Working with Exchange 2000 public folders

If you used public folders on your Exchange 5.5 server, you don't have to worry about losing the functionality when you move to Exchange 2000. As a matter of fact, things get better. Brien Posey shows you what's in store.

If you’ve recently upgraded to Exchange 2000, you’ve probably noticed that one big difference between the two versions is in the way you manage public folders. In this Daily Drill Down, I’ll explain what the differences are. I’ll also show you how to configure and manage public folders within this new environment.

Multiple trees
Perhaps the biggest difference between the way that Exchange 5.5 and Exchange 2000 handle public folders is that Exchange 2000 allows you to have multiple public folder trees. Exchange 5.5 only allowed you to have one root-level public folder. This folder tree was called All Public Folders. Exchange 5.5 placed every public folder in the entire organization under this tree, regardless of which site or server the folders existed in.

Exchange 2000 allows you to create multiple public folder trees. Any time someone creates a root-level folder, the folder appears at the same organization level as the All Public Folders folder would have. Users may then populate each folder with subfolders.

In Exchange 5.5, each server stored its public folders in the public information store database (PUB.EDB). This database contained any public folders that existed on the individual server, plus replicas of public folders from other servers. In essence, each server had its own copy of the public information store. The entire public folder structure was stored in a single database on each server. In Exchange 2000, each public folder tree exists in a separate database. Therefore, if a server contained three public folder trees, it would contain three corresponding databases.

The biggest drawback to creating multiple public folder trees is that Outlook is only capable of displaying the initial public folder tree. Any trees created after that must be viewed through the Outlook Web Access program or through Windows Explorer.

Creating new trees
Outlook 2000 is incapable of working with any public folder trees other than the original one. Therefore, if you want to create a new root-level public folder tree, you’ll have to do so through the Exchange System manager console. The process of creating a new root-level folder structure involves three basic steps. First, you create a folder that will house the new public folder structure. Second, you define a new public folder store that will store the contents of the new public folder tree. Third, you have to connect the folder you created to the store you created.

To create a new root-level folder, open the Exchange System Manager and navigate through the tree structure to the Administrative Groups section. Now, navigate to the administrative group that you want the folder to exist within and select the Folders container, as shown in Figure A.

Figure A
You’ll create the new root-level folder beneath a specific administrative group.

At this point, right-click on the Folders structure and select New | Public Folder Tree from the resulting context menu. You’ll see the new folder’s properties sheet. By default, the properties sheet’s General tab is selected. Now, enter a name for the new folder in the Name field and click OK.

Now it’s time to create a message store to go with the folder you created. Navigate through the Exchange System Manager console to the administrative group that you created the new folder in. Work your way through the administrative group’s hierarchy to Servers | the name of the server containing the new store | the name of the storage group to create the store in. You can see an example of this in Figure B.

Figure B
To create a message store, use Exchange System Manager in the administrative store on your server.

Next, right-click on the storage group and select New | Public Store from the resulting context menu. Exchange will open the properties sheet for the new information store you’re creating. Once you see this properties sheet, the first thing you’ll have to do is assign a name to the new store. You can do this by entering a name into the General tab’s Name field. I recommend assigning the new store the same name as the folder that it will correspond with.

Once you’ve assigned a name to the new store, you’ll have to associate the store with the folder that you created earlier. Click the Browse button on the General tab. Browse through the hierarchy until you locate the folder that you want to associate with the store. Select the folder and click OK. When you’re done, your dialog box should resemble the one shown in Figure C.

Figure C
You have to create a new public information store and associate it with the new folder that you created earlier.

At this point, you can click OK to close the dialog box, but remember that each public folder tree resides in its own individual database. If you’re curious as to the name and location of the new database, you can look up this information by selecting the properties sheet’s Database tab. You can see a sample of this information in Figure D.

Figure D
The Database tab tells the location and filename of the database that you’ve just created.

The final step in preparing your new public folder tree for use is to associate the root folder with the public folder store you created. To do so, you must close and then reopen the Exchange System Manager. Next, navigate through the tree and select the root folder you created earlier. Now, right-click on the folder and select Connect To from the resulting context menu. You’ll see a dialog box that lists the available public folder stores. Select the public folder store that you created earlier and click OK.

Exchange will take a couple of minutes and will then associate the two objects. You’re now free to begin creating public folders beneath the root folder that you created. The easiest way to do this is to right-click on the root folder and select New | Public Folder from the resulting context menu.

Configuring public folders through Outlook
Obviously, creating a new root-level folder is something that you’d probably only want administrators to be able to do. However, you may need to give some of your end users the authority to create normal public folders. Since your users probably don’t have a copy of the Exchange System Manager on their machines, users (and possibly administrators) will normally create public folders through Microsoft Outlook 2000.

To create a folder through Outlook 2000, all a user has to do is navigate through the folder list to Public Folders | All Public Folders. Next, right-click on All Public Folders and select New Folder from the resulting context menu. At this point, you’ll see the Create New Folder dialog box. Within this dialog box, you’ll have to assign the folder a name, select the type of content that the folder will be storing, and select the folder’s location within the public folder hierarchy. You can see an example of this in Figure E.

Figure E
The Create New Folders dialog box allows you to designate the name, type, and location of a new public folder.

Public folder security
As you probably realize, giving users the ability to create folders at will can be a dangerous thing. You probably don’t want just anyone being able to create folders. Likewise, although the purpose of public folders is to make information available to everyone, you may not want everybody in the entire company to be able to post content to a folder or to be able to modify existing content.

For example, suppose that you had a public folder that contained all of the forms for the Human Resources department. You’d probably want everyone in the company to be able to use these forms, but you’d only want the members of the Human Resources department to be able to modify or delete the forms.

As you can see, any time you have public folders on your Exchange Server, you need to implement at least some degree of security over them. Although you can apply security on a folder-by-folder basis, let’s begin the process by applying a basic set of security rules at the root-folder level. To do so, right-click on the root-level folder you created earlier and select Properties from the resulting context menu. When you do, you’ll see the folder’s properties sheet. To view the folder’s security settings, select the Security tab.

As you can see in Figure F, the top portion of this tab contains a list of users and groups who have rights to the folder. The permissions held by the various users and groups vary. As you can see at the bottom of the properties sheet, the folder is set by default to allow inheritable permissions to propagate down from parent objects. Therefore, the majority of the preexisting permissions you’ll find in this dialog box have been inherited from somewhere else.

Figure F
The Security tab on the root folder’s properties sheet can be used to control who has rights to the root folder and folders beneath it.

Keep in mind that you’re looking at a root-level folder. Therefore, any permissions that you set here (or that are inherited here) will trickle down to any subfolders, assuming that you’ve set the subfolders to allow inherited permissions to propagate to their level.

You can easily assign security other than the settings that already exist. To do so, click the Add button and you’ll see a list of all of the users and groups in the domain. Select a user or group and click OK. When you do, Exchange will add the user or group to the user list on the Security tab.

Now, select the user and use the check boxes below to set the security permissions for the user. Keep in mind that a specific deny overrides a specific grant or an empty permission. There are also other security settings that exist but that aren’t visible on the main Security tab. You can access these settings by clicking the Advanced button. Most of the time, you won’t have to worry about using the advanced security settings, but they allow you to do things like change a folder’s owner. Now, click OK, and the permissions that you’ve set will be applied to the root folder.

Microsoft went to a lot of work to enhance the public folder feature in Exchange 2000. Now that Exchange 2000 allows multiple public folders rather than the single public folder in Exchange 5.5, you have more options and flexibility than ever before. That also means you must learn a few new tricks, however. In this Daily Drill Down, I explained how Exchange 2000 handles public folders differently than Exchange 5.5 does and how to configure and manage public folders in Exchange 2000.

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