Exchange Server 2007 SP1

Summary: Service Pack 1 (SP1) reinstates a lot of the functionality that Microsoft left out in order to get Exchange Server 2007 out of the door last year.

Pros

  • Support for Windows Server 2008
  • Standby Continuous Replication (SCR)
  • Management tools left out of EMC have been reinstated
  • Enhanced OWA client
  • Improved mobile support

Cons

  • Requires 64-bit processors and operating system
  • Careful planning needed before upgrading large deployments

When it released Exchange Server 2007 at the beginning of last year, Microsoft admitted to dropping a number of the expected features in order to meet its deadline. Some of these were new to the 2007 product, but others were already available in Exchange Server 2003, causing more than a little concern among customers looking to upgrade. It comes as no surprise, therefore, to find many of these features reinstated in Service Pack 1 (SP1) in a clear attempt to finally deliver the product that Microsoft originally promised.

Along with the usual performance enhancements and bug fixes, one of the new features is, naturally, support for Windows Server 2008, with SP1 required if you want to host Exchange Server 2007 on that platform. Otherwise you’ll need Windows Server 2003 with the SP2 update applied to run Exchange Server 2007 SP1. As before, the latest implementation is designed for 64-environments, although it can be deployed on 32-bit servers for unsupported testing and evaluation purposes.

Another much-anticipated new feature is something called Standby Continuous Replication (SCR). The original product introduced the ability to replicate Exchange data between two servers in a cluster; SCR extends that by adding the ability to replicate data to a standby system ready to be activated in the event of a disaster. It’s not quite seamless failover, but if that’s what you’re after Exchange can also make use of the enhanced clustering facilities provided in Windows Server 2008, enabling servers to be clustered across different, geographically disperse, subnets. Microsoft's new server OS, due for full release at the end of February, also enables Exchange to be supported on IPv6 networks.

The technology behind the existing local and cluster continuous replication options is extended in Exchange 2007 SP1 to take backups to a separate standby server (Standby Continuous Replication, or SCR).

Elsewhere, a lot of fuss was made at the launch over the ability to manage Exchange Server 2007 from the command line, and to script common tasks using Windows PowerShell. This went down well with large organisations that manage distributed Exchange setups, but was less popular with smaller companies, many of which were disappointed to find that tools they had come to rely on were left out of the GUI.

Exchange Server 2007 SP1 fills in a lot of those gaps. For example, POP3/IMAP4 server settings can now be configured from the Exchange Management Console (EMC) just as before. Public folders can, similarly, be managed from the EMC again, along with user Send As permissions. With the original release, these options all had to be configured via the Exchange Management Shell (EMS), requiring programming skills that are not normally available in smaller companies. The Move Mailbox tool has also been enhanced in this release to allow import and export to personal folders.

The Outlook Web Access (OWA) Premium client in Exchange Server 2007 SP1 is yet another component to benefit from the return of lost functionality. This includes the ability to manage personal distribution lists from a browser, create and maintain custom rules, recover deleted items and select a monthly calendar view — all of which were dropped when Exchange 2007 was first launched. Support for S/MIME is similarly reinstated, but only when using IE 7.0; the list of attachments that can be converted to HTML in a message (WebReady Document Viewing) is also extended to include more of the Office 2007 formats. However, there are still document components that can’t be viewed this way.

Exchange 2007 SP1 allows lost or stolen mobile devices to be remotely wiped.

Mobile device support gets a bit of a makeover, too, adding the ability to automatically wipe a device — useful if a smartphone or notebook is lost or stolen. A default mailbox policy is now generated for use by ActiveSync, new ActiveSync policy settings have been added and enhancements made to direct push technology.

SP1 includes a default mailbox policy for ActiveSync, plus other policy improvements.

Conclusion

The Exchange Server 2007 SP1 update can be downloaded free of charge. At 840MB it’s not small, but it can be used to install a fresh copy of Exchange as well as upgrade existing code. We found it straightforward to apply and would recommend anyone already on the new platform or installing Exchange for the first time to get hold of it. Upgrading from an earlier version of Exchange, however, can be problematic, and the support forums are full of customers who have experienced problems.

Careful planning and testing is, therefore, advisable even with this new and improved implementation. It's also still very much an enterprise solution, and there's no news yet about a small-business version of Exchange Server 2007.

 

Topics: Apps, Reviews, Software

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