Software

Understand Exchange 2010 SP1's new capabilities

Exchange Server 2010 SP1 includes a number of enhancements designed to make Exchange easier to manage and use. Find out which improvement Scott Lowe thinks will push many organizations to get this service pack.

It wasn't that long ago when we were celebrating the release of Exchange Server 2010. Now, hot on its heels, we have Exchange Server 2010 SP1, which is chock full of new features and enhancements. Here's an overview of some of the cool new features in Exchange 2010 SP1.

Installation

To get started with the Exchange 2010 SP1 installation, expand the downloaded installation file and double-click on setup.exe; you'll see a screen like the one in Figure A. Start by choosing your language option (either download and install all of the languages from the language pack or choose to install using the languages from the installation DVD) and then click Install Microsoft Exchange Server Upgrade. Figure A

The Exchange 2010 SP1 main installation page
The installer includes a short welcome screen (Figure B) that you can safely ignore by simply clicking Next. Figure B

Exchange 2010 SP1 installation introduction
The Exchange 2010 SP1 installer includes your typical license agreement (Figure C). You should choose the option that accepts the license agreement and then click the Next button. Figure C

Accept the Exchange 2010 SP1 license agreement
The SP1 installer does a full readiness check. In Figure D, notice that there are quite a number of hotfixes that need to be applied before you can proceed with the SP1 installation. Make sure that you're prepared for a whole lot of reboots during this process, as many of the hotfixes require an individual server reboot.

I had a very clean Exchange 2010 RTM server, and here is the list of hotfixes and prerequisites that I needed to apply before I could install SP1:

Depending on how your Exchange servers are configured, you may see different options than those outlined above.

Figure D

A number of prerequisites are needed

At this point, you should complete the installation of the prerequisites and follow up by completing the Exchange 2010 SP1 installation.

New features

Exchange 2010 SP1 includes a number of new features, many of which are in the user-facing Outlook Web App tool. Before l talk about the Outlook Web App, I'll cover some of the behind the scenes features included in Exchange 2010 SP1.

Management tool updates In Exchange 2010 SP1, Microsoft added a lot of functionality to the GUI-based management tool, including the ability to modify retention policies without having to use PowerShell. In fact, if you look at Figure E and compare it to Figures F and G, you'll see big differences. Figure E is a look at the RTM version of Exchange 2010 (specifically, the mailbox database management screen), and  Figures F and G are from Exchange 2010 SP1. Figure E

The mailbox database management screen in Exchange 2010 RTM
Figure F

The Retention Policy Tags tab in the Exchange Management Console
Figure G

The Retention Policies Tags tab

Microsoft also added features to various GUIs in Exchange 2010, negating the need to rely on PowerShell for these details:

  • Configuring Database Availability Group IP addresses and witness servers
  • Configuring litigation holds
  • Configure Allow/Block/Quarantine mobile device policies in the OWA-based control panel
Outlook Web App

From a user perspective, Exchange 2010 SP1 really shines in the improvements made to Outlook Web App. I think that the Outlook Web App (OWA) improvements alone will push many organizations to get to SP1 as quickly as possible.

Exchange 2010 SP1's OWA is a much more nimble OWA than I've used before. It's quick, it works well in multiple browsers, and it is a really good app. I regularly use Windows and Mac OS X-based systems (my laptop is a Mac), and OWA's new, broader browser support is absolutely top notch.

Microsoft has also streamlined the visual interface, making it easier to work with conversation view (Figure H). You can see that the conversation view marker now clearly indicates which message you're reading (the open circle), as well as the first message in the conversation (the closed circle). (Yes, there are lots of unread message in my inbox; I was out of the office at VMworld.) Figure H

OWA's improved conversation view

In Figure H, you also see that the mailbox/folder search box is front and center right at the top of the message column; Microsoft does a really good job with mailbox search. Also, messages have little checkboxes next to them. You can select multiple messages by selecting the checkbox and then performing wholesale actions against those messages, such as deleting them or moving them to a new folder.

Microsoft has also reintroduced themes to OWA with the release of SP1.  In Figure I, you can see that these are easily accessed via a shortcut menu in the upper right-hand corner of the OWA window.

Figure I

Change your theme to match your personality

Summary

In Exchange 2010 SP1, Microsoft has continued to make major improvements for the administrator and end user experience.  The company has also made it much easier to handle regulatory compliance issues without needing to resort to a command line and helped continue Exchange's well-deserved legacy.

Keep up with Scott Lowe's posts on TechRepublic

About Scott Lowe

Since 1994, Scott Lowe has been providing technology solutions to a variety of organizations. After spending 10 years in multiple CIO roles, Scott is now an independent consultant, blogger, author, owner of The 1610 Group, and a Senior IT Executive w...

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