At the end of 2001, Microsoft released Exchange 2000 Service Pack 2. Exchange administrators should realize that SP2 includes some important improvements to Outlook Web Access (OWA), as well as some reliability and manageability enhancements that make administration a little easier. Let’s take a look.

Outlook Web Access improvements
By far the largest and most visible area of improvement in Service Pack 2 comes in OWA. OWA was completely revamped between Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 so that it looks and feels more like the full Outlook 2000 (or 2002) client. With SP2, users will enjoy even more Outlook-like functionality.

New mail notification
One of the limitations with previous versions of OWA was that users had to manually check for new mail. SP2 includes a new mail notification icon, shown in Figure A. The icon will appear in the lower-right corner of the screen when new mail has arrived.

Figure A
OWA new mail notification

The notification will also be shown in the OWA main window so that users know at a glance that they have a new item waiting for them. All they have to do is click the icon and their inbox view will be refreshed and the new item displayed.

Better navigation and ease of operation
OWA’s folder list now displays the unread message count next to the folder name. Threaded conversations are easier to manage, and users can sort a column simply by clicking on the column heading. Users can also navigate using the [Page Up], [Page Down], [Home], and [End] keys and use the keyboard to perform searches in sorted columns.

Meeting reminders
Outlook 2002 introduced the unified reminder window, which lets users view all of their reminders in one window and dismiss, snooze, or open multiple reminders at one time. OWA in Exchange SP2 duplicates this functionality, as shown in Figure B. From the Calendar folder, users can even tell OWA to display your reminders window if they have closed it.

Figure B
Unified reminder window

Individual configuration options
SP2 introduces the capability to turn OWA folders and features on or off for specific users. This can be especially helpful in kiosk environments.

Distribution lists
OWA users can now create, view, and edit distribution lists in their contact folder, shown in Figure C.

Figure C
You can now create distribution lists.

Calendar view enhancements
The Calendar interface has also greatly improved. Users now have the option of viewing Day, Week, or Month views. As Figure D shows, users can even select discontinuous days in their display. You can double-click on any time slot and create a new appointment.

Figure D
The calendar includes new viewing options.

LDAP for DSAccess
The DSAccess service runs on Exchange 2000 Server and keeps track of domain controllers and global catalog servers. It then categorizes the servers as Fast, Up, Slow, or Down, based on the time it takes for the servers to respond to the DSAccess query. SP2 replaces the remote procedure calls that were used in the DSAccess component with LDAP queries for greater stability.

Logoff page
OWA in Exchange 2000 and SP1 did not include a logoff page. Users were considered logged off when they closed their browser window. SP2 includes a logoff function to securely close a client’s connection with the server.

Reliability and manageability enhancements
Exchange 2000 SP2 includes several new features to enhance your ability to manage an Exchange Server environment. Windows Error Reporting is now supported on the Information Store Service, Exchange Management Service, and the System Attendant Service. If any of these services stop responding, an analysis file is generated containing detailed debugging information.

A new message archival tool logs all inbound and outbound messages. This feature has many benefits, including monitoring for inappropriate communication and history tracking.

One of the most frustrating Exchange manageability issues can be message nondelivery. SP2 adds four error codes to nondelivery reports. Table A summarizes these codes.

Table A
Error Code Error Description
5.5.0 Protocol error (SMTP error)
5.4.4 Routing next hop not found
5.4.0 DNS failure
4.3.2 Admin manually returns a message as nondeliverable

Exchange 2000 SP2 also greatly enhances the message tracking interface. Administrators can search for messages by sender, recipient, or server, much as they can in the Outlook Advanced Find window. Results are displayed in the message tracking interface window.

Exchange Migration Tool
The Exchange Migration Tool was introduced in Service Pack 1. The tool works with the Mailbox Migration Wizard to move mailboxes between an Exchange 5.5 organization and an Exchange 2000 organization.

With Service Pack 2, you can migrate mailboxes from one Exchange 2000 organization to another Exchange 2000 organization. This can be particularly useful during corporate mergers. An additional feature is a two-part migration approach that exports mailbox contents to a personal folders file (.pst) and then imports messages from that file into the destination mailbox. You can also filter messages based on dates or subjects.

Final word
Exchange 2000 SP2 brings some exciting new enhancements for administrators and end users. Visit Microsoft’s Exchange 2000 SP2 Web site for download and install information.