Exchange Server 2003: Worth the Upgrade?
Find out if Exchange Server 2003 will deliver features compelling enough for your organization to make the upgrade.
by Scott Jamison
June 2003 Issue
Every enterprise organization needs a messaging system that works. And when you seek the best system, you're probably looking to balance a highly functional and easy-to-use system with tight security and high availabilityand of course, deliver it with minimal cost and effort. Exchange Server 2003, the latest version of Exchange (formerly code-named Titanium), provides a number of improvements that address each of these key areas. In this article, I'll cover Exchange Server 2003's new and enhanced features, organized by the benefits that relate directly to key groups in a typical organization. In addition, I'll recommend who should consider upgrading. Exchange Server 2003, scheduled to be available mid-2003, provides an incremental update to Exchange 2000 Server. However, while it's been designed to add a significant number of improvements, it's also intended to be a simple point release update for IT shops.
At first glance, the most obvious change in Exchange Server 2003 is the new Outlook Web Access (OWA) client. Microsoft has created a Web client that comes amazingly close to Outlook 2003 in appearance and functionality. It has also made a significant effort to provide a better e-mail experience to mobile workers. Specifically, Microsoft has incorporated functionality from Mobile Information Server directly into the Exchange Server 2003 product, eliminating the need for maintaining yet another server product. Now, Exchange includes Outlook Mobile Access (OMA), which functions like OWA for devices; and Outlook Mobile Sync, which enables Pocket PCs to perform intelligent synchronization over a wireless connection.
Exchange Server 2003 will run on both Windows 2000 and Windows Server 2003, but you'll get greater benefits with Windows Server 2003. When you combine the two servers you get features such as improved memory allocation, reduced Active Directory (AD) replication traffic, Volume Shadow Copy service, and cross-forest Kerberos authentication. Overall, Exchange Server 2003 offers a range of enhancements and improvements for end users (information workers), IT managers, and developershere's a rundown.
Providing End-User Benefits
Outlook 2003, which is being released along with Exchange Server 2003 and Office 2003, offers many performance enhancements that work in conjunction with Exchange Server 2003. It accomplishes this though two specific features: cached mode and synchronization improvements. Cached mode creates a locally stored data file (the cache) that Outlook uses for all foreground activity. It accesses the Exchange server in the background, so any delays won't affect the user. The data compression that Exchange Server 2003 performs on the server also helps client performance by reducing the traffic between Outlook 2003 and Exchange Server. In addition, Exchange optimizes the client/server communication by reducing the total number of requests by getting more information with each requestthis is known as being "chunky" instead of "chatty."
The combination of cached mode and the synchronization and optimization improvements enhance the end user experience for remote users on Outlook significantly. Dialog boxes that display requests for information from an Exchange server will no longer appear on a user's Outlook client, because users will work primarily from their local Exchange mailbox data files. More important, should Outlook lose connectivity between the Outlook client and the network, it operates without interruption. In theory, these features should also result in fewer requests from the Exchange servers in total, reducing the overall load on your Exchange servers.
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