Combine Exchange and Office to improve collaboration scenarios
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Learn how to configure Microsoft Office SharePoint Server (MOSS) to work with Exchange Server and Outlook Web Access (OWA) so your organization can use an intranet to easily share documents.
We all know that Microsoft Office Outlook 2007 acts as the primary interface to Microsoft Exchange Server 2007. You might not realize, though, that other Microsoft Office products are also designed to integrate easily with Exchange Server. The best example is Microsoft Office SharePoint Server 2007 (MOSS 2007), the workplace collaboration and content management platform. When you configure MOSS 2007 to work with Exchange 2007, the users in your organization will be able to easily share documents over a corporate intranet.
Quick Introduction to MOSS 2007
MOSS lets you create an internal Web site (an intranet site) for use by your company’s employees. An intranet site can be used to display corporate announcements and provide access to the corporate directory, but you can set up such sites manually without using MOSS. MOSS’s true value is in letting you establish a document library on your intranet site that allows users to check out, modify, and return documents. Using MOSS permissions, you can control which users are able to read or modify a document.
MOSS also lets users create additional Web sites very easily. For example, a group of employees working together on a project can create an intranet site dedicated to that project, then use that site to share project-related documents, post a calendar of project-related milestones, and provide contact information for those involved in the project.
As you can imagine, MOSS is a fairly complex product, but it’s surprisingly intuitive. After all, it was designed so that even end users can create complex sites.
A Few Prerequisites
Before I show you how MOSS interacts with Exchange Server and what this combination can do for your organization, I need to share some assumptions that I make in this article. I assume that you’re running Exchange Server 2007 and that you have at least one client access server deployed. I also assume that your client access server is configured to act as a front end to your Exchange organization and that the client access server role is not installed directly on a mailbox server.
Another prerequisite is that you need to install MOSS on a dedicated server within your perimeter network. The MOSS server must be able to communicate with your mailbox servers, but for performance and security reasons, you shouldn’t install MOSS on a server running Exchange.
And finally, I’m assuming that you have an established Exchange organization, that you’ve just installed MOSS, and that you’re starting from scratch.
Creating a SharePoint Web Site
Now that the prerequisites are taken care of, it’s time to create a SharePoint Web site that interacts with Exchange Server. First you need to open the default SharePoint site by starting Microsoft Internet Explorer (IE) and entering the URL http:// your_server/pages/default.aspx, where your_server is the NetBIOS name of your SharePoint server. Upon entering this URL, you’ll see the default SharePoint Web site displayed in IE, shown in Figure 1. Although the default site has nothing to do with Exchange Server, you can integrate Share- Point Server and Microsoft Outlook Web Access (OWA) into a SharePoint site. This allows you to take advantage of one-stop shopping. You don’t have use a separate Web site to access your Exchange mailbox; you can do it directly through the SharePoint site.
Let’s add a user’s Inbox and Calendar to the default Share- Point site. Under Site and Content Management, click the Create new pages, sites, and lists link. You’ll see a screen like the one in Figure 2, which lets you work with Web Parts to create a SharePoint Web site. Because the average user doesn’t know how to write ASP.NET or HTML code, MOSS includes dozens of predefined Web Parts, which are blocks of code that accomplish a specific task. You plug Web Parts into predefined templates to create Web pages—the entire process can be completed in a matter of minutes. You can also develop your own Web Parts. For more information on MOSS and Web Parts, see the Learning Path on page 57.
On the Create Page page, enter a title and a description for the page you want to create. From the list box on the right-hand side of the page, select a template for the page layout. Because we’ll be adding Web Parts to the page, I’ve selected the Blank Web Part Page template. Make a note of the URL assigned to the page.
Next, click Create, and you’ll see the screen shown in Figure 3. This template contains several links that you can click to add a Web Part to a part of the screen, such as Header, Footer, Left, Right, or Center.
Click the Add a Web Part link beneath the screen section labeled Top Left, and you’ll see the list of OWA-related Web Parts. Scroll through this list, select the check box next to the My Inbox Web Part, then click Add. Repeat the process to add the My Calendar Web Part to the Center portion of the Web page. (You can add other Web Parts if you wish.) The template screen should now look like Figure 4.
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Notice that each Web Part in Figure 4 contains a link that you must click to configure the Web Part. This link is the Edit link. It doesn’t appear until a Web Part has been added. When you click these links, the only information you need to provide is the name of your Exchange server. Enter the name as the URL to your OWA server in the top portion of the My Inbox section (which isn’t visible in Figure 5, because the contents of My Inbox have been scrolled down). You can use the various fields on the page shown in Figure 5 to customize the size and appearance of the Web Part.
After you’ve configured the Web Parts and clicked OK, SharePoint displays the OWA sign-in screen in place of each OWA Web Part, as Figure 6, page 58, shows. Keep in mind, however, that you’re viewing the template, not the page itself. To view the actual page you’ve created, enter the page’s URL. For example, I named my sample page Exchange, so the URL would be HTTP://server_name/pages/Exchange.aspx. When you connect to the page you’ve created, you’ll see the OWA logon prompts. After you log on, you’ll see a page like the one in Figure 7, page 58, where you can see that the unused placeholders from the template aren’t displayed. Only the Web Parts that you’ve added and configured are shown.
The SharePoint Document Library
I mentioned earlier that a primary feature of SharePoint is its document library, which acts as a repository for all document files users create. One interesting thing about the document library is that it’s accessible through OWA.
Microsoft introduced this functionality to solve a common problem: Instead of attaching a document to an email message, users often provide a link to the document in the message. In previous versions of Exchange Server, the link worked fine as long as the message recipient was logged on to the domain and was using Outlook to view the message. If the recipient was working outside the office, though, and was using OWA to view the message, the link to the document didn’t work.
Microsoft has corrected this problem in Exchange 2007. Now, when a user clicks a link to a document through OWA, the Exchange server sends a request on the user’s behalf to the SharePoint server that has the document. After the document is retrieved, it’s sent to the user. Depending on how Exchange has been configured and on the document type, users can open the document in a Web browser or through the application that’s associated with it. Incidentally, this process also works if the document is located on a traditional file server.
Begin the process of making the document library accessible through OWA by opening the Exchange Management Console and navigating to Server Configuration, Client Access. Select the client access server you want to configure from the details pane, then right-click OWA (Default Web Site) in the work pane and select Properties from the context menu.
On the OWA (Default Web Site) Properties sheet, click the Remote File Servers tab. Click Configure and enter the domain suffixes you want to treat as internal (so that the domain is trusted; SharePoint allows servers within trusted domains to be accessible). For example, my public domain name is brienposey .com, but the domain name used internally by my production network is production. com, so I’d enter production.com. Verify that the Unknown Servers option is set to Block, which prevents users from accessing unauthorized servers through OWA. Finally, click Allow, and enter the Fully Qualified Domain Name for each SharePoint or file server you want your users to be able to access through OWA.
When users log on to OWA, a prompt asks whether they are using a private or a public computer. Exchange 2007 lets you configure remote file access differently depending on how the user responds to that prompt. Keep in mind, though, that users are on the honor system (scary thought, isn’t it?); there’s no way to verify whether the user is using a public or private computer.
The OWA (Default Web Site) Properties sheet includes a Public Computer File Access tab and a Private Computer File Access tab. The options on both tabs are identical, letting you configure file access differently depending on which type of computer the user claims to be using. On both tabs, you select a check box to enable direct file access. You can enable file access for Windows file shares, SharePoint, or both. You can also enable WebReady Document Viewing, which lets users view documents in a Web browser even if the application in which the document was created isn’t installed on their computer.
To use WebReady Document Viewing, Exchange must have a document converter for the specific file type. Office 2007 document converters are included with Exchange Server 2007 SP1.
Create Custom Collaboration Solutions using Exchange and MOSS
Now that you’ve seen how Exchange 2007 interacts with MOSS, by enabling OWA Web Parts through SharePoint, and by allowing access to documents stored in a SharePoint document library through OWA, you’re ready to start planning custom collaboration solutions for your organization.