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Digging deeper into Exchange Server 2010

The release of Exchange Server 2010 brings a plethora of new features. In this preview from Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey, you'll read how Database Availability Groups have changed high availability and site resilience, get details on the Exchange Control Panel feature for OWA and learn about improvements to unified messaging.

The release of Microsoft Exchange Server 2010 brings a plethora of new features. In this preview, Microsoft Exchange Server expert Brien Posey covers changes to high availability and site resilience, an Outlook Web Access feature called the Exchange Control Panel and some unified messaging improvements.

The Database Availability Group (DAG) feature in Exchange Server 2010 simplifies high availability and site resilience. To use traditional clustering in Exchange 2003 or Exchange 2007 you had to implement the cluster first and then install Exchange.

When your server is initially set up, there is no longer a requirement to designate a mailbox server as clustered or non-clustered. In fact, the clustered mailbox server does not exist any longer. Instead, Exchange 2010 allows you to create a DAG. You can also add or remove servers from a DAG as needed. This gives you greater flexibility as you construct high availability and site resiliency.

One restriction you should be aware of is that database names must be unique in Exchange Server 2010, as mailbox databases become organization-level resources. This is because failovers and switchovers happen at the database level. If one server volume fails, Exchange can fail over on the database that was on that volume, rather than on the entire server. Exchange 2010 allows you to have up to 16 cluster nodes and 16 copies of each database. Failover or switchover can also be performed at the server level.

In Exchange Server 2007, a clustered node could only host the Mailbox Server role. This limitation has been removed in Exchange 2010. Additionally, mailbox servers that have multiple roles installed can be members of a DAG.

OWA administrative controls in Exchange Server 2010

Outlook Web Access has been extended in Exchange 2010 to include the Exchange Control Panel. This new feature is designed to give both users and administrators additional mailbox control through a Web interface.

Exchange Server relies heavily on Active Directory. In a large organization, keeping user contact information up to date can be a full-time job. Exchange 2010 gives users the ability to edit their own directory information (phone number, address, etc.) directly through the Exchange Control Panel. End users can also use OWA to create and manage distribution groups.

From the administrative side, Exchange 2010 uses a new permissions model called Role-based Access Control (RBAC). An administrator can delegate common administrative tasks to end users through the Exchange Control Panel. For example, if an administrator decided that he was spending too much time tracking email messages, he could delegate message-tracking capabilities to someone else.

Improvements to unified messaging in Exchange Server 2010

Unified messaging, which was first introduced in Exchange 2007, has also been greatly improved in Exchange 2010. Users can now create rules that control how a call is routed -- based on things like who is calling, time of day and what they're doing when the call comes in.

Exchange 2007 had an auto attendant feature that allowed administrators to create call-routing menus for the organization's mail phone number (press 1 for English, Press 2 for Spanish, etc.). The new personal call-routing rules feature give users the ability to create their own auto attendants.

Users can implement auto attendants to route various types of calls to other people in their departments. On the other hand, if a user needs to make sure that they get to talk to a particular caller, they can create a rule that has Exchange server call various phone numbers, such as the user's cell number or home number, until the user is reached.

Users can also define different call rules for different callers. The callers can be specified by phone number or by selecting an entry in their contact list or the Global Address List. Users can create call rules using the Exchange Control Panel.

Another new unified messaging feature in Exchange Server 2010 is Voice Mail Preview. In unified messaging, voice messages are appended to email messages as audio attachments. In Exchange 2010, these audio attachments are still used, but they come with a written transcript of the voice message. This allows the recipient to get the gist of the message without having to play the audio clip. It also allows Microsoft Outlook to index voice messages in the same way that it indexes email messages.

I recently saw a demonstration of this feature, and it worked really well. The person who gave me the demonstration did, however, explain that the speech-to-text engine occasionally makes mistakes -- usually if a caller has a thick accent, if they mumble or if they talk too fast. If a portion of the transcript doesn't make sense, you can click on that part of the transcript and Exchange will begin playing the voice message from that point.

Exchange is also intuitive enough to hyperlink any phone numbers that the caller leaves, so that the recipient can just click on the phone number to return the call.

Find more resources on the newest features in Microsoft Exchange Server 2010


About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a five-time recipient of Microsoft's Most Valuable Professional (MVP) award for his work with Microsoft Exchange Server, Windows Server, Internet Information Services (IIS), and File Systems and Storage. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once responsible for the Department of Information Management at Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer, Brien has written for Microsoft, TechTarget, CNET, ZDNet, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal website at

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