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Microsoft moves deeper into cloud with Exchange 2010 SP2

Exchange Server 2010 SP2 is an important release for companies contemplating a move to Office 365. This release brings the Hybrid Configuration Wizard, OWA improvements and more.

Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 launched this week with new features that bridge Exchange shops to the cloud. It also brings a new address book policies feature and Outlook Web Access improvements.

Microsoft gave customers a glimpse of some Exchange Server 2010 Service Pack 2 features back in May and delivered on new features including the Hybrid Configuration Wizard, which simplifies the process of creating a hybrid on-premises and cloud environment.

Previously, it was difficult to tie an on-premises Exchange Server 2010 environment to Microsoft’s cloud-based email and collaboration suite, Office 365. With the Hybrid Configuration Wizard, IT pros can create a hybrid Exchange 2010/Office 365 environment in just a few steps -- for short- or long-term coexistence.

The new wizard tool provides a rich coexistence between Exchange Server and Office 365 that is necessary for multi-mailbox searches of both on-premises and hosted mailboxes. The tool also facilitates archiving in the cloud, where IT pros can place users’ personal archives in Office 365 while keeping all other mail on-premises.

While the new tool makes it easier to combine on-premises and cloud Exchange environments, Exchange shops shouldn’t look at the Hybrid Configuration Wizard as an “easy button” to the cloud.

“[The hybrid wizard] streamlines the process,” said Mike Crowley, an Exchange MVP enterprise infrastructure architect at Planet Technologies Inc. “But it doesn’t give you a pass for not paying attention.”

More Exchange 2010 SP2 features
While the hybrid wizard tool aims squarely at companies considering Office 365, Microsoft added new address book policies that aid large on-premises Exchange deployments and hosted Exchange setups. With address book policies, you can segment global address lists (GALs) so that users cannot see every user in an Exchange organization.

Address book policies are great for privacy because users should only be able to see who management wants them to see,” said Rob Sanfilippo, an Exchange analyst with Directions on Microsoft, an independent analysis firm based in Kirkland, Wash.

Unfortunately, address book policies also require an Active Directory schema update. Admins hesitate to deploy a service pack that requires such an update, but they shouldn’t let fears block deployments, Sanfilippo said.

Exchange 2010 SP2 also includes two Outlook Web App improvements in OWA Mini and cross-site silent redirection. OWA Mini is geared toward users that may not have large screens on their devices and/or don’t have ActiveSync-enabled phones. Cross-site silent redirection improves the single sign-on experience.

You can download Exchange Server 2010 SP2 from the Microsoft Download Center. Additionally, companies that run unified messaging should download the Exchange 2010 SP2 language packs.

Let us know what you think about the story; email Site Editor Matt Gervais.

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