Erik Eckel takes a look at the business improvements made in Mac's Snow Leopard release. Better compatibility with Microsoft Exchange make it not only enterprise-ready, but enterprise-friendly.
Apple's Snow Leopard release, known as Mac OS X 10.6, is impressive. Snow Leopard's business improvements are simply outstanding. Newfound compatibility with Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 makes the operating system more than enterprise ready, it makes Snow Leopard enterprise friendly.
Recent reports list Microsoft Exchange market share as high as 65 percent. That's a lot of organizations tapping Exchange for critical messaging, calendaring, and contacts functionality, and it's why Apple's superior client-side applications should be such big news. The simplicity, usability, and reliability of Mac Mail 4, iCal 4, and Address Book 5, combined with newfound Exchange compatibility, make a compelling partnership.
Using Snow Leopard, accessing and synchronizing a user's email, tasks, calendar items, and contacts have never been easier. Mac OS X 10.6 makes the formerly challenging process, which sometimes stressed even the most veteran of Windows administrators, simple.
Some of the credit goes to Microsoft. The Exchange Web Services (EWS) protocol serves as the critical link in enabling secure synchronization between Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 systems and Snow Leopard-powered Macs.
Maximize Snow Leopard/Exchange deployments by keeping these three tips in mind.
#1 EWS is the key
Mac Mail requires Windows administrators install Microsoft Exchange Server 2007 Service Pack 1 Update Rollup 4. Windows administrators must also enable Outlook Web Access on the Exchange server.
Mac support technicians and users will now find Mac Mail capable of leveraging Exchange Server 2007's Autodiscovery feature. Connecting to Mac Mail now requires only that the technician or user know the Exchange server address, the username, and the user account's password.
EWS taps standard ports for email. TCP port 80 is used for standard messaging, while port 443 is tapped for secure transport.
#2 iCal and Address Book synchronization is automatic
Once a user's account is associated with Mac Mail, administrators and technicians need do little else. In Snow Leopard, Mac Mail automatically configures connections to a user's Contacts and Calendar information on the Exchange server. This information is presented within the Mac's Address Book and iCal applications, respectively.
Secure synchronization with the Exchange server is supported, too. Because Snow Leopard leverages EWS, calendar and contacts information can be synchronized using SSL on port 443.
#3 Tasks live within Mac Mail and iCal
Mac Mail 4 includes its own integrated To Do application. Found within Mac Mail's standard left-hand navigation menu, To Do synchronizes with the user's Tasks found on the Exchange server. Further, To Do items can be associated within the Mac iCal application simply by right-clicking a To Do item and clicking Reveal in iCal. Information from the entire task can be reviewed, priorities can be changed, dates and notes updated, and more.
Simplified enterprise administration
In short, Snow Leopard's new Exchange support makes it very easy for Mac-based users to tap organizations' existing messaging infrastructure. Better yet, thanks to EWS, complex VPNs need not be constructed or maintained to enable secure synchronization of Exchange-based information.
Erik Eckel owns and operates two technology companies. As a managing partner with Louisville Geek, he works daily as an IT consultant to assist small businesses in overcoming technology challenges and maximizing IT investments. He is also president of Eckel Media Corp., a communications company specializing in public relations and technical authoring projects.