Exchange Server SP2 hits the street

The latest service pack for Exchange Server 2003 touts better tools to fight phishing schemes, but the cool mobile management features won't be ready for two more months.

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Microsoft has released the latest update to its Exchange Server 2003 messaging platform, which offers a long-awaited upgrade to the antispam filter, as well as a summary of hotfixes.

But the feature in Exchange Server 2003 Service Pack 2 with the most buzz still won't be ready until the end of this year -- mobile security management technology for Windows mobile-based devices, such as smart phones or other devices.

Today, all Windows mobile devices can link up with Exchange Server 2003. But Microsoft said that near the end of this year, devices with the Messaging and Security Feature Pack will be able to take advantage of a handful of new capabilities when used in concert with Exchange Server 2003 SP2.

The ActiveSync Web Administration tool makes possible the requirement for passwords to unlock a device. Also, direct push is where the device uses an HTTP connection to retrieve e-mail; and remote wipe can be used to erase sensitive information on the device if the correct password is not entered after several attempts.

"The lockdown and the push technology are just huge advantages to IT managers," said Steve Bryant, an Exchange expert at Pro Exchange, a Peachtree City, Ga., integrator.

With SP2 today, the Intelligent Message Filter (IMF) is now integrated into the core product. The updated version of IMF also has some features to block phishing schemes. And for those who use Exchange Server standard edition, which is found mainly in small and medium-sized businesses or remote offices of large companies, the mailbox sizes have been increased from 16 GB to 75 GB.

Some IT managers are looking forward to the mobile management enhancements, as more users are asking to check e-mail from these devices. "I don't have any grand issues with Exchange 2003, but when the service pack comes I'll test it," said John Hurd, network analyst at the City of Redmond, Redmond, Wash.

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Hurd said he is disappointed that Exchange is no longer on track to receive a database upgrade. Microsoft decided last year to keep Exchange running on the Jet database, rather than move it onto a SQL-type database.

The next major release of Microsoft's messaging platform, called Exchange 12, will be out in late 2006, about the same time as the next version of Outlook. Exchange 12 will have a roles-based architecture that lets IT administrators configure Exchange servers as edge servers, bridgehead servers, client-access servers or unified messaging servers, for example.

Some IT shops are still migrating off of Exchange 5.5, which reaches the end of its extended support lifecycle on December 31, 2005. Through December, Microsoft will provide security hotfixes and paid support but no free support, design change requests nor non-security hotfixes.

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