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Keep Outlook's schedule up to date

What good is an outdated date book? Make sure your enterprise's Outlook schedule is as current as it can be.

The scheduling properties of Outlook or Outlook Web Access (OWA) are useful tools for everyone in the company. Because of that, you want to make sure that the free/busy information that users get from their clients, whether the client is Outlook or Outlook Web/mobile Access, is accurate.

If there's too long a delay in posting changes to the free/busy folders on the Exchange server, then the information may be out of date just when the vice president of sales is trying to set up a meeting with his top managers. Worse, for you, it could be the CIO.

With the Outlook client, you can help this situation somewhat by adjusting the time interval between postings to the free/busy folders on the server. You can do this from the client itself. Simply open the Tools/Options dialog, and then click on Calendar Options. At the bottom of the ensuing dialog you'll find Advanced options, which contains a button labeled Free/busy options. You should click on that. You then get a dialog in which you can adjust the amount of info that gets published, as well as the frequency of adjustments. The default is 45 minutes, but you can set it to less time if you like. Be careful not to set it to a very small interval, as that will add network traffic that you really don't want.

With OWA, the situation isn't so easy to deal with. Depending on the topology of your Exchange infrastructure, you'll get more or less latency in updating the free/busy folders with changes that a user makes at his client.

That means, for instance, that if an Outlook user makes a change, an OWA client might not see the change for 45 minutes. Because the agent that checks for this info for Web and mobile clients checks for info every 15 minutes, the schedule information can be more than 45 minutes out of date at a given time in any of the Exchange topologies. For this reason, it's probably a good idea to update as frequently as practical for your network installation.

The topology you choose will have an effect on the latency of the information update. Also, you should make sure that your servers that have schedule information replicate that information so the information is current on all servers.

For more information about the effect of topology on update latency, you can download a white paper on managing the free/busy folders on the Microsoft Web site.

David Gabel has been testing and writing about computers for more than 25 years.

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