Microsoft applications and Apple operating systems haven’t always paired elegantly. One of the latest combinations appears a match made in heaven, however, and generates quite a power coupling. Mating Microsoft’s Exchange Server 2010 (or 2007, for that matter) with Mac OS X Mountain Lion results in enterprise email, messaging, contact management, and calendaring for Mac organizations.

Exchange improvements

Refinements and improvements introduced to the Exchange back office email platform with the 2007 edition have improved performance, simplified client configuration and enhanced reliability and synchronization. Exchange 2010 leverages Exchange Web Services (EWS) to power connectivity with OS X’s native Mail, Calendar and Contacts applications, as well as Microsoft Office for Mac 2011.

An older strategy, in which Mac apps or Entourage (replaced by Outlook) utilized RPC over HTTPS to link with the Exchange server, is no longer necessary. As long as enterprise administrators configure the Exchange infrastructure properly (including routers) and the EWS protocol is enabled on the Internet-facing Outlook Web Access (OWA) server, Mac users should be able to dependably connect to the email platform.

Connectivity is a breeze

Even veteran technology engineers justifiably sweat the trials and tribulations that often arise when troubleshooting connectivity on Macs to older Exchange platforms. Thankfully, those challenges are subsiding as the couple’s relationship matures. Connecting Lion- and Mountain Lion-equipped Macs to newer Exchange servers, most notably the Exchange 2007 and 2010 flavors, is simple, as is the process of joining iPads and iPhones to Exchange mailboxes.

To join Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011 on a Lion or Mountain Lion-powered Mac to Exchange, assuming OWA is already up and running with EWS enabled, administrators need only supply a few key elements:

  • the OWA address
  • a valid email address
  • a valid account username and password.

The process is equally easy on iPads and iPhones.

In fact, our office’s consultants make quick work configuring their own iPhones (with the client’s permission, of course) to connect to a user’s Exchange mailbox when troubleshooting a user complaint. Completing a Mac Mail, Calendar, Contacts, Microsoft Outlook for Mac 2011, iPad, or iPhone connection to an existing Exchange mailbox often requires no more than 15 or 20 seconds.

Flexible, enterprise scalability

Compare Exchange connectivity and configuration experiences from today with those from just a few years ago. The new Exchange/OS X marriage is bearing fruit. In addition to typically stress-free connections, Exchange enables everyone from small Mac businesses to large Mac enterprises the ability to easily connect to Exchange infrastructure no matter how complex, from a hosted Exchange platform or single email server to a complex clustered environment. Further, finding Exchange expertise is easy. That should come as no surprise. The product’s market share is commanding (at 76% last year according to Radicati).