By now, everyone knows there’s a new version of Microsoft Exchange on the street. This new version bears little resemblance to its predecessor. Exchange 2000 includes many new features and enhancements that make it more reliable and scalable and at the same time, it simplifies administration.

However, migrating to Exchange 2000 is a big task, especially for large environments. As a result, many IT pros are now asking, “Why should our organization move to Exchange 2000?” Four benefits stand out when examining the justification to moving to Exchange 2000:

  1. Consolidation of servers via multiple message databases
  2. Enhanced Outlook Web Access
  3. Distributed services
  4. Simplified administration

Let’s examine each of these benefits.

Consolidation of servers via multiple message databases
One familiar Exchange 5.5 shortcoming is its inability to handle large numbers of users on one server. The problem is mainly due to the difficulty of managing a large information store. In Exchange 5.5, as the information store increases in size, usually surpassing 4 GB, backup and restore times often exceed many organizations’ backup and restore windows. This translates into the need for several Exchange 5.5 servers to reduce the number of users per server and thus reduce the size of the information store.

Exchange 2000 handles this issue much better with the ability to maintain multiple message databases on a single server. This arrangement allows administrators faster and more flexible backup scheduling, as databases are typically smaller. Now, existing Exchange servers can be consolidated and the total number of servers reduced.

Enhanced Outlook Web Access
Exchange 5.5 enabled us to connect to our mailbox via a Web browser. If their accounts are configured to do so, users can check their mail from anywhere in the world as long as they have Internet access and a compatible browser. Almost all of us consider the ability to check e-mail from a Web browser to be a requirement these days.

Exchange 2000 introduces an enhanced Outlook Web Access (OWA) that fulfills many of the features that 5.5’s OWA lacked. It introduces a look and feel that is more like Outlook, with drag-and-drop capability, pop-up menus, toolbars, true hierarchy control, and rich-text editing when used with Microsoft Internet Explorer 5.0.

Also new is automatic name resolution against Outlook contacts as well as Exchange addresses. This is good news for users who often have to work off of both an Outlook client and OWA. In fact, the enhanced OWA offered in Exchange 2000 might force many administrators to look at using OWA as an Outlook client replacement.

Distributed services
Any administrator who has had to manage a large number of Exchange 5.5 servers knows that the process of pointing Outlook clients to their appropriate mailboxes is a cumbersome task even with profile utilities. Another problem arises when using OWA on a separate server because administrators must specify which Exchange 5.5 server will be able to handle the client request. In this case, the Exchange 5.5 server has to actually house the specified user’s mailbox.

In a dynamic environment where users’ mailboxes are often in multiple locations, Exchange 2000 uses distributed services to resolve this problem. Distributed services pertains to the use of front-end and back-end servers. With Exchange 2000, an administrator can establish one or a few front-end servers while storing messages and collaboration data on separate back-end servers. This configuration flexibility provides new opportunities for enterprise administrators to tailor system architecture to meet the demands of a dynamic user environment.

Simplified administration
In an Exchange 4.0 or 5.x environment, Exchange administrators did everything from managing connectors and information stores to creating mailboxes and changing users’ phone numbers. Many organizations split the responsibility of managing the system from that of managing the users. This often meant the delegation of basic administrative responsibilities by manually establishing and setting permissions within Exchange Admin.

Exchange 2000 now makes these two functions separate. The Exchange System Manager console allows system administrators to make system-wide changes to Exchange. Basic user-based Exchange tasks such as creating mailboxes and setting directory information is now performed from the Active Directory Users And Computers MMC console. This separation allows large organizations to have departments such as their help desk make user changes, freeing the Exchange system administrators to concentrate on maintaining the system.

Exchange 2000 marks a new era in Microsoft’s dominance in the e-mail and collaboration market. Consolidation of Exchange servers, an enhanced OWA, distributed services, and simplified administration mean Exchange 2000 will offer a much lower cost of ownership than the previous versions.

In addition to this strong economic justification for moving to Exchange 2000, there are a number of other factors that may contribute to the success of Exchange 2000 in your environment. You can find information on many of these benefits on the Microsoft Exchange 2000 Features Overview site. Reviewing all the enhancements and features will help you decide if your organization should move to Exchange 2000.
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