Nine features of upcoming BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.3

RIM is expected to release a major update to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino this week

BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion (RIM) is expected to release a major update to its BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) for Microsoft Exchange and IBM Lotus Domino this week that will add a variety of valuable new smartphone- and mobile-device management features.

Official release notes on a beta BES 5.0 Service Pack 3 (SP3), a.k.a., BES 5.0.3., were leaked on the Web in October 2010, so the new features packed within the BES update aren't necessarily a surprise. But many BlackBerry administrators have been anxiously awaiting the release so they could take advantage of the enhancements.

It's unclear when exactly BES 5.0.3 will become widely available, but RIM said in January to expect the update "very, very soon." And an insider source suggests that the release could come today.

What follows is a list of some of the most notable new features in BES 5.0.3, for BlackBerry administrators and RIM smartphone users.

Notable BlackBerry Enterprise Server (BES) 5.0.3 Features and Enhancements

One extremely noteworthy addition in BES 5.0.3 will be support for BlackBerry Balance, a service that creates "dual personas" on corporate BlackBerry users' smartphones--one for work-related information and another for users' personal information and applications.

BlackBerry Balance lets users download personal apps and employ consumer services without compromising potentially sensitive enterprise data. And BlackBerry Balance is particularly well suited for organizations that support or use employee-owned smartphones, since the enterprise section of the device can be wiped clean at any time without affecting users' personal data. (Read more on BlackBerry Balance, and see on-device screen shots, here.)

BES 5.0.3 also adds support for Microsoft's Office Communications Server (OCS) 2007 R2 and Lync Server 2010, features many BES admins with Microsoft deployments have long desired.

Support for S/MIME and PGP encrypted attachments in BES 5.0.3 makes sending and receiving attachments via BlackBerry more secure, and added security is always welcomed by most BES admins.

Assigning Wi-Fi profiles to individual users in past BES versions could be tedious, so the new BES 5.0.3 support for setting Wi-Fi attributes via groups is a valuable enhancement. BES 5.0.3 also supports group additions of VPN profiles.

This BES update supports "sortable columns" within the administration console for easier navigation and user management

The BlackBerry MDS Integration Service (MDS-IS) is now end-of-life, and the BES 5.0.3 setup application removes MDS-IS when you upgrade.

Finally, BES 5.0.3 adds a number of new IT policies for improved controls and security, including policies to help manage the popular Amazon MP3 media app and a new, as-of-yet unreleased BlackBerry client for Microsoft SharePoint.

More information on BES 5.0.3, along with download links, should become available on RIM's BES page within the coming days.

In related news, RIM also recently announced a new, cloud-based and free BlackBerry Enterprise Service for Microsoft Office 365 users, which should be available in late 2011.

Via @banthon

Al Sacco covers Mobile and Wireless for CIO.com. Follow Al on Twitter @ASacco. Follow everything from CIO.com on Twitter @CIOonline and on Facebook. Email Al at asacco@cio.com

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