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Improvements to public folder management

There are several improvements to public folder management in Exchange 2003. This article discusses some of these enhancements and explains how you can take advantage of them.

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Although the System Manager for Exchange 2003 looks quite similar to the one included in Exchange 2000, there are several enhancements to the newer version that make it easier to perform administration tasks. One of the areas where there has been the most improvement is in managing public folders. In this article, I explain some new public folder management features and how you can take advantage of them.

Viewing content

Exchange System Manager contains functionality that allows you to view the contents of public folders just as you would through Outlook. While it was possible to see the contents of a public folder through System Manager on an Exchange 2000 server, this functionality has been greatly extended in Exchange Server 2003.

If you would like to view the contents of a public folder through Exchange System Manager, the server you are examining must be running Outlook Web Access (OWA) and it must be properly configured.

Also, if you are running System Manager directly from the server console, you will get an error message when you try to view a folder's contents. This is because Exchange System Manager relies on OWA and Internet Explorer security settings to display folder contents.

As you probably know, Windows Server 2003 includes an enhanced security configuration for Internet Explorer that is enabled by default. This configuration prevents the contents of the public folders from being displayed through Exchange System Manager. To get around this issue, you will have to run Exchange System Manager on a different machine, add your Exchange organization to a trusted security zone, or disable the enhanced security configuration. You'll find instructions for all of these procedures here.

To view the contents of a public folder, navigate through Exchange System Manager to Administrative Groups -> your administrative group -> Folders -> Public Folders -> your folder. System Manager's details pane will then display several tabs of information pertaining to the folder. Select the Content tab to see the folder's contents.

Searching public folders

Another cool public folder management feature is Find. The Find feature is basically a search mechanism for public folders. It allows you to search for folders with specific names, permissions, ages, dates and replication configurations. The Find feature doesn't allow you to search for folder content though, just for the folder itself.

To use the Find feature, navigate through Exchange System Manager to Administrative Groups -> your administrative group -> Folders -> Public Folders. Select the Public Folders container and choose the Find tab on the details pane. You can use this tab to search the public folder hierarchy for the desired folder.

It can take a while to locate a specific folder if you have a big public folder structure. But if you know that the folder you are searching for lies somewhere beneath another folder, you can start your search there rather than at the top of the public folder tree. Just pick the folder where you want to begin the search, select the Find tab from the folder's details pane and fill in your search criteria.

Forcing manual folder replication

The ability to replicate public folders has always been a key feature of Exchange. Up until now though, public folder replication was a completely automated process. With Exchange 2003, you can force manual folder replication. Folders still replicate automatically. But now, you can also force a manual replication if you are trying to troubleshoot a problem, or if you need replication to occur more quickly than normal.

There are two different types of manual replication: hierarchy replication and content replication. Hierarchy replication replicates the public folder structure. Content replication replicates the contents of a specific folder.

To force a hierarchy replication cycle, right click on the public folder tree in the Exchange System Manager and select the Send Hierarchy command. The Send Hierarchy dialog box will appear. This dialog box contains a list of source servers and destination servers. Select the checkboxes corresponding to the sources and destinations to which you want them to replicate and click OK.

There are a few other things that you need to know about the replication process. First, the source server can only be an Exchange 2003 Server, but the destination server can be Exchange 5.5, 2000, or 2003. Second, you can select multiple sources and multiple destinations. Third, there is a field that you can fill in if you want to limit the replication push to including only changes made in the last few days. Simply fill in the desired number of days and you are all set.

The process for performing a manual content replication is nearly identical to performing a hierarchy replication. The difference is that you right click on the individual folder that you want to replicate, rather than the public folder tree. Also, instead of selecting a Send Hierarchy command, you select All Tasks ->: Send Contents. The rest of the procedure works in the same way as replicating a hierarchy.

About the author: Brien M. Posey, MCSE, is a Microsoft Most Valuable Professional for his work with Windows 2000 Server and IIS. Brien has served as CIO for a nationwide chain of hospitals and was once in charge of IT security for Fort Knox. As a freelance technical writer he has written for Microsoft, CNET, ZDNet, TechTarget, MSD2D, Relevant Technologies and other technology companies. You can visit Brien's personal Web site at

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