Collaboration

An old Exchange tip highlights feature creep and overlap

As a software vendor revs a product, more features wind up getting added to it. Sometimes these features overlap features in another product sold by the same vendor creating confusion. This Classic Tip examines Exchange Public Folders and their overlap with SharePoint.

Exchange grew from a simple email server to a complete collaboration and groupware package over the course of the last 12 years. Today's Classic Tip comes from TechRepublic's Exchange Tip Techmail dated May 12, 2000, and covers the popular Public Folders feature that's been around since the first version of Exchange:

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Today's Exchange Tip

LIMITED ADMINISTRATION OF PUBLIC FOLDERS

If your whole Exchange organization is on Exchange version 5.5, public

folders are attached to their home site and server. In order to perform

administrative actions on a public folder, a user must have

administrative permissions on that folder's home site. Any subfolders

that are created will inherit the limited administrative access

designations from the top-level folder.

You can change a public folder's limited access designation on its

General tab. Simply select the Limit Administrative Access To Home Site

box to turn it on, or uncheck it to deactivate it.

Keep in mind that if you upgrade from a previous version of Exchange,

the public folder hierarchy won't automatically be set for limited

administration access, so you'll have to manually turn it on.

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Public Folders were introduced in the first version of Exchange (named Exchange 4.0 confusingly enough). They are essentially a shared database accessible through Outlook where groups of users can collaborate and share information about the projects they're working on. This was a big deal in 1996 when Exchange 4.0 launched, but plenty of other software packages do the same thing, including competing products from Microsoft itself.

Microsoft expanded the usage of Public Folders in Exchange 2003 SP2 to increase their power and flexibility, but many Exchange administrators have been concerned about future support of the feature. Because Microsoft SharePoint and SharePoint Services in Windows Server 2003 provide many of the same abilities as Exchange Public Folders, there had been some concern that they wouldn't be supported in versions of Exchange after Exchange 2007. The concern for now is unwarranted.

Microsoft recommends that Exchange administrators move toward SharePoint for collaboration, but it understands the popularity of the feature. Because of that, Microsoft recently announced that Public Folders will continue to be supported in the next version of Exchange.

Because Microsoft offers so many programs with overlapping feature sets, it's hard to figure out what you're supposed to be deploying to perform a given task. In software that's been around for a long time like Exchange, users sometimes have a lot more leverage to keep features in rather than being force-marched to other products.

1 comments
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro
John Sheesley - TechRepublic Pro

In Classics Rock, I pointed out a popular Exchange feature called Public Folders and mentioned how many of the abilities in Public Folders exist in SharePoint as well. http://blogs.techrepublic.com.com/classic-tech/?p=133 When it released Exchange 2007 and now with talk about the next version of Exchange, Exchange administrators are concerned this popular feature will be tossed over the side and that Microsoft will try to force march them into deploying SharePoint for collaboration. Two questions come to mind: First, do you use Public Folders in Exchange for collaboration? And B) What are some other examples of feature creep can you come up with where products wind up overlapping feature sets and causing confusion?

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