Exchange 2010 beta

Flexibility, reliability, client-side improvements, and ease of administration mark this major upgrade

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Microsoft Exchange 2010 beta

Pros

  • OWA (Outlook Web Access) support for IE 7 and 8, Firefox 3, and Safari 3; improved storage reliability; MailTips; conversation view

Cons

  • Windows Server 2008 minimum platform may be problematic for some people

Bottom Line

Although pricing has yet to be announced, based on operational and usability improvements, Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 will be a major step up from Exchange Server 2007. A potential hurdle: Support for Windows Server 2003 is dropped in favour of Windows Server 2008 only.

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In addition, Exchange is becoming much easier to manage and more compliant with regulatory and legal requirements. Role-based access control allows administrators to delegate tasks to the appropriate departments for self-service; so, for example, the legal and HR departments might be given the rights to run multimailbox searches to respond to subpoenas and check for regulatory compliance. Additional features to improve compliance include protection rules, personal archives in secondary Exchange mailboxes, moderation of sensitive e-mails, and improved rights management.

Moving a mailbox from one server to another formerly required taking the user offline for at least a couple of hours, not to mention night and weekend hours for the mail administrator. The same task in Exchange 2010 can be done live, with the user online, in a few minutes.

Outlook and OWA

Multiple browser support (Firefox, Safari, and IE) for OWA is my top new feature for users, but that's actually only a small part of the "anywhere access" story. Previously, OWA and Outlook for Windows Mobile lacked many handy capabilities that were built into the desktop Outlook 2007. The Exchange 2010 version of OWA will have full parity with Outlook 2010 by the time they both ship; I'm told that the Windows Mobile client will come close. OWA can even read rights-managed e-mails, which will make it much easier for remote employees and contractors to view sensitive messages without compromising security.

The Outlook 2010 client and OWA both will have conversation view, and both will include integrated instant messaging and voice mail. Voice mail includes a text preview of the recorded message, automatically transcribed using Microsoft's voice-to-text engine. This would have completely blown me away when I saw it, except that Google Voice had just introduced a similar feature a few days earlier.

Role-based access control in Exchange 2010 allows administrators to delegate responsibilities to the appropriate parties. From the user's viewpoint, these capabilities are found in Exchange Control Panel (ECP). Even normal users without any special privileges assigned can update their personal information -- for example, mobile phone numbers -- via ECP. Users can also control who can see their calendar information and in what detail: I might want my supervisor to know when I have a doctor's appointment, but all a colleague needs to know to schedule a meeting with me is when I'm free and when I'm busy.

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