. These are slated to be released as a separate option for Exchange 2003 later on (there are, however, no details on this available yet). Existing Exchange 2000 Server IM components will continue to function normally. Once installed the familiar Exchange program group shows up. 

So what’s new in Exchange 2003? Mobile messaging services is one. This means that you can use mobile devices like cellphones and handhelds to access your Exchange mailbox. You can enable or disable this service enterprise wide or on a per-user basis. 

The recommended client for Exchange 2003 is, of course, the new Outlook–Outlook 11 (still in Beta 1). Outlook 11 combined with Exchange 2003 gives you a lot of cool new features you can play with. Not only that, Outlook Web Access, the Web-based interface for Exchange, has also been upgraded and when used with IE5.5 or above can give you the exact same experience as using Outlook 11 itself. 

Another great new feature that corporate administrators would be thankful for is the ability to allow Exchange RPC over HTTP. Currently, in case an Exchange user requires connecting to the company server to send/receive mail, he either needs to use OWA or connect to the company network through a VPN and then use Outlook. This, of course, translates to more work for the administrators in terms of opening up extra ports on the firewall and securing them all. By using RPC over HTTP, Outlook 11 clients can connect to the server through the HTTP port. 

Security is another place where Exchange is concentrating on. The server blocks certain types of attachments by default and this list cannot be changed. However, the administrator can also create a list of attachment types that should be blocked at the server level itself. 

Snapshot

Meant for Enterprise networks
Key
specs
: Mobile messaging service, use Outlook to access Exchange over HTTP, selected e-mail attachment blocking
Pros : Ease of use, better integration with MS Outlook 11
Cons : Corporate instant messaging support removed
Contact : Microsoft, Delhi
Tel : 26294600
E-mail : pankaju@microsoft.com

The bottom line Although not a quantum jump in terms of features as compared to the transition between Exchange 5.5 and 2000, Exchange 2003 does offer a good set of features that would make both administrators as well as end users appreciate using this particular version. It would be good for Exchange administrators to keep an eye on the developments that take place on this platform. 

Vinod Unny is a Technology Consultant at Enterprise InfoTech

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