Exchange 2003 Beta 2 – Improvements and Questions

Exchange 2003 is supposed to be a minor upgrade of Exchange 2000, mainly delivering improvements based on customer feedback. Exchange 2000, a major leap from Exchange 5.5 had some incomplete features and stability issues. Some features have been added through services packs (STM files virus checking, fault tolerant domain controller access, and more) and some have been saved for the new code named Titanium version. Some of the new features are only available when installed on the Windows 2003 platform, some only when used with the upcoming Outlook 11 client, also in its beta cycle.

Installing Exchange 2003

As before to install Exchange you first need to extend the Active Directory schema using setup /forestprep. However, with Exchange 2003 this process does not create the Organization. When you open Exchange System you see a GUID rather than an org name.

Exchange version as stated in the installation process is 6.5

As you can see in the following screenshot the Exchange organization is created during the setup of the first Exchange 2003 server. This leads to the interesting question of the Administrative Group name creation. In Exchange 2000 you could create the first Administrative Group name right after the forestprep process using Exchange System Manager. A different method seems to be required with Exchange 2003. Maybe Microsoft could add a command line switch for the Administrative Group name?

Please note that regular setup creates the Org rather then ForestPrep

Outlook Web Access

Outlook Web Access improvements are pretty exciting. A login screen now exists when you use SSL for authentication. It has a bug though. Instead of entering your E-mail address in the “E-mail address” box, simply enter you username as before to log in.

The interface itself is rather impressive and very close to that of the upcoming Outlook 11 client.

You can view a user or a contact’s properties. However, Microsoft neglected to add one the most sought after fields, that of the cellular phone number. I know I frequently need this information when I’m out of the office. The absence of this field is strange especially in light of the cellular features Microsoft put into this product replacing those of the now discontinued Microsoft Mobile Information Server.

The search dialog has been expanded but you still cannot browse the GAL as in the Outlook client.

Spellchecking is now finally included with Outlook Web Access, for the major Latin languages.

There is also a web base Rules Wizard you could use. Notice the Search the Address book buttons in the right side of the screen that can be real handy.

Queue Manager

In Exchange 2000 you had to drill through 9 levels to get to see your SMTP queues and then do some right clicking to actually see some content. This seemed to be too much work for something Exchange administrators have to do regularly. Exchange 2003 now tries to take care of this by providing a unified queue manager, so you don’t have to go down rabbit hole of the Protocols container anymore.

 

Exchange System Management

All of you Windows xp users struggling with workarounds for installing ESM on your workstation will be happy to know that the new version installs in your Windows 2000/Exchange 2000 environment and works just fine on Windows xp and Windows 2000 workstations. However, strangely, it requires IIS admin to be installed. It does not require WWW service or any of the other services to be up and running or even installed, just IIS Admin, so you don’t need to turn your machine into a web server needlessly.

Some of the new features such as the enhanced queue manager are available with Exchange 2000 installed. Others, such as enhanced Public Folder features do not and are eithere unavailable or grayed out.

Summary

I promise to publish more information regarding this Beta as we move to testing it further in out lab. If you need more in depth information you can view it in the PDF document provided by Microsoft in the following URL: http://download.microsoft.com/download/e/d/f/edfdeb7f-289d-4e1b-8f2e-663b8dea68db/etb2gsg_pdf.exe , or download the beta yourself at http://www.microsoft.com/exchange/evaluation/ti/beta.asp .

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