Software

Web site review: Peers exchange views on Exchange

Are you looking for even more information about Microsoft Exchange than you can get on Microsoft's site? Check out this review of Msexchange.org and see how this enthusiast's site may have the info you need.

If you are a manager who administers your organization’s Microsoft Exchange server, you have probably become a master at rooting around TechRepublic or Microsoft’s Knowledge Base.

Exchange is a popular subject in our Technical Q&A forums and related article discussion threads. And TechRepublic has a TechMail devoted to Exchange so that you may receive daily Exchange tips in your Inbox.

What’s the point of yet another Exchange resource? C’mon, can you really get enough of this stuff?

If you need more discussions about Exchange or a listing of Exchange add-ons and tools, you should check out Msexchange.org.

What’s there?
Msexchange.org is the brainchild of two Exchange enthusiasts who launched the site about four years ago as a simple resource site with links to a few add-on products, according to Stephen Chetcuti Bonavita, who took over the responsibilities of running the site more than a year ago.

The backbone of the site remains the bulletin board feature and its software tools and add-on listings.

“Currently, we have over 300 Exchange add-ons listed in our database, and our FAQ section boasts hundreds of frequently asked questions,” Bonavita said.

The software links are a real honey pot to draw users to the site.

“If I’m looking for a third-party tool or an add-on, that’s where I go to look,” said TechRepublic’s Dom Bosco, senior Web operations engineer and former Exchange administrator.

Both of these major features are linked directly to the home page, where a number of other features also emanate. Some of these include:
  • White papers on Exchange. Currently there are two, both dealing with security issues.
  • Articles on security issues and new software releases.
  • An Exchange tutorial.
  • A glossary of Exchange terms.
  • A list of Exchange-related links and mailing lists.
  • An events calendar.
  • A how-to list.

All of these have links for both a home page navigation menu and brief descriptions listed on the home page. Bonavita said he is planning a greater focus on Exchange 2000 server, including a tutorial and FAQ.

He also wants to add a way for visitors to interact on the site to exchange views on the software listed there.

“That way, people will be able to decide on the best products for their businesses with help from reviews by other people,” he said.

The message board
There are currently six forums for discussion on the site’s bulletin board, including:
  • Exchange 5.5 install issues
  • Exchange 5.5 general issues
  • Exchange 2000 general issues
  • Exchange 2000 install issues
  • Microsoft Exchange Certification
  • Exchange 3rd Party Add-ons

A click on any of these links brings up topic listings that include the topic starter’s choice of icon (question marks, documents, smiley faces), the topic starter’s screen name, number of replies, and last post time and date. Each has a folder icon to the extreme left, and hot topics are indicated by folders with animated flames coming off of them.

When you post a new topic on a forum, you are taken to a form that allows you to choose a user name, subject message icon (from 14 choices), and a message text file.

An interesting default feature is a list of 11 animated and still icons that can be imbedded in the message text. A legend shows the icons and their keyboard equivalents. A particular favorite of mine is the “razz” smiley face, which sticks its tongue out at you (keyboard equivalent of :p).

You have the option to disable the icons and use the typical keyboard equivalents, but who would want to?

Tools and add-ons
The tools and add-ons listing on the site has apparently been one of the draws to Msexchange.org since its earliest days.

These are accessed from the home page, which begins the categorical breakdown with three major headings:
  • Exchange Server
  • Outlook
  • Other E-mail Utilities

These major categories are then broken down into various subcategories, which contain links to pages with a listing of the appropriate software tools and add-ons.

A typical listing for a piece of software includes the name of the program, a short description of the software, a note indicating if an Exchange 2000 update is available, and then the Web site URL and e-mail contact information for that program (both of which are hypertext linked).

Final thoughts
Msexchange.org is definitely worth a visit if you have to administer or manage an Exchange server at your organization.

The site’s single-minded focus on the Exchange program is a major plus for those looking for specific information about the ubiquitous e-mail program. There are no huge graphic elements to slow navigation through the site, and most items can be accessed from the home page.

Msexchange.org retains the feel of a site started by enthusiasts for enthusiasts, even with its professional look and design. The many icons scattered throughout the pages and discussion forums give the site a “fun” feel.

One element the site is lacking is an explanation of its origins and purpose, along with an explanation of its relationship to the makers of the software in its lists.
Now it’s your turn to review the Msexchange.org site. Just click on the Rate this Site logo above and tell us what you think of Msexchange.org. Is it good, bad, or ugly? It only takes a minute or two to complete your rating, so visit the site and then tell us what you think.

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