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Decision Support: Choose the Exchange 2000 client that's right for your organization

Explains the various protocols for connecting to Exchange 2000 as well as some of the client applications that work with those protocols


Exchange 2000 represents a major change in Microsoft’s messaging technology. With this change, many organizations are planning a move to Exchange 2000 from either a previous version of Exchange or from another messaging system altogether. That decision brings with it the question of how to connect to this new technology.

This article will explore the various protocols for connecting to Exchange 2000 and some of the client applications that work with those protocols. The primary protocols that Exchange 2000 supports are MAPI, HTTP, IMAP4, and POP3.

MAPI and Outlook 2000
Let’s start with Microsoft’s choice of protocols, Messaging Application Program Interface (MAPI). MAPI provides by far the greatest functionality of any messaging protocol. In a nutshell, MAPI processes all calls to messaging functions made by the client. MAPI then hands the responsibility for processing these calls to the appropriate service providers, thus delivering the message to the server for delivery.

This month, Microsoft will release the newest version of their MAPI client, Outlook 2002. Outlook 2002 will be available as a standalone product or as part of the newest version of the Office suite, Office XP.

One of the reasons Outlook 2002 is such an attractive solution is that it is highly customizable, both via the user interface and through various add-ons and utilities. These utilities can vastly increase the functionality and usability of Outlook 2002. Many tools and add-ins, as well as other Outlook resources, can be found at the Slipstick Systems Exchange & Outlook Solutions Center.

Some of the features that make Outlook 2002 such a robust solution are:
  • Ability to browse the Global Address List and view Active Directory information
  • Personal Information Management features, such as Calendar, Contacts, and Tasks
  • Custom Forms
  • Complex Rule Processing
  • Offline Access

Some of the new improvements in Outlook 2002 make it an even more attractive option. Outlook 2002 supports AutoComplete (suggesting e-mail addresses as you type) as well as access to a variety of e-mail account types from one profile (even Hotmail).

There is one cautionary item to note before selecting Outlook 2002 as your e-mail client solution. Microsoft has incorporated portions of the Outlook Security Update, such as attachment blocking, in Outlook 2002. Some of these features can be configured via the registry. Outlook MVP Ken Slovak has written a helpful COM Add-in to provide an interface to these registry keys. For more information on how the new security features will affect your organization, please see the Slipstick Systems’ Outlook Email Security Update page.

HTTP
If MAPI is not your connection method of choice, there are a variety of other options. One of the newest technologies to gain wide acceptance is the browser-based client, Outlook Web Access (OWA).

One major advantage to OWA is that it is platform independent. UNIX workstations and Macintosh computers can use Outlook Web Access just as easily as Windows based PCs. Even some handhelds now support OWA.

OWA supports:
  • Access to e-mail, calendar, and contacts folders.
  • Access to the Global Address List.
  • Access to public folders.
  • Friendly URLs to access items in folders. The URL http://server/exchange/mailbox/folder/messagesubject.eml can be used to access a particular message in a folder.

OWA does not support the following items:
  • Tasks, journaling, and notes
  • Offline Access
  • S/MIME messages and digital signatures
  • Spell checker
  • Message flags and Inbox rules
  • WordMail and other Office integration
  • Viewing of Free/Busy Data

Read this white paper on Outlook Web Access for more information.

IMAP4
With Internet Message Access Protocol (IMAP), a client can view header information for the e-mail on the server and then decide whether to download the message. The primary IMAP client used to access Exchange 2000 is Outlook Express.

Outlook Express is packaged with Internet Explorer. It connects quickly and uses significantly less bandwidth than Outlook 2002. This can be a great advantage for users who are frequently accessing e-mail via a dial-up connection.

Some of the features in Outlook Express include the following:
  • Secure e-mail
  • Auto signatures
  • HTML message editor
  • Spell Checking
  • Offline Access
  • Client-Side Rules
  • Newsgroup Access
  • IMAP or POP3 access to Exchange Server

Some of the features not available in Outlook Express are:
  • Calendar
  • Tasks
  • Journal (linking activities to contacts)
  • Server-Side Rules

For more information on Outlook Express, including a comparison with Outlook 2000/2002, please see Slipstick Systems’ Outlook Express page.

POP3
In Post Office Protocol 3(POP3), e-mails are stored on a server until the client downloads them. There are a variety of POP3 clients that are available for Exchange 2000, but the one I will discuss here is Eudora.

Eudora comes in three modes.
  • Sponsored: full feature set with advertisements on the user’s workspace (free)
  • Paid: No advertisements ($49.95 suggested retail price)
  • Light: reduced feature set, no advertisements (free)

Helpful features in Eudora include:
  • Labels (categories)
  • Extensive set of filtering options (rules)
  • Preview Pane
  • Mood Watch

Mood Watch is a very interesting feature. It can be set to monitor e-mail messages for offensive content. Mood Watch will alert you when you queue a possibly offensive message for delivery. You can set Mood Watch to hold offensive messages for 10 minutes before sending just in case you change your mind.

As a POP3 client, Eudora only needs to connect to the server to send or receive mail, and therefore it is an excellent option for those who can only connect periodically to their Exchange 2000 server.

The bottom line
In conclusion, there are few clients as feature-rich as Outlook 2002. I have been working with Outlook since Outlook 97 and consider it a valuable Personal Information Manager. However, Outlook 2002 is not for everyone. Many users do not need or want the extensive features included in Outlook. For those users, there are a variety of other options, each with their own pros and cons. The choice that you make as an IT support professional will depend on your particular users’ needs.

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