When Exchange 2007 debuted, many organizations passed, leaving critical messaging services hosted on an Exchange 2003 platform and associated dated hardware. While 2003 is a stalwart, a series of features in the 2010 package greatly expand the accessibility of messaging services to users. Improvements to the internal design reduce the I/O load on the server, and resiliency of the entire suite has been improved to protect vital communications and reduce the risk, and associated cost, of data loss. If 2007 was implemented, the improvements to the Outlook Web Access component, as well as further gains on the I/O characteristics of the software should provide a compelling set of potential benefits for businesses to consider.
Businesses have lagged somewhat behind the adoption of various forms of personal communications over the last 5 years. While organizations provided voicemail, email, and (grudgingly) instant messaging (IM), employees have overwhelmingly adopted SMS text messaging as a primary form of communication. Improvements to the newly coined Outlook Web App allow users to capture all of these forms of conversation in one interface, universally accessible through any of four major web browsers (including Apple’s Safari). Communications can be grouped by conversation, which allows the user to coherently manage a lengthy exchange that might include email, text, and voicemail. In today’s business climate, being able to track written records of how decisions were made is paramount, and the remarkable ability to handle this (including SMS text) in a unified location is not to be overlooked.
With Outlook Web App, all user communications are securely available on any platform that is in use, be it laptop, smartphone, or tablet. Calendars are updated and/or shared on the fly, and the status indicator (in/out of office) finally achieves its full potential by allowing others to view and then determine the best mode of communication. Voicemail receives a facelift as well, where Exchange 2010 goes one step beyond unified messaging ,(delivery of a recorded voicemail to the mailbox as a .wav attachment), by offering speech-to-text translation for written delivery to the inbox.
Behind the scenes, a complex new database replication design allows for the creation of Database Availability Groups (DAG). These are a series of up to 16 Exchange servers that use continuous replication to maintain multiple copies of the mail database. In the event of a failure, the Exchange service is maintained, with failover to the new database occurring in less than 30 seconds. In a distributed database environment, or better, with Exchange services in the cloud, the risk of data loss is greatly reduced through the use of DAG, and productivity is increased through better overall system uptime.
On the I/O performance side of things, Microsoft claims such a vast improvement over Exchange 2003/2007 that support is offered for storage options from SAN to external attached SATA based products. The ability to use cost effective large disks for backup, coupled with the user facing service, Personal Archiving, allows organizations and users to create enormous archive volumes in a centralized location, rather than creating (and subsequently loosing) multiple PST files on their local PC. Backups can be performed once, and on one location, and do not require a third party PST locator solution to guarantee the capture of all critical data.
The overall strength of Outlook Web App, coupled with the enhancements to the performance and resiliency of Microsoft Exchange 2010 position it as a robust successor to Exchange 2003/2007. In it, Microsoft has created a productivity suite that captures all aspects of modern business communications in one familiar software package.