With the release of Exchange 2007 in the beginning of 2007, Microsoft has continued on building the mobile usage and capabilities of Exchange Server, features that were first introduced in Exchange 2003 RTM. In this article I will try to describe the changes found in Exchange 2007 when compared to the list of features we had in Exchange 2003 and Exchange 2003 SP2.
With the introduction of Exchange Server 2003 back in 2003, Microsoft began offering mobile users (using mobile devices such as Microsoft-based Pocket PCs, Pocket PC phones or Smartphone) many features that allowed them to connect to their Exchange-based mailboxes. These connection types were based on standard protocols – HTTP or HTTPS, making it easy for IT administrators to allow these connections through their corporate firewalls. The features found in the Exchange 2003 RTM release was nice, but mobile device management was lacking.
The mobility features offered in Exchange 2003 RTM were:
Outlook Mobile Access (or OMA) – The “light version” or the full-fledged OWA. Allows the user a pretty decent experience when browsing their mailboxes, but lacks many features found in regular OWA, such as attachments, S/MIME capabilities, advanced calendaring and even Public Folder access. OMA was a fine addition to Exchange’s arsenal, but the lack of extended capabilities, issues with password caching and other security issues, plus a nasty habit to just stop working whenever something went wrong on the server – caused many administrators to just disable this feature.
ActiveSync – The Exchange 2003-based Pocket PC synchronization capabilities brought by ActiveSync meant that users could now connect their devices to their Exchange mailboxes and synchronize them with the server without having to physically connect their devices with a cable to their desktop computers Exchange 2003 RTM ActiveSync lacked many features such as centralized management capabilities, limited calendaring and message handling, lack of ability to connect to Public Folders and to perform GAL-based searches and more.
Up-To-Date Notifications – This feature used SMS-based text messages sent by the company’s cellular provider to the user’s PPC phones, causing the ActiveSync program on the PPCs to initiate a synchronization with the user’s mailbox. Although nice in theory, not many used this feature mostly due to the costs associated with sending many SMS messages, and the fact that the system had a lot of issues with non-US cellular lines.
With the release of Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 (SP2) Exchange added a bunch of new and cool features that allowed for better mobility, connectivity, management, and most important – security.
Most of the additions in SP2 are intended for use only on devices that were running on Windows Mobile 5.0 and have the Messaging and Security Feature Pack (MSFP) installed on them.
The mobility features offered in Exchange 2003 SP2 were:
Direct Push – One of the most anticipated mobile feature on SP2 was the Direct Push capability, allowing users to receive mail and calendaring changes to their PPC-based cellular phone device without the need to manually initiate ActiveSync actions. With Direct Push, the PPC phone keeps an open connection over the Internet to the Exchange server, identifying itself with a unique identifier. When a change occurs in the user’s mailbox, the Exchange server “tells” the device to perform an Activesync action. This feature, directly competing with Blackberry devices, allows users to receive mailbox changes quickly (sometimes even faster than Outlook 2003 Cached Mode…) and without paying extra fees to the cellular providers.
Mobile Device Security – The other anticipated feature in SP2 was the mobile device security and remote wipe capabilities, allowing the administrators to set a global policy affecting all Windows Mobile devices connecting to Exchange. These policies allowed for mandatory PINs or passwords of a specified length, inactivity timeouts before requiring PIN entry, and remote device wipe after a specified number of failed PIN attempts.
Global Address List lookup – Windows Mobile 5.0 with MSFP and Exchange Server 2003 provided us with the ability to perform GAL lookups.
Mobile Admin – Not directly a part of SP2, but Exchange also added the capacity for remote wipe with a tool called Exchange Mobile Admin Tool. This tool offers the administrators the ability to manually issue a wipe command for a lost Windows Mobile device. The next time the device connects to Exchange, the device would perform a hard reset, erasing all content in the device’s memory. You can read more about Mobile Admin on my “Download Exchange ActiveSync Web Administration Tool” article.
Although this was a good start in mobile device management and security, a number of security requirements were left to address, and here comes Exchange Server 2007. Most of the new features require Windows Mobile 6.0 (formerly known as Crossbow) on the device.
The following are some of the new and enhanced features:
Support for HTML messages – Messages can now be viewed in HTML format, which means that you now can read messages containing HTML code, tables etc. Furthermore, replies to HTML-formatted e-mail messages will not disrupt formatting and keep HTML e-mail threads intact.
Follow-up flags – Exchange Server 2007 supports the use of quick flags, which means that quick flags set from a device will be synchronized to the mailbox and vice versa. These flags will then be visible in both Outlook and OWA.
Meeting attendee information – Just like Free-Busy, with Exchange 2007 you can synchronize information about attendee availability to your mobile device, actually pretty much the same information as is available in the Outlook client. You can forward or reply to a meeting request (great feature if you’re running late for a meeting!) as well as see acceptance status of each attendee. In addition, you can even look up additional information in the GAL for each attendee. Another nice improvement is that busy time is shown in a similar way to Outlook 2007 and OWA 2007.
Enhanced Exchange Search – Search of the entire mailbox is now possible instead of just the locally cached messages, and it is pretty fast since it’s initiated from the device but physically executed on the server. The search feature supports advanced query filters. You can also control the number of items returned.
Windows SharePoint and file share document access – Like in OWA 2007, messages containing UNC links embedded in them allow you can access documents stored on either a file server or a SharePoint server.
Reset PIN/Password – Like with Exchange 2003 SP2, Exchange Server 2007 allows you to require that a device password be entered on a mobile device after a period of inactivity. However, unlike Exchange 2003 SP2, if this device password is forgotten, it is now possible to unlock the device by using a device recovery password which can be obtained by the user himself via OWA 2007.
Enhanced PPC security – With Exchange Server 2007 you can enhance the security of a Windows mobile device by configuring additional password requirement settings such as password history tracking, password expiration, and by prohibiting the use of passwords that are too simple (password complexity). You even have the option of encrypting the data stored on the mobile device (including data on the storage card).
Autodiscover for over the air (OTA) provisioning – Exchange 2007 ActiveSync now supports web-based AutoDiscover service which simplifies deployment of these devices. All you only need to do is to specify the e-mail address and password for the user’s mailbox when configuring the device.
Out of Office – You can now configure Out of Office messages directly from your mobile device. Setting Out Of Office messages on the PPC device configures the message on the Exchange 2007 server, thus an they can be seen both in Outlook and OWA.
Because of the rush to release Exchange 2007 to the public in time, the design team made a decision to remove a few features from the product. Also, some features were removed because of potential security or management issues. These are the features that didn’t make it into the RTM version of Exchange Server 2007:
Information Rights Management (IRM) – IRM was supposed to be included in the RTM version of Exchange Server 2007, but because of some stability issues it was removed. IRM is back in Exchange Server 2007 SP1 (SP1 is currently in Beta testing).
Support for S/MIME – The RTM version of Exchange Server 2007 doesn’t support S/MIME because of the lack of time. S/MIME support will be back when Exchange Server 2007 SP1 is released.
Up-To-Date notifications – As stated above, it costs too much to implement and doesn’t work in 100% of the cases, so it was dropped.
Outlook Mobile Access (OMA) – OMA has been discontinued completely.
Getting the Most Out of Your Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Experience with Mobile Devices: http://msexchangeteam.com/archive/2007/04/06/437572.aspx
For a full listing of the features available with Exchange ActiveSync, use the following links: http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa998357.aspx http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/bb123484.aspx http://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/aa997252.aspx