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A Look At Exchange 2007

A unified in-box, voice mail support, and an improved Outlook e-mail client are some of the changes.

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Few companies will upgrade immediately. One in five Exchange users are still served by the 9-year-old Exchange 5.5, according to Gartner, which estimates most companies won't begin the switch until 2008.

Exchange 2007 calls for 64-bit servers and Windows Server 2003 x64 edition. New chips like Athlon, Xeon, and Opteron will get the job done, but most Pentium systems won't.

64-bit memory leads to an estimated 75% performance improvement over Exchange 2003. In general, administrative tasks run faster--not the e-mail itself, says beta tester Todd Wilson with Johns Hopkins University's School of Public Health.

Exchange 2007 can prevent e-mail, too. Among the server's controls is the ability to block e-mail between groups of employees not allowed to share data.

The unified in-box takes a step forward. Exchange 2007 supports voice mail and faxes, and there will be integration with Microsoft's forthcoming Office Communications Server.

Take it with you. Exchange 2007 supports mobile search and better calendaring for mobile users, as well as the ability to wipe data from lost or stolen devices.

Exchange 2007 can be parceled across servers--gateway access on one computer, security and calendaring on another--with the added benefit of improved redundancy.

Windows Mail links to Vista's calendar
(click image for larger view)

Windows Mail links to Vista's calendar
Alternatives abound. IBM is expected to announce its answer to Exchange 2007 in January. Zimbra's e-mail software runs on Linux servers. Google's Gmail or Microsoft's Hotmail/Live Mail may be sufficient for small companies.

Development gets easier. Microsoft cleaned up a morass of older APIs and is emphasizing new Web services APIs.

Outlook, Microsoft's e-mail client, is vastly improved. Bells and whistles include a built-in RSS reader, better search, automatic color coding of messages, and the ability to automatically delete mail after a designated period of time.

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