Microsoft Exchange Server is a popular email and collaboration system offered by Microsoft to larger businesses that wish to provide employees with a way in which they can manage themselves from one central point. Exchange Server is a popular choice because it can be integrated into other applications such as Microsoft Outlook whilst it also provides a very intuitive web interface that provides users with access to their calendars, contacts and emails. Although Microsoft Exchange server can only be used on Windows web hosting servers, there is the added benefit of it being integrated into your existing infrastructure as it is based on the Active Directory user authentication architecture meaning that if you are running an AD based network, your users will be able to use their existing login details to use Exchange Server without the need for you to do any additional work. Exchange Server also has built-in spam controls so that if any spam emails are sent to any address hosted on your email server, Microsoft Exchange Server will be able to filter out these emails before they reach the intended recipient because you don’t want to find that yours and your users’ inboxes are getting filled up with spam.
Outlook Web Access
The web interface of Microsoft Exchange Server is branded as ‘Outlook Web Access’ because it is pretty much a web based version of Microsoft Outlook and inherits the design and features of the desktop application. The main purpose of Outlook Web Access is to allow users to check their email accounts that are hosted on an Exchange server, although from here you can also access your stored contacts as well as manage your calendar so that you can keep yourself organised properly. Another feature of Outlook Web Access is ‘Public Folders’ which is effectively a central point where all users that are part of the Exchange Server setup can create new posts and share other information with one another over the internet, although in a secure environment that can’t be viewed by anyone else. The only issue is that in order to make the most of Outlook Web Access, you have to be using Internet Explorer on Windows, a less functional version will be provided when using any other web browser.
Mobile Device Support
A wide variety of mobile devices can connect to Microsoft Exchange Server as well so that you can keep your contacts, emails and calendar items in constant sync between your computer, Exchange server and mobile device. Blackberrys and iPhones are two of the most popular mobile devices available and many businesses provide their employees with them to allow constant communication. If you have a laptop as well as a desktop computer then you will also be able to connect this to Exchange Server using Microsoft Outlook if you don’t wish to use the Outlook Web Access interface. The benefit of using Microsoft Exchange Server in this way is that you are able to keep your data in constant synchronization across all platforms meaning that there is no need to make a change on one device and then go and do the same on all of the other devices that you are using.
IMAP and POP3 Support
If you are using a desktop email client other than Microsoft Outlook then you won’t be able to connect directly to Microsoft Exchange Server to download your contacts and calendar items; your emails can however be downloaded using other methods. Microsoft Exchange Server can also offer standard IMAP and POP3 support for those that are using other email clients or mobile devices that don’t support the Exchange Server protocols. The only issue with IMAP and POP3 is that they don’t offer all the features that you may wish to see, although IMAP email access can provide an experience that is similar to that provided by Exchange Server since once you have read an email or applied an action to it on one device, that action will be reflected across any other device that is accessing your IMAP account at that time immediately. With POP3 however, if you delete an email or mark it as read then that action wouldn’t necessarily be reflected on any other device until the next synchronization.
Exchange Server 2003 vs. Exchange Server 2007
Some businesses are still using Microsoft Exchange Server 2003 due to the costs involved in upgrading to Exchange Server 2008 and with the view that as long as it does the job, some won’t be upgrading until the next version. However, Exchange Server 2007 is able to provide you with many benefits over Exchange Server 2003 as well as being a lot more secure and stable. However, one disadvantage to using Exchange Server 2007 over Exchange Server 2003 is that Outlook Mobile Access, a mobile version of Outlook Web Access, has been discontinued meaning that the only way to access your Exchange account on a mobile device is through the Exchange Server protocol or IMAP/POP3. It is important to consider that with Exchange Server 2007, Outlook Web Access has also been spruced up to offer a more user-friendly experience.
Standard vs. Enterprise
Microsoft offers two versions of Exchange Server: Standard edition and Enterprise edition. Although in terms of features there isn’t a massive difference between the two, when you look at them both closer you still see a few stark differences. One of the main differences is that the Standard edition has a storage limit of 16GB on each individual mailbox, whereas with the Enterprise edition this limitation doesn’t exist. This could be an issue for some businesses, especially those that have invested in large-scale storage clusters because they will want their employees to make the most of the storage; also, some employees are likely to have mailboxes that are larger than 16GB.
In conclusion, Microsoft Exchange Server is worth the investment for larger businesses that are going to be able to make the most of the features that the software has to offer. As well as making sure that employees are more organised, it will also allow a business to keep track of where employees are through the calendaring system. The Public Folders feature will encourage better collaboration on specific topics whilst the email system will ensure that more internal communication is performed so that each sector of the business knows what its aims are and what other sections of the business are doing.