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Microsoft Exchange & Email services
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Email has become the core of almost every business.  no longer is it a "nice to have", but it is a critical business tool.  Microsoft Exchange, despite numerous efforts still does not seem to have any serious competitors in it's market.  Exchange is suitable for organizations from 10 employees and up.

With the recent release of Exchange 2007 this position has been confirmed.  Microsoft has really listened to it's market & implemented that which we have said we most wanted.   Good on you, Microsoft, you got it right for once!

Some of the key enhancements are around "Convergence", a nice catch-phrase that has a real meaning behind it.  Unified messaging enhancements within Exchange 2007 are extensive.  Voicemail & faxes can be delivered to your inbox.  You can call in to your exchange server & have your email read to you.  Or with the enhancements to Active Sync, you email can be reliably delivered to your handheld device.  Bandwidth requirements has been reduced with a completely rebuilt Outlook Web Access.

Under the hood Exchange has also been rebuilt.  The database engine is optimized for 64bit & redesigned to reduce the disk IOs.  This means it's no longer necessary to use very expensive high speed SCSI disks for the database store, even cheap SATA disks will do.  To compensate for the use of cheaper disk, some reliability functions have been built in, with continuous local or remote replication ensuring the integrity of critical email data.  It is now even possible to have email data replicated to a server dedicated to backup, meaning the backup window has been extended to 24 hours without impacting on database performance.

Exchange has also been divided into 5 distinct roles as opposed to the 2 roles in 2003.  These roles can be run on a single machine (with the exception of Unified Messaging), or be distributed over several servers for load balancing.  Of special interested is the Hub Transport role.  Unlike Exchange 2003, all email traverses the hub transport - even if it is destined for a mailbox on the same database.  This means the new Policy engine built into the Hub Transport can process each and every message.

Finally, a point of interest is that Exchange 2007 does not install Public folders by default.  Microsoft is discouraging the use of public folders.  They are available for install, however.

SMTP, POP & IMAP mail options

For simple email services, there are many options for SMTP (Simple Mail Transport Protocol) and POP (Post Office Protocol).  This is the more traditional email familiar with home services where the client connects and clears the mailbox to the local machine.  These services can run on low cost hardware running either Windows or Linux.  For most corporates this is not an appropriate solution and may in the near future not meet regulatory compliance as we are seeing in other countries.  However for small business this may be sufficient.

IMAP (Internet Message Access Protocol) was first conceived in 1986 at Stanford university.  It provides a client/server model of access to email similar (although less refined) to Exchange.   Email can be managed in "folders" and stored on the server.  IMAP has been through numerous revisions over the years an is now quite mature.  Best of all, there a numerous open source IMAP implementations that run on Linux so can fit nicely into any budget.  The down side of IMAP is, despite the wide range of clients, there does not seem to be clients with the finesse of Outlook. While Outlook does have IMAP extensions, the client implementation leaves something to be desired.  It should also be noted that it is not the collaboration tool the Exchange is.

I am experienced implementing all of these solutions in corporate environments.  I have designed & configured Microsoft Exchange in a large clustered environment providing >99.999% uptime for this mission critical service.   Please feel free to contact me to discuss your requirements, or to discuss hosted Exchange services.

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